Gruden, Buccaneers looking for playmakers

TAMPA, Fla. -- Just give Jon Gruden a playmaker. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach insists it doesn't matter where the guy lines up on the field.

A game-changing receiver who also has the ability to impact games on kick returns? Sure. What team couldn't use someone like that when its fastest player -- and only real deep threat -- is 36 years old.

How about a running back? Not a bad idea when the guy you took with the fifth pick in the draft three years ago is still recovering from a knee injury that sidelined him most of last season.

A ballhawking, sure-tackling cornerback? Very hard to resist when your top player at that position is heading into his 12th season and another veteran you relied on for a decade skipped town this winter as a free agent.

The possibilities for the Bucs' first-round pick in this weekend's NFL draft are numerous. Barring a last-minute trade, they'll select 20th Saturday. The direction Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen proceed in is anybody's guess.

"It's a lot easier when you're picking fourth like we were last year, as opposed to 20," Bucs director of college scouting Dennis Hickey said. "You generate a certain pool of players, which of course is bigger the further away you are from No. 1."

There's been lots of speculation about who might fit into Gruden's plans.

California's DeSean Jackson, Oklahoma's Malcolm Kelly and Limas Sweed of Texas are among the highly regarded receivers who might be available for Tampa Bay's turn. The list of possible cornerbacks includes South Florida's Mike Jenkins, Arizona's Antoine Cason and Aquib Talib of Kansas.

Running back is a spot Gruden might be able to address in the second round (No. 52 overall), especially after signing former 1,000-yard rusher Warrick Dunn as the change of pace back Tampa Bay has lacked.

About the only areas Gruden might be hesitant to address with the first pick are defensive end and offensive line.

The Bucs selected pass rusher Gaines Adams with the fourth pick a year ago. They've rebuilt the offensive line through the draft and free agency the past two offseasons.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.
Gamepass_vert_web_r

See all the Action

Replay every game all season.