Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Top 10 Prospects

Josh Freeman (J. Meric/Getty Images)

Scout.com's Chris Steuber continues the top 10 prospects series and closes out the NFC South with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In this series, an NFL prospect is classified as a player entering their third year in the NFL or under 25 years of age. Find out who the Buccaneers top 10 prospects are entering the 2010 season.

Pos
Ht
Wt
Exp
Age
QB
6-6
248
2
22

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided to make Josh Freeman the face of the franchise when they selected him with the 17th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Freeman started his rookie year on the sidelines, but took over the reigns during Week 9 against the Green Bay Packers. He showed signs of brilliance and had moments of mediocrity in his first year. But all in all, Freeman displayed promise and finished the season completing 54.5-percent of his passes for 1,855 yards, 10 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. The Buccaneers are rebuilding, and Freeman is a major piece to the puzzle; don't expect a miracle, but in time he could develop into a dangerous weapon in the NFC.

Drafted by Tampa Bay in the 1st Round (2009).
Pos
Ht
Wt
Exp
Age
DT
6-4
295
R
22

A three-year starter at Oklahoma, McCoy has all the intangibles that you look for in a cornerstone defender and was extremely productive the last two seasons with the Sooners, producing 26.5 TFL and 12.5 sacks. While his impact numbers (TFL and sacks) are impressive, McCoy registered just 64 tackles over the last two years. The low tackle totals for McCoy have to do with him being double-teamed, which allowed others on the defensive line to have success. The Buccaneers will have a revamped defensive line this season with potentially four new starters, McCoy being one of them. But, of those four, McCoy is expected to make the biggest impact.

Drafted by Tampa Bay in the 1st Round (2010).
Pos
Ht
Wt
Exp
Age
CB
6-1
205
3
24

There are very few cornerbacks in the NFL that have the size and skill that Aqib Talib possesses. Entering his third year in the league and coming off of his first year as a starter, Talib recorded 64 tackles and five interceptions last season, and in a situational role as a rookie, led all rookies with four interceptions. While Talib has been terrific on the field, he's had a couple of off the field instances that put him in a negative light. If Talib stays out of trouble and concentrates on football, he will emerge into an All-Pro.

Drafted by Tampa Bay in the 1st Round (2008).
Pos
Ht
Wt
Exp
Age
LB
6-1
226
3
22

Before being placed on injured reserve with a knee injury during the 2008 season, Geno Hayes primarily played on special teams as a rookie. In the nine games that he played that season, Hayes showed his athleticism and ability to be a solid defender, which translated into him being a starter last season. Starting 13 of the 15 games he played in, Hayes recorded 98 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions. He enters his third year as a potential star at the linebacker position and will be counted on to exceed his production from a year ago.

Drafted by Tampa Bay in the 6th Round (2008).
Pos
Ht
Wt
Exp
Age
WR
6-1
219
R
21

A three-year starter at Illinois, Benn, who had great freshman and sophomore campaigns for the Fighting Illini, struggled this past season and only amassed 38 receptions for 490 yards and two touchdowns. He has the ability to be a No. 1 receiver at the next level, and that’s a major reason why the Buccaneers selected him high in the second round. Benn provides Freeman with a young target that he can grow with and has a chance to begin the 2010 season as a starter.

Drafted by Tampa Bay in the 2nd Round (2010).
Pos
Ht
Wt
Exp
Age
OG
6-4
308
3
24

Since being drafted in the third round of the '08 draft, Jeremy Zuttah has proven to be one of the most versatile offensive linemen in the league. As a rookie, he played in 12 games, starting five, and played left and right guard. This past season, he started all 16 games at left guard and played very well. Zuttah returns as a starter this season and has become a valuable part of the O-Line.

Drafted by Tampa Bay in the 3rd Round (2008).
Pos
Ht
Wt
Exp
Age
DT
6-1
303
R
21

A two-year starter at UCLA, Price decided to forego his senior year after a breakthrough junior campaign where he recorded 48 tackles, 23.5 for a loss and seven sacks. At just 6-foot-1, 300 pounds, Price is an undersized defender who uses his size to his advantage to get underneath the opposition, gain leverage and create havoc in the backfield. With Price and McCoy likely to start at defensive tackle this year for the Buccaneers, it will be interesting to see these similar interior presences work together, as neither are strong against the run.

Drafted by Tampa Bay in the 2nd Round (2010).
Pos
Ht
Wt
Exp
Age
QB
6-3
205
3
24

A fifth round pick out of the University of San Diego in ‘08, Johnson was known for his accuracy and athleticism while in college, and last year with the Buccaneers, he showed upside during a four-game stretch where he was the starting quarterback. Johnson played five games in all during the ’09 season and completed 50.4-percent of his passes for 685 yards, four touchdowns and eight interceptions; which are respectable numbers for a young quarterback leading a mediocre offense. With Freeman being the long-term answer at the QB position in Tampa Bay, Johnson gives the Buccaneers a solid backup plan or a strong trading chip to shop around to another team that’s looking for a young QB.

Drafted by Tampa Bay in the 5th Round (2008).
Pos
Ht
Wt
Exp
Age
WR
6-1
221
R
23

A troubled individual at Syracuse, who missed the entire 2008 season after he was caught cheating on a test and decided to quit the team half-way through the '09 season, Mike Williams - for all of his off-the-field issues - has the talent to be a premier WR in the NFL. He has big play potential, and there's a chance he could see significant playing time this season. Williams is a boom or bust pick, but he had great value in the fourth round.

Drafted by Tampa Bay in the 4th Round (2010).
Pos
Ht
Wt
Exp
Age
CB
5-10
175
3
23

The Buccaneers have done a nice job collecting talent in the draft and identifying undrafted players. And, one of those undrafted players they found was former Troy cornerback Elbert Mack. An undersized defender, Mack has been a huge asset for the Bucs on defense and special teams. He started three of the 15 games he played in last season and recorded 29 tackles and three interceptions. Although he struggled in certain situations last season, Mack has proven to be a quality role player and will have to compete with rookie Myron Lewis, who was also considered for the 10th spot in the rankings, as the team’s nickel corner.

Signed by Tampa Bay as an undrafted free agent (2008).


For more on the Buccaneers, check out Bucs Blitz.


A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber’s features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com. If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at: csteuber@scout.com. You can also now follow Chris Steuber on Twitter.

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