After years of contempt, groaning, and shouting profanities at the TV, it seems as though the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have one of their top draft classes in team history. Not since the 1995 season that saw Warren Sapp and Derek Brooks land in Tampa has there been this much buzz about young, fresh recruits. So far through 13 weeks of the season, stars are starting to emerge on both sides of the ball. A few even threaten for Rookie of the Year contention. Regardless if they win or not it looks like the franchise is flirting with establishing major cornerstones at big time positions for years to come.
The top three of the draft class were also the first three taken; Mark Barron, Lavonte David, and Doug Martin. With the exception of David, both Barron and Martin came the way of trades. Barron was selected 7th overall after a trade with Jacksonville that allowed them to land deep threat Justin Blackmon. Barron has shown potential for both greatness and under performance, often in the same game. His coverage skills need some polishing, but there is no questioning his big play potential with the motor he brings to the table and the power he puts behind every hit (Steve Smith, RG III). Currently he has 66 tackles, 1 FF and 1 INT, not bad considering Harrison Smith, another rookie safety with outstanding potential, is ahead with 74, 1 and 2 respectively.
Lavonte David has been the Bucs best draft pick up on the defensive side of the ball without question. Drafted out of Nebraska, he had the reputation as a Derek Brooks-style linebacker; lacked size but made up for it with quick feet and good coverage ability. Like Barron, he can also hit with a purpose, currently tied for 2nd in the league with 87 tackles and even won the Rookie of the Month award for November, posting a combined 47 tackles in four games, including five tackles for loss. Teamed up with Mason Foster, Tampa's 2011 third round pick, the Bucs are starting to form a good albeit young line backing core.
Lastly we get to (drum roll) bddddddddddddd...the artist formerly known as The Muscle Hamster. Throughout the year Doug Martin has shown flashes of greatness, like his week 9 explosion vs Minnesota that helped him take home Rookie of the Week honors, and also October's Rookie of the Month ( 25 carries, 251 rushing yards, 4 TD, 4 receptions, 21 yards). In the game, Martin became the first player in NFL history to score touchdown runs of 70-plus, 45-plus, and 65-plus yards in a game, and is the second player in league history to run for 250+ yards and four touchdowns in a game. Martin also broke the franchise records for rushing yardage and touchdowns in a game. Currently he sits at 1106 rushing yards, 3 tied with fellow rookie Alfred Morris for 3rd best in the league.
The Bucs are are from super bowl contention, but with their biggest loss this yer coming at 8 points it shows they are only a few plays away from the playoffs. There are a few more pieces to the puzzle that need to be picked up (Secondary, more D line help); but with the additions of Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks in the off season, it looks as though Tampa is starting to turn some heads in the league.