Buccaneers general manager's draft savvy paying off
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Sunday 12-5 release () -
By Rick Gosselin
The Dallas Morning News
Mark Dominik knows what a football player looks like.
His football background is in personnel, having worked his way up the Tampa Bay organizational ladder from a scouting assistant in 1995 to general manager of the Buccaneers in 2007.
Dominik must have a handle on the NFL's off-the-field matters as well - specifically, the collective bargaining agreement. He knew with the owners opting out of their contract with the union, there would potentially be a lockout in 2011. He also knew when a new contract is negotiated there would probably be a rookie wage scale.
So Dominik made the organizational decision to sink everything into the 2010 NFL draft.
"We thought a lot of juniors would declare with the potential of a wage scale," Dominik said. "So after the 2009 draft, we went out and acquired as many draft picks as we could for 2010."
The Bucs traded tight end Alex Smith to New England for a fifth-round choice. They traded defensive end Gaines Adams to the Chicago Bears for a second-rounder. They traded quarterbacks Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich to Jacksonville and Pittsburgh, respectively, for seventh-rounders.
That gave Tampa Bay 11 selections in April, and the Bucs planned to use that draft to accelerate the rebuilding process from that 3-13 mess of a season in 2009.
"We took our coaching staff off free agency and focused on the 2010 draft class," Dominik said. "We did it with the mind-set that we weren't just going to draft players - we were going to take advantage of this class throughout the season. We had a coaching staff willing to do that."
Mission accomplished. Playing with roster that includes 15 rookies - six of whom start - the Bucs have been one of the NFL's surprise teams with a 7-4 record. Tampa Bay hosts NFC South-leading Atlanta on Sunday.
When the Bucs finished wheeling and dealing last April, they had drafted nine players. Eight made the team - all except sixth-round punter Brent Bowden. He didn't pan out but another rookie punter did (Robert Malone).
First-round pick Gerald McCoy of Oklahoma starts at defensive tackle. Second- and fourth-round selections Regis Benn and Mike Williams start at wide receiver, and seventh-rounder Cody Grimm was starting at safety before suffering a broken ankle last week at Baltimore.
LaGarrette Blount also starts at running back and Ted Larsen at guard. Both were waiver claims on the NFL's final roster cut, Blount from Tennessee and Larsen from New England.
In addition, the Buccaneers signed defensive tackle Al Woods off the Pittsburgh practice squad last month when second-round draft pick Brian Price went on injured reserve with a fractured pelvis.
"We had done a ton of work on those players heading into the draft," Dominik said, "but we just didn't have enough picks to take them all."
Dominik's foresight has given the Bucs a bright future. They are winning with one of the youngest starting lineups in the NFL at 25.7 years. A potential franchise quarterback is in place in Josh Freeman, a first-round pick in 2009. This team will get better as it gains experience. It reminds me of the 1991 Cowboys.
(c) 2010, The Dallas Morning News.
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