Bucs make safe choice in Clayborn

In instant hindsight, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the safe approach Thursday night.

ClaybornClaybornWith the 20th overall pick in the draft, they took Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn. He might not have the same upside as a pass-rusher as Clemson’s Da'Quan Bowers or Georgia’s Justin Houston, but he sure as heck doesn’t have the downside they do.

Bowers and Houston were on the board when the Bucs picked and both come with questions. Bowers, once expected to be the first overall player taken, was sliding as reports about many teams having concerns about his knee surfaced. Houston’s name surfaced in reports about players who had failed drug tests.

This wasn’t the time for the Bucs to take a chance. They’ve been under the character microscope recently because of a series of off-the-field problems and they still get criticism for taking chances on receiver Mike Williams and running back LeGarrette Blount.

The Bucs are very sensitive to that criticism and that might be part of the reason why they didn’t switch gears and go for Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith, who also was on the board. Smith’s a guy with some background questions of his own and it wouldn’t have made a lot of sense to take him to replace Aqib Talib, who probably is on his way out after a series of off- and on-the-field issues.

Clayborn might not be the most exciting pick. He’s known as a guy who plays the run very well, but he wasn’t the most dynamic pass-rusher in college. He did have 11 sacks in 2009, but only had four in 2010.

Clayborn’s probably not the kind of guy who's going to come in and give you 16 or 18 sacks in a season. What he represents is a guy who might be the most balanced defensive end in the draft. He can come in and start right away and play a lot of downs.

He probably is an instant upgrade over either of the guys who started much of last season (Tim Crowder and Stylez G. White) and he’s also another big piece of a defensive line that could be a franchise cornerstone.

The Bucs used their first two picks last year on defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price. Both showed some promise last season before having their rookie years cut short. Both are expected to be healthy this year. Put Clayborn next to them and McCoy and Price suddenly could be a lot better. Put McCoy and Price around Clayborn and he suddenly could become a lot better.

Oh, while we’re on the subject of Price and McCoy, don’t be surprised if there’s another double dip on the horizon. Clayborn’s better than any defensive end on the roster. The Bucs need another guy to go with him. I’m not saying the Bucs necessarily go defensive end with their first two picks. But I think there’s a decent chance the Bucs come out of this draft with at least one more defensive end.