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Looking better and better


Before we get started, let's pause a moment to give ourselves a virtual pat on the back.

Those participating in the 2012 reader mock draft got a big one right Friday, and it had nothing to do with that day's selection. What the readers got right was the biggest non-Peyton Manning news of the weekend.

The Washington Redskins-St. Louis trade?

The one that sent the No. 2 overall selection to Washington in exchange for the Redskins giving away just about every important selection for the foreseeable future to St. Louis?

Guys and gals, we nailed that one.

Days before, there had been a debate in our little slice of the draft world on whether to mock the Redskins or the Browns as dealing with the Rams to get the selection that will be used on Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III of Baylor.

A lot of readers wanted to go with Cleveland, but a few more went with Washington, and because that was already the gut feel of the staff – read: my opinion – that's the direction we went. So, give yourselves a pat on the back, and I'll spend some time in self-congratulatory mode, too.

The mock draft looked awfully good through four selections, anyway. Now, it looks even better.

With that, it's time to move on to the task at hand, which is to decide who the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will choose at No. 4. This came a day after a healthy debate about the Browns at No. 4, a debate eventually ending with us mocking Alabama running back Trent Richardson to Cleveland.

We offered up Morris Claiborne to the Bucs, and while there was plenty of support there was some significant uncertainty with Tampa Bay on our clock.

A bit of that uncertainty involved wide receiver Justin Blackmon.

Blackmon ran the 40-yard dash in the mid-to-high 4.4s at his Pro Day at Oklahoma State last week, and although the track there is considered fast, the time certainly didn't hurt Blackmon. Still, there is plenty of uncertainty among scouts and league observers over whether it will push him into the Top 5. Many readers over the weekend seemed tempted to put him here with the Buccaneers.

"Blackmon ran a 4.47 at his Pro Day," Mike Cowan wrote. "Should be interesting to see where he goes now."

Indeed it will, but there were multiple readers who believed neither Blackmon nor Claiborne would be the selection here to the Bucs.

"Quinton Coples to Tampa Bay," Tom_Landon wrote. "Their D needs a lot of help up front."

Coples, a defensive end from North Carolina, has drawn a lot of interest from Jaguars followers and analysts for the No. 7 selection to Jacksonville, and as far as his chances of going to Tampa Bay, JaguarsGator9 agreed with Landon – and did so in logical fashion.

"Call me crazy – Quinton Coples is the pick," JaguarsGator9 wrote. "The bottom line is that the Bucs had one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Our ineffective offense last year put up 41 on them. And it starts with the pass rush. . . . I don't agree with choosing Coples, but this is a mock draft, and based on what they need, especially considering that they have Greg Schiano as their coach, they'll take Quinton here."

It was safe to say Fred Barnes disagreed.

"I don't like Coples being the selection at all," Barnes wrote. "Last year the Bucs selected two DEs for their first two picks in Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers, and the year before they selected two DTs with their first two picks in Gerald McCoy and Brian Price.

"I have to think they're going into this season with expectations of growth for the DLs they have."

Most readers didn't get quite so specific about Coples and the Buccaneers' defensive line, but there were a lot of specifics regarding the Bucs and Claiborne – specifically, that he is very much the appropriate choice for Tampa Bay.

"As a Jaguar fan who really likes Morris Claiborne it pains me to give Tampa Bay the former LSU cornerback here at the No. 5 spot," Starman0508 wrote. "Claiborne almost certainly has to be the BAP on the Bucs board at this point and value meets need. The Tampa Bay secondary was a glaring weakness last year and its best player, Aqib Talib, has had some major off-the-field issues since being drafted a few years back. Claiborne revitalizes the back end of the Bucs defense."

Ben "J-School" Corby made his 2012 reader mock debut, also weighing in as pro-Claiborne.

"Yeah, this pick just makes too much sense," Corby wrote. "Could the Bucs use help at receiver? Sure. They're kind of weak there. They're weaker at corner, though, and it will only get worse if they don't re-sign Ronde Barber, and/or Aqib Talib finds himself playing for the Mean Machine next year. Claiborne's the best player on the board, and the best fit for the Bucs' needs."

In this case, it's hard to shake the feeling that Corby and Starman are right. The word at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last month was that the Bucs love Claiborne at No. 5. For this day at least, we do, too, which means that after five days the reader mock draft looks like this:

1.Indianapolis | Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

2.Washington | Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

3.Minnesota | Ryan Kalil, OT, Southern California

4.Cleveland | Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

5.Tampa Bay | Morris Claiborne, CB, Louisiana State

That brings us to the St. Louis Rams at No. 6, and there we'll break the hearts of many Jaguars observers by taking Blackmon. I'm not completely convinced he goes here, but considering the Rams' need at receiver it's like a lot of the selection so far. It just makes too much sense to go another direction right now. Have at it.

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