The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had some of the best rookie performances in the NFL -- so it should be no surprise that Mel Kiper likes their draft as much as he did when it happened.
Mel Kiper isn't the most accurate of draftniks, but his opinion still carries some weight. And it's interesting that he did hit on one thing in 2012: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a great first three draft picks. Mark Barron had a bit of an uneven season, seemingly hitting the rookie wall midway through the year, but he closed the year with two tremendous games and the season-ending pass deflection. Doug Martin was the backbone of the offense, racking up nearly 2,000 yards from scrimmage. Meanwhile, Lavonte David should be a real contender for Defensive Rookie of the Year, with an impactful first season that was scarily reminiscent of Derrick Brooks -- and that is one incredibly lofty comparison, one I don't make lightly.
Mel Kiper has regraded the draft after one season, and his evaluation hasn't changed: Kiper gave them an A in his initial evaluation, and he gave them an A in today's regrading effort as well.
After a season in the books, I still really like this draft. At the time I wrote, "In terms of adding impactful talent, and working the board, it's hard to do any better than Tampa Bay did in the first two rounds." You can question positional value drafting a safety in the top 10, but it was a big need, and Mark Barron was the best safety available in the draft. He has work to do in his ability to cover, but he started all 16 games and should only get better. Doug Martin is already one of the top running backs in the NFL, and does everything well -- running, catching, blocking and even holding onto the ball. He fell just short of 2,000 total yards. Lavonte David was one of my favorite picks in the draft, a steal at No. 58 overall, and 16 starts and 139 tackles later can't be considered anything less than a great value for the Bucs. There isn't much to show for the later rounds, but the Bucs got three impact starters with their first three picks, and worked the board well to land Martin. Can't ask for much more in terms of immediate impact.
There's a good point of criticism in there, though: players drafted after the second round haven't done anything for the Bucs. Now, they didn't have a third-round pick because they turned that into Lavonte David by trading up, but the last four picks in the draft got the Bucs very little return in their rookie seasons.
Unfortunately, fifth-rounder Najee Goode and seventh-rounder Drake Dunsmore really did nothing. Goode couldn't get on the field, while Dunsmore turned into a practice squad player. Two players showed a bit of promise, though. Sixth-round pick Keith Tandy got on the field as a sixth defensive back at the end of the season, and he didn't look half bad. Plus, seventh-rounder Michael Smith looked like an explosive kick returner in the preseason, though he couldn't get on the active roster during the regular season. We'll see if either of them can develop in the future.