This 2014 was the first big draft of the Lovie Smith era, and the big question is gonna be "did the team make the smartest moves they could this draft weekend?"
In truth, not the smartest moves. Smartest move would have been to make some trade-downs somewhere to grab up an extra Fourth or Fifth Rounder, because this was looking like a deep draft and with needs that the Bucs had at key – WR, O-line, and LB – spots. This was even before the draft: the sensible move was to trade down in a way the team could still get a home-run type player in the First Round and then work from there.
But that's not how the draft shook out, so we gotta let that flow under the bridge. From here, we have to gauge how the Bucs did with the picks they made.
My rules are simple: 1) did the player Fit a Need and 2) will the player Make the Team. After that's decided, I comment on Moves I Liked and Moves I Didn't Like. The draft will get graded, although let's be honest it'll be 3-4 years before we can say with certainty the draft worked out.
Now, here we go:
This one I got to watch from the Ray Jay: it was my birthday and me and my twin brother went to celebrate there. As the draft began the talk was between getting QB – Manziel – or getting WR – either Watkins or Evans. When Watkins left the boards with the Bills trading up – BOOOOOOOOO – the talk was Manziel or Evans. Either way, we were getting an Aggie.
I wasn't keen on Manziel. Some QB's do not fit certain systems, and Manziel simply didn't fit the Bucs' need. So for me at least, getting Evans was the best pick we could make (outside of trading down).
Evans' positives include his height, arm radius, leaping ability, and sure-handed. Rarely drops passes. He doesn't have blazing speed but can separate from defenders. Can cause match-up problems. Can block in running situations and screens. He's reportedly a younger version of the Bucs' top receiver Vincent Jackson, so this is a good thing.
Does He Make The Team: He's a lock as the No.2 WR guy... unless he does something foolish like visit a party at Mike Williams' pad...
While I had Offensive Line – Guard in particular – as the next highest need going after Tight End was also part of what I saw the Bucs needing to fix. Our current TE roster wasn't exactly stellar – Wright was a good catcher but lousy blocker, FA signee Myers a decent pick-up but not top-tier, and Crabtree aging. Jenkins (or ASJ) comes onto the team as the best-possible blocker AND receiver TE (the one you want), and with his basketball-type body (tall and jumpy) he can compete for passes in tight spaces like the end zone. He's another tall receiver. The fans are talking up the team as the #Dunkaneers.
What knocked ASJ out of First Round consideration are issues with character off-field, and on-field with his lack of speed and improvement on his blocking (which is good but not pro-level).
Coming into this year, running back was not viewed as a need. Bucs have First Rounder Doug Martin as their home-run hitter. He's proven as a back who could get 20-70 yards for you in a single carry. Yes, he's coming off of injury but he's still on the right side of being healthy and capable. The back-ups are not shabby: Bobby Rainey and Mike James and even Practice Squaders Brian Leonard and Michael Smith are proven backs.
What they needed is an offense that gave them better running lanes, better chances with the ball. That means better blocking too from the offensive line. And the Bucs were coming in with one of the shakiest O-lines in the team's history. New FA at Left Tackle (Collins), new FA at Center (Dietrich-Smith), new FA at Guard (Cousins). Right Tackle Dotson is underrated, but Guard Meredith is a question mark and veteran Guard Nicks is coping with a big foot injury. Cousins is not viewed by fans and observers as a major upgrade to the OL. Bucs needed to upgrade at Guard and failed to do it with this Third Round pick by going after RB.
The Bucs seem to go after Sims as he's rated as the best receiving-type RB in this draft. He's got decent speed and can separate from blockers in passing situations and make yards after catches. Does not have power to shake off tackles and has issues adjusting downfield. If this team didn't have any running backs worth talking about Sims would be a decent pick-up. If this team just had one RB, he'd be worth the pick-up for rotational duties. If this team had three or four RB's who could do the same thing... well...
Does He Make the Team: Sims' got camp competition not with Martin but with Rainey, Leonard and James and Smith. He'll get the benefit of the doubt as a draft pick for the new regime but that's not always a good thing.
Bucs fans spent Day Three – the Fourth through Seventh Rounds – chanting and praying for a Guard draft pick here in the Fifth. Waiting through that Fourth was so nerve-wracking, but there we all were watching as fan faves like Yankey and Richardson slipping down the boards.
And then, there the Bucs were... drafting... a Guard... whom no-one had on their boards. Sigh.
Eventually some scouting reports were found and the results are encouraging. He's a solid blocker across the line (could block as a Tackle) and works well in running attacks. Gets to the "second level" which I assume is being able to block downfield or at least into linebacker territory. Reportedly fits into the planned blocking schemes (zone) for the Bucs than Yankey or Richardson could. Biggest knock is his bad weight - even for linemen, he's out of shape - and that he's in need of getting coached to the pro level.
But then... Bucs traded back into the Fifth Round! All it cost us was this year's Seventh and next year's Fifth (where the Bucs already have a Fifth on hand, so this we could give up). So...
(149th pick) – OT Kevin Pamphile, Purdue
It wasn't the pick some Bucs fans expected – the call to get a Quarterback somewhere within this draft was strong. But Pamphile does bring value as a pick-up for that offensive line in need of upgrade.
Pamphile scouted out as rather fast for a lineman. Strong and balanced. Came in from playing basketball (so yeah, got that whole Dunkaneers thing going), so he's raw and needs a ton more coaching up to play consistently well. May play better as a Guard than a Tackle. Which still helps out the Bucs in a big way. Reportedly a big favorite of the O-Line coach who scouted him. His biggest knock is that he lacks the intense edge to play hard.
Does He Fit a Need: Pamphile can help a thin O-line as either backup Tackle or Guard, so Yes.
Does He Make the Team: The line coach loved him. Right now, that spells Yes. But he's gotta improve.
Herron is the speedy receiver the coaches were talking about. He can get downfield and past Corners. Has better-than-expected hands to make catches. His height (five-nine) may be of concern but he can play for the ball. Some scouting had him going as high up as Third Round... but he slid for a reason, and not because of his height. Has durability issues, and won't play across the middle (which is something slot receivers need to do).
Does He Fit a Need: Kinda. Evans solved the big need for a solid starting type who can get first downs and touchdowns. Herron solves the need to open the field, but only if other teams take him seriously as a constant threat. Gonna have to list him as a Maybe.
Does He Make The Team: Herron is going to face some tough competition with other WR's on the roster – Owusu, Murphy, Page – who are going to fight for the No.3 / Slot receiver position. He could work his way into the roster via Special Teams as a kick returner... except for the fact he never played returner for his college team... While the fans may be thrilled, I'm thinking No.
Surprisingly, I liked the move the Bucs DID NOT make. The Bucs did not draft Quarterback. The temptation may have been there to bring in their own signal-caller with their first team draft, but the only place to make a move like that was the First Round with either of the three (four) names on the board. Anything else would have been a camp controversy with questionable QB rookie vs. questionable second-year QB in Glennon. The team is making the right move in my opinion: give Glennon – someone who played above expectations in an adverse, badly coached situation – a year to prove he can get coached up to their liking, and save the QB rookie pick once you're certain what Glennon can do. 2015 looks to have at least three or four decent QB's to pick if we have to.
Getting ASJ for Tight End. Helps with the short-passing game and with the blocking overall.
While it came a little late, working on drafting for Offensive Line. After years under Dominick that ignored O-line development at our peril, it's nice to have a front office that knows the games (and Super Bowls) are won in the trenches. While Edwards seems like not the right pick, he does fit the scheme. Pamphile may yet prove a steal if he can get coached up.
Drafting any Running Back. Sims may be a good player but he did not fill a need. It reeked of a coaching and front office unit that wanted to put their own stamp on the offense without recognizing the talent the previous regime brought in (and this was with Lovie and Licht saying they were keeping Glennon as the QB of the Future).
Failing to make a smart trade-down in either the First or Second Rounds to snag extra picks in the Fourth or Fifth Rounds (I doubt a lot of teams were coughing up Thirds this deep a draft). The Bucs had needs still that this draft could not address with the picks we had. Such as...
Failing to draft for depth need for the Linebacker (both Inside and Outside). While drafting all-offense is telling the league you're trying to improve that (terrible) side of the ball, this came at the expense of getting depth and special teams help with solid back-ups that we lost via Free Agency this off-season.
We came into this draft year with relatively low expectations due to the unpredictable nature of the whole thing: it was a deep draft overall, there were few certainties to pick, and no one could be certain who the Bucs would take first. But once Evans was taken, we were looking at a good draft...
It does – as always – take years before making sure the draft pans out, but the immediate impact to the team, any positive vibes the fans will feel about the Bucs has meaning. Considering the Bucs made serious good-faith efforts to upgrade the offense across the board (with FA QB McCown as a short-term solution) I'd have to say the Bucs did well. Only the pick for Sims – not a need, not even Best Player Available in most respects – seems to mar the whole weekend.
I'd grade this year as a B-minus.
It's not the best draft we've had in ages – 2012's with Barron Martin and David is still that – but it's an improvement over 2009 and a lot of other years. This is a draft I feel will see some contributions from the late round picks, something I haven't been able to say in ages.