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Random Thought of the Day: Can We Build This Thing Through the Draft? Returns are Mixed.

Can Dennis Hickey help deliver the home run draft Buccaneer fans are counting on?
Can Dennis Hickey help deliver the home run draft Buccaneer fans are counting on?

Just as a precursor to the post.... I want to say first that if you're still here with us and reading our work, I want to thank each and every one of you.  It means alot to me and all of us here that you find our work worthy of reading and discussing.  Your opinions, comments, and fanposts are the lifeblood of this site, which is what SBNation is all about....a site by the fans for the fans.  I will treat your opinions and commentary on a subject with the same level of respect as I have for this staff and hopefully as you will treat ours.  What I will be trying to do here is elicit discussion from you on current, relevant issues with the Buccaneers and the NFL.  I'm not a sunny-side-of-life kind of guy, nor a doom and gloom.  I think there are plenty of good and bad things to discuss and I will try to tell you what I think, and I hope you will give me your straight opinions as well.

Now, as I was having my morning coffee the other day and perusing through the Q&A that Rick Stroud held recently with Joel Glazer, I stopped on the following dialogue:

What's your assessment of the 2009 season?

First of all, 3-13, let me go back to 0-7, was definitely the most painful seven weeks of my NFL life. How did we get there? I start with going back further and looking at drafting. We believe that drafting is the lifeblood of sustained success long term. We have not done as good of a job as we need to do drafting over the last several years. That's the first seed that gets planted or the cancer that starts early on that you don't fully see until time goes forward.

I stared at that again. 

We have not done as good of a job as we need to do drafting over the last several years.

Hmm.  I took another sip of coffee.  I thought to myself....what was that little thing that our front office has been preaching repeatedly in response to what direction this team would be taken...

We are going to build this thing through the draft.

Sip.  My inner monologue kicks in and a ray of optimism washes away that little cloud of doubt for a moment.....5 picks in the first 99.  5 potential starters.  5 holes that could be filled.  Heck yea.  Impact wide receiver.  Tampa 2 D-tackle.  Maybe a good rush end.  Some potential studs to build the future around.

We have not done as good of a job as we need to do drafting over the last several years.

Egad.  That little cloud is back to rain on my internal parade of optimism.  Why is that?  What is it about this comment that has me so hung up? 

The last several years

But Bruce Allen and Jon Gruden effectively made those ultimate decisions about who to draft, right?  They're gone, so that's not a big deal.  Mark and company can get this thing done, yes?

I think the heart of that question goes beyond Mark and Raheem and hits even deeper than all starts with scouting.

We've all been told by the front office that the future of this team and the reason for hope for better seasons ahead lies in the results of this draft.  Some fans have been willing to accept, and seemingly assume, that we are going to succeed in the draft based on the premium position the Bucs hold in each round of the draft and the bundle of picks they have to play with.  What nobody has really been talking about and delving into is how well this team has drafted the past few years.  

While it's not 100% clear what mix of input was given and considered under Bruce Allen's watch, the fact is that director of college scouting Dennis Hickey and his staff of scouts are still around and working this draft.  Mark Dominik was the former Pro Personnel Director in charge of scouting free agents rather than college players, but his job was to evaluate talent and there's no doubt he was in the Buccaneer War Room on draft day participating in the process with Dennis, Frank Dorazio, and the rest of the scouting department.  

Any old joe can find a star player in the first round of the draft.  What this group should be judged on is two-fold.....finding those players in the 2nd and 3rd rounds that will start and become impact players within the next 2 or 3 years and finding special teamers, role players (pass rush specialists, situational guys, etc), and key reserves in 4th and 5th rounds. 

Have the Bucs done that successfully in the past few years?  Well, you tell me based on the number of players who panned out with the team.  Here's who's still with the Buccaneers from the past four drafts:

2005: Cadillac Williams, Barrett Ruud (12 picks)

2006: Davin Joseph, Jeremy Trueblood, Maurice Stovall (reserve) (11 picks)

2007: Arron Sears (reserve), Sabby Piscitelli, Quincy Black, Tanard Jackson (10 picks)

2008: Aqib Talib, Jeremy Zuttah, Dre Moore (reserve), Josh Johnson (reserve), Geno Hayes, Clifton Smith (undrafted free agent) (7 picks)

2009: Josh Freeman, Roy Miller (reserve), Kyle Moore (reserve), Sammie Stroughter (6 picks)

The upshot?  About what you might expect......some solid players at the top of the draft, some nice mid-round gems (Hayes/Black/Tanard Jackson), the occasional late-draft gem (Sammie Stroughter), and some risky picks based on raw, unrealized talent that blew up in their face (Gaines Adams/Dexter Jackson).  What's glaring is the lack of depth acquired in the 2005-2007 drafts.  For every solid move they made, there was a Chris Colmer/Donte Nicholson that fizzled out. That's where teams like the Patriots, Eagles, Steelers, and Colts, have been able to identify the prime talent out of the less-heralded crop and hit on their 3rd/4th round picks and keep their roster stocked with quality players. Overall, out of the 46 picks the Buccaneers made, 19 of those are still with the team and 11 finished the year as positional starters.  That's a pretty low ratio/high attrition rate of your mid-round players. 

Also, out of all their first and second round picks, only one player drafted eventually made the Pro Bowl....Davin Joseph in 2008. 

So I put to you what I've been wondering internally.........based on past results, are you comfortable entrusting arguably the most important draft in team history in the hands of this front office and scouting department?  Are you confident in their abilities to identify quality talent, evaluate players and whether they would be a fit in the Bucs' scheme, and make the correct moves to improve this football team?