The Tampa Bay Buccaneers started off the 2014 NFL Draft with two great picks that most fans found to be perfect fits for an offense in need of weapons. Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins seemed to be exactly what the Bucs needed to improve the worst offense in the NFL the season prior, but it was the third pick that quickly soured what seemed to be a perfect draft to that point.
The Bucs selected Charles Sims of West Virginia with their third round choice in the 2014 Draft, adding another running back to a team with three capable workhorses in Doug Martin, Mike James and Bobby Rainey, as well as speedster Jeff Demps.
The choice to bring in yet another back, and forgo the selection of a badly needed offensive lineman, seemed very strange at the time, and it still hasn't really settled in as the "right" pick. But Sims is a Buccaneer, and as such, we need to consider what his role will be in Tampa, and how he'll do in 2014 and beyond.
I'll use the "Good, Bad and Likely" format that I've used in the past, with the good and bad obviously representing best and worst-case scenarios, while likely is what I project. Feel free to leave your own good, bad and likely projections in the comments, as well.
Charles Sims is not your average rookie running back. Sims is already on the verge of 24 years old (and will be 24 for most of his rookie season), and since 2000, only seven rookie runners with more than 50 carries did so at an age of 25 or higher. He's right on the cusp of being too old as a prospect, but with this age also comes proximity to the athletic prime.
If we consider Rotoviz's RB Prospect Lab, which heavily factors in age when determining similar prospects, we'll find names with similar physical profiles including Joseph Addai, Jacquizz Rodgers, Johnathan Franklin. Addai might be the most similar of the bunch, as Sims and the former Colts back share a similar weight and speed combination, along with many other Combine metrics.
Addai began his career with some incredible results as a part of the high-powered Indy offense, something Sims will hope to recreate in Tampa.
Sims doesn't have quite the same power that Addai did, but they share similar concerns. Both were seen as one-cut runners coming out of college, and struggled when their pad level wasn't sound. What Sims might have over Addai, and most other recent running backs, is an incredible set of hands and a very sound understanding of the passing game.
So a quick, sudden athlete with a decent size/speed combination that can devastate in the passing game could recreate what Addai did on a smaller level, and that's the best case scenario for Sims, He's not going to get the 262 touches that Addai got as a rookie, but he should be involved in the passing game as often (if not more) than Addai was.
Given 50-60 looks in the passing game as a back or a receiver, Sims could get close to 500 yards through the air, a total he could reproduce for the next few years as he spends most of his time in space, allowing Martin and James to handle the heavy lifting as runners. Adding in 50 carries for around 200 yards would be icing on the cake, and would prolong his NFL career beyond the typical back who spends most of his time between the tackles.
But what if Robert Herron turns out to be a better slot receiver, and what if Sims lacks the explosion and tackle-breaking ability of Martin in space? When does the Bucs' third round choice even see the field?
A lack of playing time due to not separating himself from the other backs on the team could be the downfall of Sims, who isn't as fast as Herron or Demps, and isn't the same kind of every-down runner that Martin and James are. He'd then be little more than Bobby Rainey was last year, a throwaway at the end of the bench waiting for a slew of injuries to force him into the spotlight.
And while that was an okay spot for Rainey, who was a street free agent in the middle of the season, it's not okay for a third round pick. Sims would quickly find himself off the roster, as Martin, James and Rainey are all under team control for the next few years, and running backs come cheap in the draft in today's NFL.
So the worst case scenario for Sims is literally as bad as it gets. A year or two from now, he could be on the market waiting to be signed if he fails to prove what he does better than the other talent on the roster.
Charles Sims is going to be a part of the "speed in space" Jeff Tedford wants in Tampa, and that means he's likely going to get his chance on third downs and passing situations to catch passes on screens or other quick routes out of the backfield. And while he may not see the kind of opportunities listed under "The Good," he should still catch 20-30 passes and carry the ball now and then to keep Doug Martin from overloading himself with carries.
The question then becomes, is that worth a third round pick? On its own, having a receiver who can catch a pass or two every week and spell the starting running back on occasion doesn't seem all that valuable, but the extra time it will add to Doug Martin's career helps make up for the difference.
I still don't see Sims as worthy of a third-round pick, especially in a draft loaded with running back talent that slid down the board. But the Bucs wanted a pure pass catcher out of the backfield, and Sims fit that mold better than any other prospect. Can he do that well enough to take Doug Martin or a receiver off the field? That's the big question he still has to answer.