The Tampa Bay Buccaneers used their third-round pick on running back Charles Sims, and the reaction among Buccaneers fans is universally negative. That's not because they think the West Virginia prospect is a bad player: they just realize that adding another running back to a deep group doesn't do much for the Bucs if they don't have guards blocking for them -- and that's still a dominant need for the Bucs.
That ignores Sims' qualities as a player, though, and those are many. He's an impressive running back, and arguably the best one in this draft class. General manager Jason Licht noted that was why they select him. "This one kind of stood out like [Austin Seferian-Jenkins] did," Licht said, after talking about trying to find ways to combine filling need and drafting the best player. This didn't address a need, but apparently the Bucs felt Sims was so far ahead of everyone else on the board that they couldn't pass him up.
The Bucs have a pretty full backfield with Doug Martin, Mike James, Bobby Rainey and Jeff Demps. But not all running backs play the same role. Doug Martin will obviously be the workhorse, while Mike James and Bobby Rainey are similar style (but significantly less talented) players: rushers. Jeff Demps and Charles Sims are different: they're pass-catchers and receivers.
"We felt we wanted one that not only was a good runner, but had size and could catch the ball out of the backfield," Lovie Smith told Buccaneers.com. "We also feel he can split out, he has excellent receiving skills."
Jason Licht called him "the top receiving back in the draft" and noted that he "stuck out" in the third round, and they couldn't pass him up.
That gives you an idea of why the Bucs really liked him: because they see him as a player they can move around the formation and use as an explosive receiver. Jeff Demps should play that role, too, but given the fact that he's only played a handful of snaps of football over the past two years, Sims is a much more reliable option in that role -- and he'll be a quality backup for Doug Martin, too.
Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) May 10, 2014
Chris Brown of Grantland noted that Sims could line up at slot receiver and win against man-to-man coverage. At 6'0", 214 lbs. he certainly has the size to do well when lining up there and he shows a real burst and very soft hands on film, too. In fact, Jason Licht noted that he had one of the best three pairs of hands in the draft -- along with Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Does that make him a receiver? Probably not, but as I noted in our article on the new Dunkaneers offense, that's the wrong question to ask. It's not important what you call a player, it's important what he'll do on the field. Sims will undoubtedly line up at running back, but he'll also line up in the slot at times. He'll be primarily used in a passing game, whether that's from a running back position, as a blocker or as a slot receiver.
None of that is to say that he can't be a traditional running back. He displays a very smooth running style and quick feet for his size. Lovie Smith compared him to Matt Forte, and I can see that comparison in the way he runs. He should be able to spell Doug Martin, and the Bucs do need to have a deep stable of running backs if they want to base their offense on the running game -- which is what they've said they want to do. And while the Bucs do have Bobby Rainey and Mike James, Sims looks like a significantly better player.
So ultimately, Sims should be a quality addition to the Bucs offense. He'll be a movable chess piece, a weapon for Jeff Tedford to play with, and provide valuable depth for an offense that wants to run the ball a lot. There's just one problem: the Bucs don't really have any players to block for the guy. Having the best running backs in the world won't do you much good if Oniel Cousins is starting at left guard, and the Bucs are awfully close to doing that. The offseason isn't over yet, but the offensive line looks like a bit of a mess right now.