We rounded up most of the internet's NFL draft analysts' grades yesterday, but Mel Kiper Jr. hadn't given his take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2015 NFL draft class yet. But now he has, and we get to revel in the sweet, sweet opinions of the most striking hair on draft television.
Mel Kiper thinks the Bucs deserve a B-. A solid grade, but it's not entirely clear what he bases that on.
The Jameis Winston pick shows why holding the No. 1 pick can be a great opportunity to change your franchise ... an opportunity every single team hates. Winston is a special football talent, but I've been doing this for almost 40 years now, and when I speak to people in the league, we're both stumped to find a player such as Winston, a No. 1 overall pick, with so many things about him that scare you to death. The key here is to realize you can agree with the pick without calling it a slam dunk. Winston is not Andrew Luck, a winning lottery ticket handed to a fortunate franchise; he's the definition of a boom-or-bust selection. Again, I don't think they made the wrong decision, given the obvious need; I only think what Winston becomes is an unknown because the real work to help him develop into a true franchise leader is about to begin.
After the Winston pick, the Bucs looked to address some clear needs up front. Donovan Smith was a reach on my board -- Oregon's Jake Fisher was available there -- but he's got a lot of experience and can come in and compete. Will he get better? Big question. Ali Marpet has been a star of "the process" starting with the Senior Bowl; I think expecting him to start early and play well (as opposed to just playing) is a little optimistic, but the value made sense. I thought they did well with the Kwon Alexander pick, but I think the question is whether he holds up at his size. They added piece a pair of interesting WRs in Kenny Bell and Kaelin Clay -- surrounding Winston with young talent even as they have some good pieces on the roster in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. In the end, this draft comes down to Winston. If he doesn't show he can be a franchise QB over the next two seasons, you could have new leadership making the picks in 2017.
That's exactly right. Regardless of whether or not anyone else succeeds in this draft class, this will only be a success if Jameis Winston turns into a franchise quarterback. And if he does, then any other pick is just icing on the cake. That's how important this selection is to the Bucs franchise -- calling this the most important pick in the franchise's history may not be an overstatement.
It would be nice if Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet succeeded, though. Those two players will also be crucial to Winston's success, because the entire offensive line hinges on their play. I'm not sure I buy the idea that poor offensive line play can ruin quarterbacks -- it seems to me that most of the time, the problem is that those quarterbacks can't handle pressure in the first place. But it sure is difficult throwing the ball if you have to run for your life all the time.
Luckily, Winston's pocket presence and movement should help compensate for any deficiencies on the offensive lines. And make no mistake, even if Smith and Marpet turn out to be outstanding players, there will be growing pains.
Of course, grading a draft this early is a bit of a futile effort. All we can do is judge how the Bucs did compared to other analysts' projections. We won't know what grade this draft really deserves until five years from now, when we can see who failed and who didn't.