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2015 NFL Draft results: Recapping and grading the Buccaneers' draft

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got out of the 2015 NFL draft with two quality players, and a bunch of question marks.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Two impact players

Jameis Winston and Ali Marpet are two guys who should be impact players. Winston is a major impact player, playing the game's most important position. At long last, we've finally got a quarterback we should be building around. With due respect to those who loved Freeman, I never viewed him as more than potential. Winston is very close, albeit with some things he needs to fix both on and off the field. If he cleans up some aspects regarding footwork and conditioning he'll be one of the top-end NFL QBs in short order. That fact is more than a little exciting.  Now we know what we need to do: build the team around Winston’s abilities, augment his talents and get players who help hide weaknesses.

Marpet is a game-changer for us in terms of running the football. Unlike some of the guys we had who have power but couldn't move well (that we mostly got rid of last season) and some we've had that move well but have little power (that we played with last season) Marpet is capable of doing both. Players who can project power over a long distance over the field by pulling and contacting players at the second level who also are powerful at the point of attack make your running game that much better. Cam Erving was the other player in the draft who did that, Marpet doesn’t have his length but has a similar skill set. I suspect Marpet might struggle initially in pass protection but, again, should be able to develop in short order.

A needy pick

Donovan Smith is a big maybe for me and I was disappointed we didn't trade down. He has potentia,l but was highly unmotivated at Penn State at times. Sometimes he looked like a starting left tackle, sometimes he looked like a dud. The question is: was he so special of a talent to make it worthwhile passing on trade offers? The trade offers were there, as several teams were able to move down in our vicinity. I doubt that Smith is special enough to warrant turning those down.

This was a "band-aid" pick. We over-drafted here because of need and as much as the player is intriguing, it's hard to ever justify a reach like this. On the other hand, it wasn't TJ Clemmings who would be a disaster in this spot. The draft is not an exact science: no matter how brilliant you are at evaluations, you will be wrong at times. Trading down and accumulating selections gives you more chances to get it correct.

A rare value selection

I have no issues with picking Kown Alexander. I had him 83rd and we picked him up nearly 40 slots later. Kwon fell because what he does well, pursue and play in coverage, are really Tampa 2 home-run concepts. He doesn't exactly have a good proper home at the moment, but I still like this pick because our "needs" today are not necessarily our needs tomorrow. If we suffer a few linebacking injuries, this one looks much wiser.

An exercise in vanity

After this point the draft gets far too targeted for me. I have the definite impression Licht knew who he was drafting in rounds 5, 6, and 7 before the day began. Among other things, the fact that he handed Clay the starting returner's role immediately  concerns me a lot. Bill Belichick has built the Patriot way on targeting and drafting unique players, yet other organizations who have been built by former disciples of his have failed miserably with this approach. Bill is unequaled in using this selection method and no other team has yet to be able to successfully replicate.

For Jason Licht, I would quote Fight Club "You are not a beautiful unique snowflake, you are made of the same decaying matter as everyone else". Every year it seems like we are applauding the Packers, Ravens, and Steelers after day 3. Somehow they are always taking players that every analyst thought would go sooner. That is because they don’t fall in love with one particular player in one particular spot. Nearly every year they are competing in the playoffs. It is not coincidence. Jason Licht seemed to be in love before the day began and love can make even the wisest man do foolish things.

As far as Kenny Bell, Kaelin Clay, and Joey Iosefa are concerned, I like Bell. I thought Bell was among the more intriguing project picks in this draft. Nebraska is not exactly a hotbed for receivers but Bell has some indisputable WR skills. The question with Bell is how long he will take to learn route concepts and what he may or may not bring us after the catch.

Clay is strictly a returner, what I feel they really missed here is the quality of coaching on a Kyle Whittingham Utah squads special teams. Yes, Clay took three punts back to the house, and yes Clay is fast in shorts. What I question though, is those are some gaping lanes he’s going through. NFL lanes are simply not that wide and back end recovery speed is better. The blocking in front of Clay in college was  top notch and at this point I have to call Clay a value trap as a returner.

Joey Iosefa isn’t a player I had a draftable grade on either, but makes some sense scheme wise as well. He’s a much better pass-blocker than he’s been given credit for generally and while he doesn’t have NFL measurables in terms of athletic talent he does play with toughness. I just question the wisdom of bringing in someone as a draft pick with guaranteed money (even small guaranteed money) who is not close to NFL standards of athletic talent.

All in all I think history will reflect this as a good draft for Tampa Bay.  It comes down to Winston staying on the straight and narrow while improving at the endeavor of being an NFL quarterback. We probably get one solid starter out of the offensive line, no matter how much you or I love one player injury and failure to thrive always play risk factors.  We get a linebacker who should be no worse than a scheme reserve and some possibilities, but certainly not probabilities from role players later on. Two starters and a role player is an ok draft, it’s just not a championship caliber draft.