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Draft the best available player, to build a foundation

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Scenario A:  Heading towards the third round pick, a team is still missing a starting right guard after not addressing it in free agency. The total rush production the previous year was 1375 yards. Does the organization address the starting RG position or improve the run game?

Scenario B:  Heading towards the third round pick, a team is still missing a starting right guard  after not addressing it during the FA period. The total rush production was 1612 yards. Does the organization address the starting RG position or improve the run game?

Scenario B is the 2014 NFL draft for the Bucs. Scenario A is the 2015 NFL Draft for the Bucs. In the 2015 draft, the Bucs address the starting LT position by drafting Donovan Smith. Instead of staying in the third round, the Bucs were aggressive to move up back into the second round for an offensive guard. Odd because the organization could have moved back up into the second round if they truly wanted to address the starting RG postion in 2014, but did not.


Is choosing the best player available without context the best option for an organization? I contemplated the 2014 third round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' selection of RB Charles Sims. In 2015, Sims broke out of his terrible 2014 mold and being the worst running back with yards after contact.

Charles Sims
Career Stats
Rushing Receiving
Season GP Attempts Yards Average Receptions Yards Average
2014 8 66 185 2.8 19 190 10.0
2015 16 107 529 4.9 51 561 11.0

Sims has been a wonderful, complementary surprise in his production for 2015, a year removed from his rookie season. In his rookie year, Sims was a very productive as a receiver, but not so much as a runner. One of the factors for drafting Sims was the fact he was a great pass catcher from the backfield during his college career.

The Offensive Line Roster

TB Offensive Line
Starting Line-up 2013 to 2014
Pre-Draft Post Draft Start of Season
Position 2013 2014 2014 2014
LT Penn Collins Collins Collins
LG Nicks Nicks Nicks Mankins
C Zuttah Dietrich-Smith Dietrich-Smith Dietrich-Smith
RG Joseph
RT Dotson Dotson Dotson Dotson

Going by what transpired, the Bucs' front office was willing to gamble on the starting right guard position with free agent pick ups Oniel Cousins and Garrett Gilkey, second year undrafted Patrick Omameh, and fifth round 2014 draftee Kadeem Edwards. When starting left guard Carl Nicks walked away from football in June of 2014, the team did not address the position until late into pre-season with the trade for New England's Logan Mankins. It would be a feasible possibility that when LG Nicks left football altogether that the Bucs' front office would not have traded for LG Mankins. In fact, the front office was not looking for a former Pro Bowl guard at all when Nicks left.

Conclusion: This tweet solidifies that if the Bucs had drafted a guard in the second or third round, then the Bucs would not have made a trade for Mankins.

The TB Bucs Running Back Production

TB Bucs RB Stats
2013 Stats
Rushing Receiving
RB GP Attempts Yards Average Receptions Yards Average
Rainey 9 137 532 3.9 11 27 2.5
Martin 6 127 456 3.6 12 66 5.5
James 8 60 295 4.9 10 43 4.3
Total 324 1283 4.0 33 136 4.3

Bucs' overall rushing rank in 2013 was 22nd in the league. Their best running back, Doug Martin, fell to injury and missed the last ten games of the season. Starting RG Joseph was a ghost of himself. Startling LG Nicks only played two games.

The idea of adding a running back that could catch would be appealing, but was it necessary to look for a receiving running back? Did the Lovie Smith regime evaluate the talent on the roster well enough?

Tampa Bay Bucs
Passing Stats (Martin and Rainey)
Season RB Reception Yards Average
2012 Martin 49 472 9.6
2014 Rainey 33 315 9.5

What is revealing is that Doug Martin did show he can average near 10 yards per reception and Rainey also produced nearly 10 yards per reception in the same year with Sims' rookie season.

Conclusion: The team had talent on its roster that can catch out of the backfield before Sims.

Draft and Draft Picks

Tampa Bay Bucs
2014 NFL Draft
Round Round Pick Overall Position Player Comment
1 7 7 WR Mike Evans
2 6 38 TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins
3 5 69 RB Charles Sims
5 3 143 OG Kadeem Edwards
5 9 149 OT Kevin Pamphile Traded up
6 9 185 WR Robert Herron
Tampa traded 2014 7th round pick (221st) and 2015 5th round pick (137th) for Buffalo's 2014 5th round pick (149)

By not drafting an offensive guard in the third round, the Bucs used a fifth round pick on OG Kadeem Edwards. Yet it was OT Kevin Pamphile that the front office decided to make a trade up for. If the Bucs had drafted a guard in the third round, then pick 143 would have been Kevin Pamphile and the Bucs retain its 2015 fifth round pick.

From the Offensive Line Roster, we know that the Bucs were initially looking for a backup guard and not Logan Mankins. So if the Bucs drafted an offensive guard in the third round, then it is quite possible there would be no trade involved for Mankins, which involved a 2015 fourth round pick.

Tampa Bay Bucs
2015 NFL Draft
Round Round Pick Overall Position Player Comment
1 1 7 QB Jameis Winston
2 2 34 LT Donovan Smith
2 29 61 OG Ali Marpet Traded up
4 25 124 OLB Kwon Alexander Traded up
5 26 162 WR Kenny Bell
6 8 184 WR/KR Kaelin Clay
7 14 231 FB Joey Iosefa
The Bucs sent 2015 3rd round pick (65th) and 4th round pick(109th) to Indianapolis’ 2nd round pick (61st) and fourth round pick (128th).
The Bucs sent 2015 4th round pick (128th) and 7th round pick (218th) to Oakland' 4th round pick (124th).

It is quite possible that the Bucs might have had a chance at FA LG Evan Mathis in the 2015 offseason and could have bypassed trading up for Marpet. But in trading up for Marpet, later in the draft we traded up for Kwon Alexander in the fourth round.

Conclusion:  The fact the organization did not address the starting RG position during the 2014 FA period and in the 2014 NFL Draft, it was forced to expend a fourth round 2015 draft pick on Mankins. But because the organization also bypassed on an offensive guard in the third round, it traded a 2015 fifth round pick and its 2014 seventh round pick. At a minimum, the front office wasted four draft picks: 2014 third round pick, 2014 seventh round pick, 2015 fourth round pick, and 2015 fifth round pick. And if the organization was not going to draft Marpet because it signed someone in FA, then it opens up an additional two draft picks: the third round pick and the seventh round pick. So that would bring the total to six draft picks missed out on, maximum.

Best Player Available or Best Player Available To Build A Foundation?

Tampa had a huge hole at starting RG. Also, Tampa had an LG that only played two games in 2013. Under former head coach Schiano, he had a specific type of running back. In 2013, Schiano lost his starting LG and never had a competent starting RG, yet the running back situation was not dire as the backup running backs produced sufficiently. The offensive line needed added talent and depth.

It took over a year for RB Sims to develop into a good rusher. He is a great complement to an actual bell cow running back. While many see the victory of best player available choice in selecting RB Charles Sims, many will miss the cascade of miscues that was caused by drafting a player from not a position of need. Not only that, but a player that is a complimentary player; missing out on an every down offensive player needed in building the trenches. The 2015 NFL draft by the Bucs revealed just how important it is to invest in talent for the trenches.

Nothing against Sims, but I want the organization to select building blocks for the foundation of the organization like it did with the 2015 NFL draft. Sims was a luxury pick that we had no business drafting because of the massive hole at starting RG. Because we did draft Sims, the organization lost a lot of draft picks by neglecting to build the foundation first.

Maybe if Lovie Smith had those extra picks it could have helped him add more depth on the defensive side of the ball, instead he is no longer the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.