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How the Buccaneers can improve their draft performance

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Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have struggled with both top-end quality and depth on their roster. Their failures to consistently draft well have a lot to do with that. Two outlets took to data to try to see just how poorly the Bucs did compared to other teams: Thomas Bassinger of the Tampa Bay Times, and Rich Hribar over at Rotoworld, who looked at the entire NFL.

Both writers based their analysis on Pro Football Reference's Approximate Value statistic, which tries to be a valid cross-positional measure of value. It's necessarily overly simple and overvalues some statistics, but it's basically the only tool we have for comparisons for this nature. Amusingly, Bassinger and Hribar come to completely different conclusions.

According to Bassinger, the Bucs are one of the worst teams in getting impact players out of their draft picks.

In my analysis, only five Bucs draft picks — including David and Martin — produced a total value of at least 20 after three seasons. That's tied with the Browns, Dolphins and Titans for fewest in the NFL.

Bassinger pins part of the blame on the revolving door of coaches and general managers, which means new regimes don't know what to do with formerly beloved players. The best example of that was Mark Barron, who was featured heavily under Greg Schiano, but traded mid-season by Lovie Smith for a relatively low return.

Why did the Bucs not have many picks? For one, they traded for Darrelle Revis. That doesn't help. In addition, the team has had a huge tendency to make minor trades to get players they love, giving up later draft picks in the process. They also haven't had a compensatory draft pick since 2011. As a result, they haven't had more than the normal seven draft picks since 2011, when they had an extra (and ultimately wasted) seventh-round pick.

But according to Hribar, the Bucs got good AV for the low number of draft picks they had over the past five years -- only four teams had fewer picks, which probably has a lot to do with Bassinger's finding that the Bucs didn't get a large number of impact players. In fact, Hribar has the Bucs as one of the very best teams at getting return on their high draft picks, though they're well below average in the later rounds. Hribar notes they're one of five teams to get the most immediate results, consistently, over the past five seasons.

These two competing analyses suggest two things. One, the Bucs need to get more draft picks in general. This makes a lot of sense: the more picks you have, the more successful picks you have -- assuming the extra picks aren't too far down the draft. There's a reason why the New England Patriots try to constantly add draft capital. This is why trading Mike Glennon would make a lot of sense.

Another thing is to improve the Bucs' performance in the later rounds. Inevitably most late-round picks won't contribute much, but you can improve your odds a little by drafting high-impact positions and players who can contribute on special teams. That means no punters, no kickers, no fullbacks, generally no players who are barely better than undrafted free agents. Trying to find a diamond in the rough is going to get you impact players a lot more often than drafting low-upside fullbacks, athletically limited safeties, and special teamers.