The 2016 NFL draft is over, and now get to pontificate on the meaning of all of these picks until they actually get on the field in September. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a fascinating draft, with several highly praised and several (well, one) highly controversial moves.
Let's take a look a look at what we learned about the Bucs through this draft.
The Bucs needed a lot of defensive help
In 2014 and 2015 the Buccaneers drafted one defensive player. Combined. That one player was a massive success: Kwon Alexander started 12 games as a rookie and played nearly every snap before serving a four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs (he claims it was something in a sports drink). That one success can't make up for years of neglecting the defense, which was made worse by the team jettisoning several players who didn't fit Lovie Smith's scheme.
The Bucs went to work fixing that problem in this draft. Four of the team's seven draft picks were defenders, including first-rounder Vernon Hargreaves and second-rounder Noah Spence. Those two should play significant roles on defense this year, and may even start. Fourth-rounder Ryan Smith may be a starting safety in the long term, but at minimum provides some much-needed depth at the position. Sixth-round pick Devante Bond adds some talent to a linebacker corps with virtually no depth.
Meanwhile on offense, the Bucs added just two players: some offensive line depth in fifth-rounder Caleb Benenoch, and a fullback/H-back/tight end/slot receiver (yes really) in sixth-round pick Dan Vitale.
Clearly, the Bucs focused on defense in this draft. And it showed.
The Bucs didn't think defensive tackle or wide receiver were big needs
Before the draft, significant portions of the Bucs' fanbase and some of the analysts and reporters were convinced that defensive tackle and wide receiver were significant needs for Tampa Bay. It seems the Bucs didn't agree, as they didn't spend a single draft pick on either positions.
While the Bucs could certainly have used some added depth and possibly a future starter at those positions, seeing those positions as needs was a bit much: Gerald McCoy, Clinton McDonald, Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson aren't exactly scrub starters, and both positions have some crucial depth. At defensive tackle, Akeem Spence is a quality player, and defensive ends Robert Ayers and William Gholston can both play inside as well -- especially on passing downs. At wide receiver, Louis Murphy is still recovering from a knee injury, but last year's fifth-round pick Kenny Bell is healthy, Adam Humphries and Donteea Dye showed they could be contributors late last season, and special teamer Russell Shepard continues to flash whenever he gets on the field.
That doesn't mean the Bucs wouldn't have used picks at those positions had things worked out differently. Jason Licht indicated after the draft that the board ended up not having any defensive tackles or wide receivers at the top when the Bucs had a pick. But make no mistake: the team would have made sure to address those needs during the draft if they'd thought they were crucial. Licht has never been shy about trading up for (perceived) must-have players in the draft, after all.
Trading up was all about Robert Aguayo, not the general value of kickers
Here's what Jason Licht said immediately following the drafting of Roberto Aguayo.
"When you get a chance to get the best kicker in the history of college football, I didn't want to risk it. I wanted to take him. I have a lot of confidence in him; I like the way he's wired. I like the body of work that he's put out there, obviously. A great kicker can be the difference in several games. I've been around some great ones: Adam Vinatieri, [Stephen] Gostkowski. Those guys are invaluable. We obviously took him, we used a pick to go up and get him, so we feel very confident about it. We needed to be bold there and we were."
There's something to be said about the general increased value of kickers, but I tend to think it's overstated. Moving the PAT back cost teams an average of just two points, while touchbacks have become easier for all kickers in recent years, and the average kicker is much more accurate now than he was even five years ago. Moving touchbacks up to the 25-yard line might make Aguayo's pop-up kickoffs more valuable, but we'll have to wait and see whether that rule sticks, and how it actually impacts play during the season. Dirk Koetter certainly downplayed the value of that option during his press conference, saying "When the season comes along, I bet you more teams are trying to kick it out."
No, the team traded up for Roberto Aguayo because they think he is that good.
The Bucs think they got the best pass-rusher in the draft
Noah Spence is very, very good. We've made our opinion of him pretty clear, and Stephen White loves him, too. So do the Bucs -- and they think they got the steal of the draft.
"We felt like he was one of the, if not the, best pure pass rushers in the draft," Jason Licht said.
That wasn't just the front office: the coaching staff thought the same thing.
"On the coaching side, we were convinced that he was the best of all these rushers," Dirk Koetter said. "Our opinion was that he was the best of those rushers."
These aren't empty words: in the second round, no one expects you to get the best edge rusher in the draft. Usually, teams will be content with just a contributor. The Bucs are convinced they got a lot more than that.
Every team liked drafted quarterbacks more than Mike Glennon
Teams selected a whopping fifteen quarterbacks this draft, six of those in the first three rounds. And that was with somewhat unexpected falls for Connor Cook and Cardale Jones. Meanwhile, the Bucs couldn't find a home for Mike Glennon despite publicly talking about trading him for months on end. Those pre-draft talks never led to anything: Jason Licht said that they hadn't received any calls about Glennon during the draft.
The Bucs could have turned Glennon into a long-term asset, but will now see him walk in free agency next year, even if they keep making unrealistic noises about re-signing him as a long term backup. Tampa Bay could receive a compensatory draft pick for him, but such a pick won't come until 2018, will only be awarded if the Bucs sign fewer significant free agents than they lose next year, and the value of that pick will be dependent on the contract Glennon signs. Oh, and he'd have to sign it somewhere before mid-May, or the Bucs won't get any compensatory picks at all. The fact that teams were happier to draft players like Christian Hackenberg than to cough up picks for Glennon probably says something about his market value, too.
For now, the Bucs will have to live with keeping Glennon for one year as a quality backup. That's not the worst thing in the world, but it's not exactly maximizing your assets, either.