Last year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had one of the best draft classes in the NFL. Probably the best draft class overall, at least in terms of early returns. This year, it looks like the Bucs are going to have an outstanding class again -- at least if we can believe ESPN's John Clayton, who says it's his second-favorite behind the Jacksonville Jaguars' draft class.
The Bucs filled their two biggest needs with their first picks, taking cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III in the first round and pass-rusher Noah Spence in the second. They signed cornerback Brent Grimes and defensive end Robert Ayers in the offseason, but the Bucs needed young talent in both positions. Now the two veterans can help groom Hargreaves and Spence.
The extra beauty for the Bucs was getting an extra fourth-round choice in moving down two spots to take Hargreaves at No. 11. They used that fourth-round pick to move into the second round to take kicker Roberto Aguayo. Trading up to take a kicker in the second round might seem questionable, but Aguayo is supremely talented and gives the Bucs an immediate upgrade. I thought GM Jason Licht had a great draft.
While the Bucs fielded a lot of criticism for drafting Roberto Aguayo, they got four early contributors and a possible fifth starter in Ryan Smith. Vernon Hargreaves and Noah Spence will at minimum play significant roles in sub packages, and could start as rookies -- they'll certainly start in the long term. Dan Vitale is just a fullback, but he should have a fairly big role in Dirk Koetter's offense as an H-back/slot receiver/tight end/fullback/whatever else they can think of. And, of course, Aguayo should represent an upgrade at kicker -- especially on kickoffs.
That's a lot more than most teams will get. The Bucs got four starters out of the draft last year, and few if any teams gave rookies more playing time. Finding four starters again is extremely unlikely -- you could argue that Aguayo and Vitale are technically starters, but obviously they won't be on the field as much as the four starters last year were -- but finding four significant contributors is impressive regardless.
Of course, we'll know a lot more after this season, and won't have a truly good view of this draft class after 2018 or 2019. Early indications are that, despite the criticism of the Aguayo pick-and-trade, the Bucs once again got one of the best draft classes in the NFL.