ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper published his annual re-grading of the previous year’s draft today. It’s a little early for that: just one year in we really can’t tell much about most players, and many of them could still go in either direction — third year breakouts are common, as are early-career blips that fade. Bucs fans will be very familiar with players like that over the past decade.
Still, though, we do know a little bit more about the 2016 NFL draft classes than we did a year ago, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ class looks pretty solid still—if we ignore Roberto Aguayo (or rationalize his selection), that is. Kiper thinks it’s worth a B-.
Let's get right into the kicker debate. At the time I didn't dislike the move as much as some others did, just because the Bucs had already hit on a pair of needs -- cornerback and pass-rush were two big ones at the time -- so I could at least understand them trying to lock in a 10-year player late in Round 2. Remember, with extra points being moved back, finding a reliable kicker becomes a little more important. There's no question Roberto Aguayo needs to bounce back after missing nine of 31 kicks last year. But in three years at Florida State he never was under 80 percent accuracy for the season. Let's hope last year was an aberration. If Aguayo doesn't bounce back (and they brought in competition), yeah, you can say there were plenty of better players to be had late in Round 2. OK, now that we covered the kicker ...
Vernon Hargreaves III struggled for much of 2016, but he did stay on the field (missed 22 snaps all year). Noah Spence played in every game, started three and picked up 5.5 sacks. He could be in for a bigger 2017 at 100 percent. I know Aguayo is the story, but if he gets back to his college level, and Hargreaves and Spence improve, this class will look better. He's not a punchline just yet.
Aguayo’s fate aside, the Bucs had a pretty good first year out of their draft class. Vernon Hargreaves looks like he’ll be a solid player, Spence played through a shoulder injury for almost the entire season and still flashed a lot of potential, and fifth-round guard Caleb Benenoch and fourth-round cornerback Ryan Smith seem to be developing on schedule. Sixth-round pick Devante Bond missed the season with an injury, but he seems to be slated for a spot as the team’s strongside linebacker this year.
All of that leaves one pick: Dan Vitale, the seventh-round fullback who busted out before the regular season. Oops, but that happens with seventh-round picks. Then again, picking a fullback doesn’t leave a lot of room for a massive result, there. This was the second year in a row the Bucs saw a seventh-round fullback bust, by the way. Maybe don’t pick those anymore.