The Buccaneers have a lot of problems at the moment. They’re 3-7 through 10 games of the 2018 season, which has created plenty of conversations. While there isn’t much debate about the future of head coach Dirk Koetter, things aren’t quite as unanimous when it comes to the future of general manager Jason Licht.
Licht came to Tampa in 2014 as part of the beginning of the Lovie Smith era. After Smith went 8-24 in two seasons, he was fired and Koetter, then the offensive coordinator, was promoted to head coach.
Everyone seems to be pretty split on Licht and what he has done in his tenure. In free agency, there have been some hits and a whole lot of misses. Where Licht gets a lot of credit is in the NFL Draft. He has made some really nice picks over the years, but is his overall track record good enough for ownership to keep him around? How many of his draft picks are still with the team? How many will even be around in 2019? It’s time to take a deeper look at both of those questions.
Draft picks made by Jason Licht who are no longer with the Buccaneers
2014: TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Round two, 38th overall), RB Charles Sims (Round three, 69th overall), OL Kadeem Edwards (Round five, 143rd overall), OL Kevin Pamphile (Round five, 149th overall), WR Robert Herron (Round six, 185th overall)
2015: WR Kenny Bell (Round five, 162nd overall), WR Kaelin Clay (Round six, 184th overall), FB Joey Iosefa (Round seven, 231st overall)
2016: K Roberto Aguayo (Round two, 59th overall), FB Dan Vitale (Round six, 197th overall)
2017: RB Jeremy McNichols (Round five, 162nd overall)
That 2014 draft class sticks out in a significant way. Mike Evans is the only player from Licht’s first class that is still with the team. 2015 had a few late-round misses, but it’s still a very good class that features gems such as Ali Marpet and Kwon Alexander. The Aguayo pick in 2016 obviously aged extremely poorly and waiting until the fifth round to draft a running back in 2017 didn’t work well as McNichols failed to make the roster.
Overall, that’s 11 of Licht’s 34 picks (32 percent) that are no longer with the team.
Draft picks made by Jason Licht who, based on their performance, could be gone after this season
2016: DE Noah Spence (Round two, 39th overall), CB Ryan Smith (Round four, 108th overall), OL Caleb Benenoch (Round five, 148th overall), LB Devante Bond (Round six, 183rd overall)
2017: DL Stevie Tu’ikolovatu (Round seven, 223rd overall)
This is tough to project, as the team could decide to bring some of these guys back to stay in minor roles. However, these are guys that a new regime could probably let go of without too much thought. With five of 34 picks being categorized here, that’s 16 of Licht’s picks (47 percent) that could be labeled as “misses” before the start of a new league year in 2019.
Draft picks made by Jason Licht who will definitely be around in 2019
2014: WR Mike Evans (Round one, seventh overall)
2015: OL Ali Marpet (Round two, 61st overall), LB Kwon Alexander (Round four, 125th overall)
2016: CB Vernon Hargreaves III (Round one, 11th overall)
2017: TE O.J. Howard (Round one, 19th overall), S Justin Evans (Round two, 50th overall), WR Chris Godwin (Round three, 84th overall), LB Kendell Beckwith (Round three, 107th overall)
As far as the 2018 draft class goes, it’s reasonable to expect all eight guys to at least be around for training camp. From there, guys could drop. It just might be too hasty to say right now that any of them are in danger of getting cut after this season. Evans, Marpet, Howard, Evans and Godwin are guys that Tampa Bay will build its future around. As for guys like Alexander, Hargreaves and Beckwith, it seems more than reasonable that the team will still want them around next year despite injuries sidelining them this season.
That means 16 of Licht’s picks (47 percent) are surely going to be around in 2019, though it’s worth noting that half of those 16 are 2018 picks who just can’t be fully evaluated just yet.
Draft picks made by Jason Licht who the Buccaneers have to decide on after this season
2015: QB Jameis Winston (Round one, first overall), OL Donovan Smith (Round two, 34th overall)
Both Winston and Smith will presumably be with the Bucs in 2019, though their respective statuses with the team aren’t sure enough to have them grouped in the previous category.
So, with all of this said, it appears as if roughly half of Jason Licht’s draft picks will be with the Buccaneers in 2019. That doesn’t mean that all of those returning players will have significant roles (particularly those in the 2018 class). Is that 50ish percent a good enough mark? It goes without saying that it’s not easy to evaluate talent and draft players in the NFL. But has Licht’s track record been good enough? Or should ownership move on as it likely will do with the coaching staff?
That’s for you to decide. Sound off in the comments with your thoughts on which direction the team should go in.