Heading into the draft, the Buccaneers had several needs that included a running back, defensive tackle, corner, safety and offensive line. The team was able to go out and land some talent at corner, safety, linebacker, running back, offensive and defensive lines as well as receiver. Acquiring players and filling needs aren’t necessarily one and the same in all cases and as for the Buccaneers, the biggest needs came down to defensive back (corner in particular) and running back.
Ultimately, for myself, the Buccaneers biggest hole had to come down to scarcity at a position mixed with a lack of overall talent and that points directly to the running back position. The Buccaneers trotted out one of the most atrocious stables of running backs, due in large part to failures with relying on an oft injured and unreliable Doug Martin.
A quick look into the numbers and you’ll notice Tampa ran the ball on third down only 19 times all season. 19 times on third down versus 161 passes on third down as shown by the chart below. By the end of the season, any opponent with a basic analytic department knew that on third down there was nearly a 90% chance that the Buccaneers were throwing it. A quick glance at the Patriots (38 rushes on 3rd down and 157 passes) and the Eagles (45 rushes and 169 passes) shows that the Buccaneers threw the ball nearly 10% more often on 3rd down than two of the best teams in football. Without even attempting to look at down and distance, formations and personnel... it’s obvious the team lacked a reliable running game. In 2017 the Buccaneers finished 7th lowest in rushing attempts and were 4th highest in pass attempts.
To be fair, a decent discrepancy is expected when you invest a 1st overall pick at the quarterback position as the team did with Winston. On the flip side, the disparity and lack of a balanced attack can be heavily pointed to the fact that the team regularly dealt with poor rushing attempts from their stable of backs. The same stable also lacked the ability to break off big runs and as the games went on, the running attack was pushed to the side.
Now, to answer the original question here. Did the Buccaneers address their biggest need in this draft? Absolutely they did and they did so with their second pick which makes it even sweeter for myself. Many individuals felt the team would rush to the stage if Saquon Barkley were there when the pick came around. Barkley was selected well ahead of them and the team traded back and eventually ended up taking Ronald Jones, a.k.a. RoJo, with their second round pick. Jones should give the team some speed and open field elusiveness that they haven’t had in a while.
As Gil Arcia added in his piece on Ronald Jones being an instant impact rookie here, Jones forced 58 missed tackles which was second in the entire draft for running backs. For a team that struggled to produce consistent yardage on the ground, Jones’ ability to make people miss and capitalize with speed to break off big runs is just what Jameis and the team needs on offense.
If Ronald Jones can have a healthy 2018 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense should take a great leap in overall production this season, the type of leap many expected to see a year ago.