The 2016 Buccaneers draft is basically a lost cause in the eyes of many fans. Vernon Hargreaves III hasn’t grown into a player worthy of the 11th overall pick, Spence hasn’t stayed healthy enough to show what he may be all about and Roberto Aguayo is... well he’s Roberto Aguayo. The former was talked about by our own Gil Arcia in his “What If the Bucs never drafted Roberto Aguayo” piece so we’ll consider that topic laid to rest. With Aguayo out of the picture now, what if the others that remain on the roster blossom a bit this season in year three? Vernon Hargreaves (VH3), Noah Spence, Ryan Smith and Caleb Benenoch are all still with Tampa Bay. Maybe year three is “THEIR” year?
VH3 may have found his niche inside in nickel packages and as it has been discussed previously here at Bucs Nation, he will get first dibs at winning the outside corner role opposite of Brent Grimes. If VH3 can maintain his health and boost his own confidence early on, there’s a real chance that he can be a true asset to this team in his newly found role. If Hargreaves can be on the field upwards of 75-85% of the snaps this season and produce some timely turnovers, he would be able to drastically turn around his poor image among the fan base.
What if Noah Spence is able to play in say 14-plus games this season with a healthy shoulder? Spence managed 5.5 sacks through 11 games his rookie season before effectively being shut down completely by opposing defenses the last five games of the year while nursing his injured shoulder. A year ago, it was even worse as he was shut down by the medical staff after six games and one sack following another injury. If Noah Spence can follow suit and turn around his bad luck health wise along with a possible boost in play from VH3, Tampa Bay could suddenly be looking at a much different overall view of the stained 2016 draft class.
Ryan Smith is next in line here and he has the hardest task of the four remaining picks given his draft position, being asked to switch from corner to safety and back to corner, and then struggling all over again last season. Tampa Bay drafted two corners and a safety this season and while many pointed to the end of VH3, it’s Smith who should worry a good bit more. What if Ryan Smith has developed enough to be a rotational player that can be thrown into spot duty? If Ryan Smith proves to be reliable as a 3rd or 4th corner, that could be vital to the teams overall success and ability to sustain a potential injury bug hitting the positional group.
What if Caleb Benenoch actually plays well enough to win the starting right tackle job? The end of the Bucs season was fairly forgettable with all of the injuries the offensive line dealt with, one of which was Demar Dotson’s knee injury that has him on the outside looking in while he continues to recover. Dotson is expected back in time to be ready for the week 1 opener but what if Caleb Benenoch, who filled in for Dotson at RT, wins the job? Benenoch will be 24 years old as the season kicks off and in year three of his career with some serious snaps under his belt to end the 2017 season, there’s a chance that the 24-year-old comes in hungrier than ever and licking his chops at the chance to unseat teammate and 32-year-old Dotson. On the same token, Benenoch is in the running to win the right guard spot opposite of Ali Marpet as well. With the potential for landing himself a starting job despite being the last pick for the Buccaneers in 2016 (fifth round), Benenoch could be somewhat of a draft day steal looking back at things.
With all the talk of what if’s, what if some of these things mentioned above happen? What if VH3 shows out? What if Spence flourishes as a rotational pass rusher? What if Smith shows us something and what if Benenoch ends up a starter here in year three? What if we look back in 10 years and we’re able to say “remember when” with a smile on our faces when we talk about that 2016 draft after all of the doom and gloom surrounding it within the first few years?