It was quite a three day haul for the Buccaneer brass in this year’s draft. They went into Thursday with twelve selections and turned them into nine players, including two significant additions on both sides of the ball. Here’s my pick-by-pick analysis of this year’s class with a grade assigned to each one.
1 – Gerald McCoy (DT, Oklahoma)
Round 1, #3 overall
With Ndamukong Suh going #2 to the Detroit Lions as expected, McCoy was the best player on the board and also filled our greatest need. Regarded as the best three technique tackle in the draft, McCoy bring quickness and penetration the Bucs have been missing at the position since Warren Sapp was in his prime. McCoy seems to be the type of person Buccaneer fans will enjoy cheering for. Without an overwhelming offer to move down, taking McCoy was a no-brainer. He instantly starts and improves both our rush and pass defenses.
Grade – 5 out of 5
2 – Brian Price (DT, UCLA)
Round 2, #35 overall
As day one of the draft ended, several round one talents found themselves available at the top of round two. Having filled their primary need at UT, the Bucs were expected to focus on a pass rusher, corner, or receiver with this next pick. After Rodger Saffold and Chris Cook went to the Rams and Vikings to start things off, the Bucs pounced on Price and got themselves two of the draft’s three best interior penetrators with their first two selections. I preferred Sergio Kindle, but with questions about his knee and the draft grade/rank of Price, I certainly understand the decision the Bucs made. Price provides another penetrating presence in the middle and, in my opinion, is a better run defender at this point than McCoy. My only concern with this move is if Tampa is limiting the Buccaneer career of at least one of these players. Will they be able to afford both of them when they need to sign each to their second professional contract? It’s a bit into the future, I know, but it’s something worth mentioning.
Grade – 5 out of 5
3 – Arrelious Benn (WR, Illinois)
Round 2, #39 overall
I felt all along that the Bucs needed to emerge from the second round with a receiver, and Benn is the player I targeted with this pick. The Bucs moved up three spots from #42 to get him and surrendered their 5th round pick in order to do so. I like the physicality that Benn brings and his ability to go over the middle and make the catches that extend drives. He doesn’t have the plus deep speed of #1 guys like Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson, but Benn was also drafted 39th overall compared to Fitzgerald and Johnson who were selected 3rd overall in back-to-back drafts. If I were to question anything about this selection, it would be the cost of the move up to get him. Just a few selections later, the Patriots jumped up from #44 to our original pick at #42 and only surrendered a 6th round pick to the Raiders. You want them to get their guy, but you also want them to be economical with their draft picks.
Grade – 4 out of 5
4 – Myron Lewis (CB, Vanderbilt)
Round 3, #67 overall
After (assumedly) missing out on Jerry Hughes by five picks in round two, I got a worse dagger in this round with the Lions taking my pick, Amari Spievey, at #66. The Bucs stayed at corner and drafted the large Lewis to address another defensive deficiency. I hadn’t focused much on Lewis leading up to the draft, looking for a little more speed, but if we’re going to be playing a good bit of zone coverage, Lewis’ length, physicality, and ball skills should be huge assets. With Ronde Barber on his last legs, we’re barren at the position behind Aqib Talib. Elbert Mack fell off last year, and while there may be high hopes for EJ Biggers and other young cover guys, drafting a corner with starter potential was a priority. Don’t be surprised if he sees action at safety at some point. I’m liking this pick the more I think about it. Morgan Burnett and Chad Jones were enticing options here at safety, but talent at the corner position began to dry up, evidenced by the fact the next corner did not go off the board for another 27 picks.
Grade – 4 out of 5
5 – Mike Williams (WR, Syracuse)
Round 4, #101 overall
As day three of the draft kicked off, several of my top 10 for the Bucs were the first players off the board. Mardy Gilyard (#2) went first to the Rams, and Everson Griffen (#4) was drafted next by the Vikings. Realizing that despite the addition of Benn in round two that the receiver position was still in need of special talent, the Buccaneers drafted the controversial pass catcher from Syracuse (#3 on my Saturday board). Few doubt that Williams has round one talent, but having quit on his team, red character flags were everywhere. With an emphasis on bringing in leaders and guys with character, Williams must have interviewed well with the Bucs. If his Syracuse drama is behind him, Williams brings plus hands, the speed to beat defenses deep, and the ability to create after the catch. I’m not complaining, but I’ll want to track how he does vs. the career of Bruce Campbell, my #1 pick for the Bucs on day three who went five picks later to the Raiders.
Grade – 4.5 out of 5
6 – Brent Bowden (P, Virginia Tech)
Round 6, #172 overall
He punts the football, and we weren’t good at doing that last year (25th in net punting average). If he kicks it far and keeps it out of the endzone, that will be a good thing. I’m about out of stuff here, so I’ll say they hopefully filled a need. They did pass on pass on name players such as Greg Hardy and Jonathan Dwyer to take the kicker, so it certainly wasn’t a popular move amongst most fans. I would have preferred James Starks (RB, Buffalo) with this pick to give our backfield a talent boost and wonder just what the drop off would have been to the next punter on their board. I understand the pick, but would have liked to be a little more economical with the draft choice.
Grade – 3 out of 5
7 – Cody Grimm (S, Virginia Tech)
Round 7, #210 overall
Grimm made it back-to-back Hokies for the Bucs and was a bit of a head scratcher to me. Yes, it’s only a 7th rounder, but is a backup safety special teamer our best use of a pick at this point? What does he bring that Corey Lynch doesn’t? He’s a bloodlines guy (Russ Grimm’s son) who makes up for his lack of measurables with aggression and consistent fundamentals. I think Grimm will have to be a big contributor on special teams to make the final roster, but he should be fun to watch in the preseason. Kyle Calloway (OL, Iowa) went several selections later, and I had some interest in him as RG/RT depth. Syd’Quan Thompson, George Selvie, and Dorin Dickerson went three picks in a row a little later on, and any of them might have made a bigger impact on this roster than Grimm.
Grade – 2.5 out of 5
8 – Dekoda Watson (LB, FSU)
Round 7, #217 overall
Nole bias aside, this was one hell of a selection by the Bucs. Here they get a perfect fit for this defense, a well-liked leader who had trouble standing out some porous FSU defenses. I think he’ll be a perfect back up to fellow Nole Geno Hayes, but Raheem Morris says that Watson will see some time at SAM as well. Watson is reliable in open space and can hold his own in vertical coverage, so that would benefit him on the strong side. He’ll be an instant contributor on special teams and will push for playing time early on. Watson is a steal this late and provides the Bucs with versatile depth and a potential eventual starter at linebacker.
Grade – 5 out of 5
9 – Erik Lorig (DE, Stanford)
Round 7, #253
With their last selection of the draft, the Bucs finally took a pass rusher, albeit a relative unknown to most. Lorig was a fifth year senior who really only had two and a half years of defensive production. He came in as a tight end and moved over to defense his third year into the program. Lorig missed most of this past season with a groin injury, so he doesn’t come in with a ton of production. I admittedly don’t know much of anything about the guy, but he apparently has some size and quickness to work with. He’s going to be understandably raw, so maybe some time on the practice squad will help him develop as a pass rusher. I would have preferred Brandon Lang (Troy) or Lindsey Witten (Connecticut) with this pick. Lang signed with the Chargers, and Witten went to the Steelers as undrafted free agents. Both are far more intriguing to me as situational pass rushers. Maybe Lorig can eventually develop the better all-round game, but he’s got a ways to go.
Grade – 3 out of 5
So after totaling the score, I come up with 36 out of a possible 45 points, or 80%. This is all based on what I think of these selections today and what I feel the Bucs could have done differently with those selections based on the talent/opportunities available to them. Hopefully Grimm, Lorig, and Bowden pan out better than I graded their selections.
My Buccaneer draft grade = B-
At the completion of the draft, the Bucs acted quickly to acquire additional talent that went unchosen. Among those brought in were Jevan Snead (QB, Mississippi), Rico McCoy (LB, Tennessee), Sergio Render (G, Virginia Tech), Preston Parker (WR, N. Alabama), Hunter Lawrence (K, Texas), and Jeron Mastrud (TE, Kansas State).
I love the Snead pick up. I was big on him going into the year and watched him stink it up for the most part. Maybe Greg Olson and Alex Van Pelt can maximize his skills because he’s got some. He has the arm, mobility, and sufficient size, but he’s really frustrating to watch/support at times. His head is his biggest problem, so hopefully going somewhere he can focus on becoming a better student of the game and learning the mental responsibilities as a professional passer will allow him to maximize his talents. If you had told me on Thursday that we could get Snead for nothing, I would have said you were nuts.
Render is a really strong dude with sloppy fundamentals. Guys like him are worth a look. Having already seen this show, I’m not holding my breath on Parker. McCoy is small even for us and seems to have peaked a couple years back. He does have the skill set to play in this defense if he can make weight. I’ll want to see what he can do in camp and preseason action. I don’t think much of kickers, but I like the move to bring in the strong legged Longhorn. Lawrence is an accurate kicker who has converted his share of crucial attempts and shows some length on his kickoffs. Mastrud is the guy I had projected as the TE most likely to be a Buc. As I mentioned, he had nice chemistry with Josh Freeman at Kansas State, so his acquisition wasn’t a big surprise.
Complete list (courtesy of NEPatriotsdraft.com):
Hunter Lawrence, K, Texas
Brandon Gillbeaux, DE, Delaware
Jevan Snead, QB, Ole Miss
Rico McCoy, LB, Tennessee
Sergio Render, OG, Virginia Tech
Ryan Reeves, LB, Wayne State
Preston Parker, WR, North Alabama/Florida St.
Jared Zwilling, C, Purdue
Derek Hardman, OT, Eastern Kentucky
Jeron Mastrud, TE, Kansas St.
Jamar Bryant WR, East Carolina
Abdul Kuyateh, OG, Louisville
Torrey Davis, DL, Jacksonville State
For me the draft breaks down as follows. The Bucs came away with two studs at DT, putting a huge stamp on the position. McCoy and Price will work in a promising rotation with second year nose man, Roy Miller. The Bucs are now younger, faster, and stronger up front with the addition of the two rookies, and veterans Chris Hovan and Ryan Sims are being shopped as a result. The Bucs then came back and got their franchise QB two major weapons at receiver. Both have #1 talent and should see the field early and often. They’re huge additions to the top of the depth chart, and I’m intrigued to see how the two play together with Freeman as the years (hopefully) go by. I don’t think they could have done any better at the receiver position than the two selections they made.
Lewis might be the swing vote of this draft depending on how his career pans out. I’m intrigued by his potential in this system, and it might be a safe assumption that he’s Morris’ attempt at Ronde’s replacement. Grimm and Watson are special teams picks, but I think Watson has a far better shot of developing into a starter on defense. Bowden doesn’t need to be Ray Guy or anything, but if he can earn and keep the job throughout his contract then he was worth the draft pick it took to get him. Lorig needs at least a year to develop, in my opinion. I think Snead has a great shot at making the team as the third QB, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple from Lawrence, Render, McCoy, and Mastrud stuck as well.
I penalized the Bucs a little for the price of the trade up for Benn, not the trade up itself. I’ll give them back those points since they traded two 7th rounders (picks #225 and #232) to Denver for a 5th round pick next year. I think the Bucs could have signed at least seven of the top ten on their board at that point as undrafted free agents, so getting a future 5th round pick for basically nothing was a great move in my opinion.
As I mentioned throughout, I wouldn’t have done much differently myself but really would have liked to come away with a RB and versatile offensive lineman. The talent at those positions wasn’t terribly deep, and the Bucs must like what they have in Cadillac Williams, Derrick Ward, and maybe even Kareem Huggins. I don’t know who is going to come available between now and when the season starts, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the Bucs made a deal to acquire a pass rusher before we set a final roster.
Considering the acquisition of a future selection for what I saw as basically nothing and the signing of Jevan Snead alone as an undrafted free agent, I’ll bump my final score up half a grade. I think Snead makes this roster along with seven of our nine draft picks. Grimm is a question mark to me, and I think Lorig’s best chance is the practice squad. If this is what ends up happening, it’s a significant upgrade in talent and potential from last year’s roster. I like our direction.
My final Buccaneer draft grade = B+