The 2014 Buccaneers Draft Class, the first in the era of Lovie Smith and Jason Licht, has rolled in to a close. As I already wrote, Mike Evans was the first little sample we had of this gourmet dish. I didn’t even come close to anticipating the decadence of the rest of the meal or how soon we would start snacking. To start, as everyone else has already clued into, this was of course the first ever completely offensive draft class in franchise history.
While my initial response was surprise, the makeup of the class and the way players fell makes it much less shocking. According to Licht, there was no designed plan to go completely with offensive players. In reality, even if such a plan existed, it would’ve been a poor plan. The unpredictability of the draft makes any predictions past perhaps five or 10 picks to grow increasingly more random.
Our receiving corps has been completely renovated, and with good reason. Aside from the obvious monster of Vincent Jackson, the most promise we had pre-draft was Chris Owusu. Compared to Jackson, he had miniscule stats last season. It wasn’t much to salivate over. In reality, it’s the kind of thing that would make me turn tail and decide I’m not hungry anymore. The draft completely changed that.
The start of course was with Mike Evans. Evans looks to be a complete sponge, and he’s going to be soaking up the skill and experience of Vincent Jackson. On top of that, with his young age and accompanying maturity, it gives Tedford the chance to take a lot of raw talent and turn it into what he wants out of his offense. How exactly Evans will be similar and different to V-Jax is far from becoming clear, but they’ll both be very much on the radar of any opposing defense we come up against.
All of our division rivals sought to boost their passing defense, some more than others. There’s no doubt that each of them will have the secondary focused on our monstrous duo. Fortunately, that wasn’t where the help ended. The addition of Austin Seferian-Jenkins, no small man in his own right, brings a threat to the middle we didn’t have last season. With all due respect to our tight ends, you could’ve genuinely asked the question last season of whether or not we even had any. Contrary to their lack of impact, ASJ is going to exploit the middle and attack the red zone at every opportunity.
Then, in many ways unlike any other receiving threat we have, there is the late sixth round pick Robert Herron out of Wyoming. Herron looks minuscule compared to the giants we’ve compiled, but the former track star has a pure speed that might rival much of our roster. He seemed to have some injury issues in high school, but hard work and the right opportunities could make him a very useful weapon for us. While defenses focus on our big receivers, Herron just might slip in to some broken coverages for big gains. I don’t know about anyone else, but I would absolutely love to see him breakaway into an open field.
In my previous article focusing on just first round pick Mike Evans, written hours after that pick, I pointed out how unlikely it would be that we’d pick up yet another running back. Clearly, I was dead wrong. The pick of Charles Sims was baffling, until I thought about what kind of player Charles Sims is. Sims isn’t your prototypical shove it down the middle running back.
I got to see Sims first hand at the University of Houston, where he played up until his senior year. The Houston Cougars’ football program was in a serious state of transition when he left, and the choice was a very logical one. However, during his freshman year in Houston, Sims helped lead the Cougars to a very respectable 10-4. Not only did he amass just shy of 700 rushing yards that season, Sims also piled up more than 700 receiving yards with Case Keenum targeting him. The same Case Keenum who is still in his hometown, now fighting for a starting slot with the Houston Texans.
Sims immediately showed his versatility as a player. While he’s certainly not a pure receiver, the man can certainly catch a football with some skill. It doesn’t hurt that he’s got a solid base to push himself to gain yards after the catch. Sims isn’t just a running back, he’s a weapon like everything else in our offense. He’s also a very different weapon than any other back of receiver we’ve got. The choice, like Licht said, had little to do with need and everything to do with how good of a player was on the board.
That’s four potent weapons out of six total draft picks. The two left consisted of fixing an offensive line that’s not clearly assembled just yet. Most of the reports on choices of Kadeem Edwards at guard and Kevin Pamphile at tackle indicate that, if they perform as projected, they’ll both be a steal as fifth round picks. It won’t be until the season progresses that the fogginess of our offensive line starts to clear up. There’s experience on our line, but there’s also fresh options. The line will come down to just how the chemistry starts to develop in the offseason and especially the preseason.
In all, our draft class was much more lopsided than expected, and yet incredibly balanced for an exclusively-offensive group. The initial impression was that the defense was just about settled, but the team got busy. Our total of undrafted free agents was into the double digits before the day was out. A testament to the constantly mentioned depth of this year’s draft class, they sought some solid defensive talent, a potential backup quarterback, along with another receiver and potential for both lines.
There’s a lot of offseason to go before we see the final ingredients to the 2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but it’s clear we aren’t being stingy about looking for new spices. Not all of those late-night Sunday grabs that didn’t make it into the draft will make it to the final cut, but there could be some gold hidden among them.
I trust that any defensive talent will be spotted quickly, and Tedford has to be jumping for joy with the bowl of expensive candy Licht just laid at his feet. The season is far from beginning, but we’re finally getting the menu ready. One thing is clear – this team looks nothing at all like the Buccaneers of 2013. And yet, the hard knocks flavor is still there. This won’t be the flashiest team in the league. However, an extremely versatile offense coupled with a hard-hitting defense could lead us to Lovie’s coveted 11-5 after all.
Author’s Note: If ‘Patches’ were only a nickname, Old School would be right in calling it a dumb handle. However, my full legal name is Nickolas Patches Chance Jarosh. Patches is no nickname, but my true middle name (one of them). Due to that, I consider it a hell of a handle.