The Tampa Bay Buccaneers completed their first draft under the new Lovie Smith regime, and to the surprise of many they used all six of their picks on offense. We knew they would have to shift some of the focus to that side of the ball due to needs at receiver and offensive line, but no one expected a Lovie Smith team to go the entire draft without taking some sort of defensive player. So here is a recap of the Buccaneers new members:
Round 1, Pick 7: Mike Evans, WR Texas A&M
Mike Evans was “their guy” as Lovie and Jason Licht expressed in the press conference introducing their new star. Evans was the top receiver for Texas A&M and has “deceptive speed”. His elusiveness went underrated as he lead all the NFL receiver prospects in yards after catch on comeback routes, basically meaning on short, quick routes, Evans was able to break tackles and gain lots of extra yards. This is also important because it showed his YAC average wasn’t based solely on long passes, but that he has the ability to turn short receptions into big plays. At 6’5″, 230 pounds, Evans is a big, physical receiver with great hands, but needs some work on his routes. As he told media, he didn’t really “run routes” at A&M because so much of their offense was based on reacting off of whatever Manziel decided to do. With Evans now being able to focus on what he is supposed to do rather than reacting off of his improvisational quarterback, he may get even better.
Round 2, Pick 38: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE Washington
With their next pick, Tampa Bay grabbed the 6’6″, 260 pound tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. This guy will be a monster in the red zone. He’s drawn numerous Rob Gronkowski comparisons due to his size and athletic ability. For a big guy, he’s very fast, posting a 4.64 40-yard dash time. On tape, he proves to be very difficult to bring down, due to both his sheer size and also his elusiveness. Lining him up in the red zone with his 6’5″ teammates in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, the Bucs are sure to give defensive coordinators headaches all season long. ASJ’s blocking definitely needs some work, but not any more than any of the other tight end prospects as the tight end position is transitioning into primarily a pass catching position.
Round 3, Pick 69: Charles Sims, RB West Virginia
This was a head scratcher. Nothing against Sims as a talent, but with the needs still on the offensive line and even still at receiver, the Buccaneers selected the team’s fifth running back. Sims, widely recognized as the draft’s best pass-catching running back, does immediately become the second best running back on the team. Mike James and Bobby Rainey both had decent seasons after Doug Martin went down, but this seemed to be too much of a luxury pick for a third round selection. Sims’ speed is, of course, a big plus. The 6′, 215 pound back posted a 4.46 at the NFL combine, and had over 200 receptions when lined up at receiver at West Virginia. Some may think that he may become a converted receiver, but that is unlikely moving forward. The odd-men out at running back are likely Michael Smith and seldom used Jeff Demps.
Round 5, Pick 143: Kadeem Edwards, OG Tennessee State
The Bucs wait out the entire fourth round, then find themselves with the chance to address the offensive line in round five and grab 4-year starter Kadeem Edwards from Tennessee State. He is a bit of a project, and I do not expect him to be an immediate starter. His footwork is slow and he needs to work on his hands in order to stop a lot of these NFL defensive linemen, but Edwards has the potential to be a long time starter if coached the proper way and if he puts in the work necessary. Hopefully, Offensive Line Coach George Warhop can get him prepared properly, because with the uncertainty surrounding Carl Nicks, Edwards may have to start this year.
Round 5, Pick 149: Kevin Pamphile, OT Purdue
The Buccaneers send their seventh-round pick this year and their 2015 fifth-round pick to Buffalo in order to move up to pick tackle Kevin Pamphile from Purdue. Like Edawards, Pamphile is a project, but after his private workout with Tampa Bay, OL Coach George Warhop was very vocal about how much he loved this guy. Pamphile started at left tackle, but is also capable of playing guard, providing Tampa with depth on the line at multiple positions. Another guy with all the tools, but needs to be coached up properly before becoming a viable starting option. Unlikely Pamphile would have been there when the Bucs had a pick in the sixth round, but the Bucs probably could have waited a little longer before trading into the fifth. That being said, when there is a guy that you covet, get him when you can.
Round 6, Pick 185: Robert Herron, WR Wyoming
WOW. Wyoming wide receiver Robert Herron falls into the Bucs’ lap in the sixth round and they pounce. The 5’9″, 190 pound receiver was a projected fourth-round pick and is exactly what Offensive Coordinator Jeff Tedford meant when he preached “speed in space”. At his pro-day, Herron posted 40-yard dash times of 4.25 and 4.29. BLAZING speed is the perfect compliment to the “Tampa Towers” manning the outside receiver positions. With defenses focused on doubling Jackson and/or Evans, Herron can easily use his speed underneath to expose mismatches against linebackers forced to cover him. He finished ranked eighth all-time at Wyoming with 2,030 yards and posted 20 touchdowns in his career. For a sixth-round pick, Herron was an absolute steal.
Overall Grade- B+
In the post-draft press conference, Lovie Smith joked “I do believe in offense.”, and after this draft, hopefully people begin to believe it. The Buccaneers have begun to set themselves up for a very promising season. And although they didn’t address the quarterback position in this draft, Josh McCown will serve as a reliable bridge to the franchise quarterback sure to come. The next draft will be loaded with quarterback talent, and with all the enormous targets the Bucs now have, it’ll be very difficult for this team to not pose a threat offensively. McCown was very good last season with a similar set up and there’s no reason to expect anything different this year. He is now surrounded by two big receivers, an even bigger pass catching tight end, a pro bowl running back, and a speedster that can expose the middle in the slot position.
With only six picks in this draft, it’s hard to ask for much more than what the Buccaneers did. And with the impending rush on undrafted free agents, they aren’t done yet. After the New Orleans Saints drafted 6’3″ cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, a Saints official commented on the pick, saying “Someone needs to be able to cover these Buccaneers’ receivers.” The rest of the NFL, especially NFC South rivals, are taking notice as to what the Bucs are doing. Buccaneers fans should be excited going forward. They improved this football team over the last three days. And the improvements are sure to continue.
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