Jason Licht and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' player-personnel professionals have lightened their work load a bit for the evening of Friday, April 27. They still have plenty to do that weekend, however, as the NFL conducts its 2018 college draft.
After Thursday's bold trade for former New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, the Buccaneers currently own just one pick that would be executed that Friday night, when the second and third rounds will take place. The Buccaneers still have the 38th-overall selection in the third round, but they sent their third-rounder, #69 overall, to New York to get the two-time Pro Bowl pass-rusher with Tampa ties.
Tampa Bay would have been hard-pressed to find an edge rusher of Pierre-Paul's caliber in the third round of the draft. Of the 29 NFL players who had as many sacks as Pierre-Paul last season (8.5), only eight were drafted in the third round or later. Seventeen of those 29, including the newest Buccaneer, were first-round picks and 13 were selected in the first half of the first round. Pierre-Paul was the 15th overall pick, out of the University of South Florida, in 2010.
In other words, the trade for Pierre-Paul was likely a very judicious use of a valuable draft asset, particularly for a team in dire need of edge-rush help. Even better, by not giving up either of their two top picks and by improving their positioning a bit in the fourth round – the trade with New York also involved a swap of fourth-rounders, with the Bucs moving up from #108 to #102 – Licht still heads into next month's draft with plenty of capital to spend. That includes two of the first 38 selections.
Here's an updated look at when the Buccaneers are scheduled to be on the clock in the 2018 NFL Draft, which kicks off on the evening of Thursday, April 26:
|Round||Pick in Round||Overall Pick|
*via trade with N.Y. Giants
* via trade with Pittsburgh
** compensatory pick
Owning very high picks in the first two rounds sets the Buccaneers up with an excellent opportunity to address significant depth chart needs, and the addition of Pierre-Paul gives them a little more flexibility in how those needs are addressed. The team would appear to be less beholden to its edge-rush need and could choose to look at other spots – such as offensive line, running back or the secondary – if the first two rounds don't deliver the right DE value at those spots.
View photos of the newest Buccaneer, DE Jason Pierre-Paul. Photos by AP Images.
Even after the trade, the Buccaneers still possess seven 2018 draft picks, having picked up an extra sixth-rounder in last year's trade of J.J. Wilcox to Pittsburgh, plus a seventh-round compensatory pick. The swap of fourth-rounders with the Giants also puts that pick just two spots out of the third round.*
In fact, if one uses the venerable draft value chart developed by the Dallas Cowboys in the late '80s – and evidence suggests that NFL front offices *do still reference that chart – the Buccaneers still possess more 2018 draft capital than any other team in the NFC South. That chart assigns a point value to each spot in the draft, with the values descending as the picks get lower. Taking the collection of picks that each NFC South team owns and adding up their value, one comes up with the following numbers:
Tampa Bay: 2176.0
New Orleans: 946.2
(* The draft value chart only goes up to pick #224 because it was devised before the introduction of compensatory picks. The 224th pick is valued at 2 points, so no selections beyond that would have substantively changed these team values. The Falcons have two picks after #224 (#244 and #256), the Panthers have two (#234 and #242), the Saints have one (#245) and the Buccaneers have one (#255).)*
By surrendering a third-round pick, the Buccaneers did make it a little more difficult for Licht to move around the board in the early rounds via trade. For instance, that pick could have been a key part in any attempt to move up a few spots from either #7 or #38. Licht has shown a willingness to make such moves in his time at the helm, such as the trade up from the top of the third round to the bottom of the second in 2015 to secure guard Ali Marpet.
Still, that's a small price to pay in order to get a proven pass-rusher like Pierre-Paul. And even without that third-rounder, the Buccaneers remain well-positioned to help themselves significantly on draft weekend.