The strong reviews continue to pour in for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2012 draft efforts, all seven rounds of them.
SI.com gave the Buccaneers an A-minus and called sixth-round cornerback Keith Tandy "a bit of a steal." Foxsports.com delivered a B-plus but paid special attention to the team's two seventh-rounders, Michael Smith and Drake Dunsmore, saying both had "a solid chance to make the roster."
ESPN's Mel Kiper, who was very much in evidence during the three days of the draft, gave out only two full "A" grades and one went to the Buccaneers (link behind subscription wall). On Kiper's scale, an "A" signifies an "exceptional" draft. Locally, TBO.com's Ira Kaufman settled on a B-plus for the home team, ranking only four of the other 31 teams better.
We could provide plenty more links, few of which would differ substantively in their grades. The universally high grades on safety Mark Barron, the shared approval of the Bucs' aggressive moves to get running back Doug Martin and linebacker Lavonte David and the perceived "value" picks the team made on Day Three have combined to convince most analysts that Tampa Bay did very well indeed over the past three days.
As many sources are quick to point out, however, it often takes several years to truly gauge the success of a team's draft efforts. The Buccaneers have little doubt that Barron, Martin, David and company will succeed on the field, but those young men will obviously need to prove them right in the coming seasons. At this point, favorable draft grades from outside sources serve mostly as a welcome validation of the Bucs' own feelings about their 2012 draft class.
So, enough crowing and on to some (hopefully) interesting facts. In the minor lull that occurs between the frenzied three days of the draft and the following week's rookie mini-camp, there is time to peer at the minutiae that is produced by 253 instances of someone being "on the clock." For the Buccaneers, that meant making team history in a variety of ways, from making one particular school their favorite on draft weekend to coming close to repeating their most notable draft-day trades.
All in the Family
Two of the seven players selected by the Buccaneers during the 2012 draft are sons of former NFL players, and coincidentally the two dads played the same position in the pro ranks.
West Virginia linebacker Najee Goode, the team's fifth-round choice, is the son of John Goode, who played tight end for the St. Louis Rams and Philadelphia Eagles in the mid-1980s. The elder Goode was drafted in the exact same round as his son, by the Rams in 1984, and played in all 16 games in his rookie campaign, catching three passes for 23 yards. He held on for one more season in the NFL in 1985, appearing in 14 games for the Eagles without recording a reception.
Tampa Bay's second seventh-round pick, Northwestern tight end Drake Dunsmore, followed his father's footsteps a little more directly, playing the same position en route to hearing his name called during the NFL draft. Pat Dunsmore, Drake's dad, was chosen by the Chicago Bears in the fourth round of the 1983 draft and went on to play two years in Chicago. Pat appeared in 27 games for the Bears and caught 17 passes for 208 yards and one touchdown.
As was immediately reported after the Buccaneers snapped up Barron at Pick #7, this marked the first time that the franchise had ever used a first-round pick on a safety. It is the highest pick, in fact, ever used by Tampa Bay on a defensive back of any kind; the previous high was #20, where Aqib Talib came off the board in 2008.
What might be more significant, however, is the team's recent history in the opening round, dating back to the rise of Mark Dominik as general manager. In 2009, Dominik's first year at the helm, the team targeted and acquired a franchise quarterback, trading up to get Kansas State's Josh Freeman at Pick #17 in the first round. Since then, it's been all defense in the early going.
For the first time in the franchise's 37-year history of drafting, this is the first time that the Buccaneers have spent their opening first-round pick on a defensive player three years in a row. In 2010, the draft began with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy at #3 overall; in 2011, it was defensive end Adrian Clayborn at #20.
Of course, it goes deeper than that. The Bucs actually used two of their first three picks on defensive players this year after going defense with all of the first three last year. In 2010, the first two picks both went to players on the defensive side of the ball.
There has been something of a front-to-back, middle-to-edge approach to the defensive rebuilding, too. In 2010, it was McCoy and fellow defensive tackle Brian Price with the first two picks. Last year, the Bucs addressed the defensive end positions with Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers, then moved back to the next line of defense with middle linebacker Mason Foster. This year, the first pick was a safety, Mark Barron, and the third, a second-rounder, was an outside linebacker, Lavonte David.
In addition to being the first safety ever selected by Tampa Bay in the opening frame, Mark Barron made franchise draft history in another way.
Barron is the 13th player the Buccaneers have ever drafted out of the University of Alabama, and that makes the Crimson Tide the most common source of Tampa Bay draft picks. Going into 2012, Alabama and Tennessee were tied with a dozen each.
Barron's selection also means that Alabama has pulled even with Oklahoma when it comes to producing first-round Buccaneers, at three apiece. Oklahoma is responsible for the team's first-round selections in 1976 (DE Lee Roy Selmon), 2006 (G Davin Joseph) and 2010 (DT Gerald McCoy). Alabama can claim the top choices in 1990 (LB Keith McCants), 1993 (Eric Curry) and now 2012.
On the other hand, running back Doug Martin is not only the first Boise State player the Bucs have ever drafted in the opening round, but the first BSU Bronco ever selected by the team in any round. By taking West Virginia teammates (and roommates) LB Najee Goode and CB Keith Tandy in the fifth and sixth rounds, respectively, the Bucs tripled their all-time Mountaineer draft output. The only other West Virginia player the team had ever selected was fourth round tackle Lance Nimmo in 2003.
Each of the Buccaneers' first three selections in the 2012 draft came after a trade of some sort. Tampa Bay was originally slated to select at #5, #36 and #68. Instead, it picked at #7, #31 and #58.
As has been previously noted on Buccaneers.com, each of those trades was related in some way. The Buccaneers received a high fourth-round pick to move down from #5 to #7. They then moved down 25 spots from that original fourth-rounder in order to move up from #36 to #31. Finally, they traded that late fourth-rounder in order to jump from #68 in Round Three to #58 in Round Two.
The Bucs were pleased with the end result, and it evoked memories of some similar maneuvers in the 1990s. In fact, this marked the first time that the Buccaneers had made two separate trades involving first-round picks in the same year since 1997. It was also just the second time in franchise history that, during the draft, the Buccaneers had chosen to trade up into the bottom half of the first round.
That first occurred in 1995, when a series of maneuvers led to the acquisition of potential Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks in the first round. The circumstances were somewhat similar to what occurred this past weekend.
First, the Bucs took a top-10 pick (#7) and traded down with a team that coveted a specific player (Philadelphia moved up to take DE Mike Mamula). Then the Bucs stayed put at that trade-down spot and got the player they coveted in the first place (Sapp). Later, the team used assets gained in that first trade (a pair of second-round picks) to move back up into the bottom of the first round (#28 overall) to ensure they got their second target (Brooks).