Each week during the offseason, Senior Writer/Editor Scott Smith will dip into the inbox to answer questions from Buccaneer fans. This week, it's all NFL Draft, all the time. We start with a look at how active the Buccaneers really are on the trade phone lines, and how well their recent deals have worked out. In a similar fashion, another Tampa Bay fan wants to know if we should expect a big move on draft day. Finally, we contemplate a hypothetical draft scenario that not only helps the Bucs but also denies one of their bitter rivals.
Fans can submit questions for upcoming mailbags via Twitter to @ScottSBucs (#BucsMailbag), through a message on the Buccaneers Official Facebook Page or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The One Buc Mailbag runs every Thursday and is not necessarily meant to reflect the opinions of the team's management or coaching staff.
*1. Trade Hyperbole? Hey, Scott, long-time listener, first-time writer here. Haha. Trying to keep it light because I want to ask you about a story you put on the Buccaneers web site recently and its probably going to sound like I'm being kinda critical. Really, I'm just asking. No offense intended. I'm asking about the story listing all the draft trades the Bucs have made since Jason Licht became the gm. You said there were 12 and seemed to be saying that's a lot. But is it really a lot? That's four a year and it seems like there are tons of little trades during the draft -teams moving up and down. Also I thought you were saying that the Bucs trading in those drafts was good, but some of them didn't really work out or do much. Like the Zuttah or Dashon Goldson trade-aways. Anyway, like I said, no offense intended. Feel free to tell me how wrong I am! :) Thanks…Kyle McDermott #1 Bucs fan! (via email email@example.com)
Actually, Kyle, I'm not going to tell you're wrong, and I'm certainly not offended. Those are both valid questions and they actually give me a chance to explore this topic a little bit more. I find it to be an interesting topic, which means I like exploring it further, which means I'm actually going to thank you for this email.
First, this is the article to which Kyle is referring, in case you would like to check it out or look it over again: "Trade on Draft Day? Bucs Have Been Active." With the 2017 draft rapidly approaching and the Bucs' intentions at #19 overall difficult to pin down, I thought it was worth considering the possibility of a trade up or down. The article was intended to point out that the Buccaneers have not shied away from dealing in draft picks since Jason Licht came on as the new general manager in 2014. From the beginning of the '14 league year through the 2016 draft, the Buccaneers executed 12 trades that involved at least one draft pick. And Kyle is right: I think the article does imply that 12 is a lot of draft-related trades in three years.
So, is it? Let's find out.
Jason Licht was hired in January of 2014 and made his first trade on March 23 of that year, sending offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah to Baltimore for a fifth-round pick in the 2015 draft. The actual first trade made in the NFL during the 2014 league year came on March 11, when Jacksonville sent quarterback Blaine Gabbert to San Francisco for a draft pick. Using the NFL's Record & Fact Book for the last three years, I can count every trade involving a draft pick that was made in the league from that date through the end of the 2016 draft, which is the same time period I used in the aforementioned article.
There were 145 such trades. But wait…we can't actually use 145 as our count. We have to double it, because every deal involves two teams, so there were actually 290 "trade halves" for which we must account in that span. Divide 290 by 32 teams and you come up with an average of just over nine per team. So, yes, the Bucs did make more deals than the average, but not by a huge amount. If we look at the mean instead of the average, it's the same story: nine. The Bucs did tie for the eighth-most trades in that span, but nearly half the league hit double-digits.
By the way, since I did all that research, please allow me to offer a few other trade-related notes that don't include the Buccaneers. For instance, can you guess which team was most likely to make a draft-related trade in that span? My guess was Cleveland, given the way they've been stockpiling picks, and indeed they are tied for second with 16. However, number one is also not terribly surprising: New England, with 17. It seems like half of them have been for tight ends.
Cleveland, Philadelphia and San Francisco are all next with 16 each. Seattle made 15. At the other end of the list is Cincinnati, which made only one trade involving a draft pick in all that time. Green Bay, New England, Pittsburgh and San Diego made three each.
Now, back to your question, Kyle, and your second "grievance." Was I perhaps a little too – I don't know – complimentary in my assessments of those deals as a whole? That's probably fair to say. I focused on the fact that Ali Marpet, Kwon Alexander and Kevin Pamphile were all selected after the Buccaneers traded up for earlier picks, and that Vernon Hargreaves was taken after a small move down added draft capital. I did mention that Roberto Aguayo was taken after a trade up, using that very draft capital gained in the deal that led to the Hargreaves pick, and we don't know yet if that is going to be considered a success. Same is true of George Johnson, who was acquired at the expense of a fifth-round pick.
But, yeah, there's a lot of chaff to be separated from the wheat here. Actually, I don't find that surprising, because a number of these deals involved late-round picks, and those don't necessarily have a high rate of success anyway. So the fact that the Bucs used the fifth and sixth-round picks gained in the Zuttah and Mike Williams deals to draft wide receivers Kenny Bell and Robert Herron isn't exactly a plus, but I don't consider it a real grade-killer, either.
Overall, I'll stick with the main contention of the original article: That the Bucs have not been afraid to deal in draft capital before or after the draft since Jason Licht's arrival and, in particular, they have aggressively moved up on several occasions to make sure they didn't miss a targeted player. Don't be surprised if it happens again in this year's draft.
2. Moving and Shaking?
— Jon Lavett (@jonlavett) April 5, 2017
Aaaaand, here comes the part where I completely contradict my answer to the previous question!
I know I've spent one 4,000-word article and the first third of this piece trying to convince everyone that Jason Licht will be burning up the trade phone lines in the Bucs' draft room, but I'm actually guessing this will be a more quiet year on that front.
Some of the top shots of Miami's David Njoku.
This is the first year under Licht, for instance, that the Buccaneers are going into the draft with all of their own picks intact but no extra ones from previous trades. Tampa Bay is currently scheduled to pick 18th, 19th or 20th in each of the seven rounds. Now, we've still got a few weeks for some wheeling and dealing, but I should point out that, of those 145 draft-related trades I examined above, only eight were made in the month of April before the draft began. These ain't prime tradin' days, is what I'm saying.
So that leaves the question, will the Buccaneers make any trades during the draft that I would describe as "big?" Probably not. Sure, the Bucs might maneuver up or down a pick or two, but I wouldn't expect a drastic move. The reason: This is considered the deepest pool of draft talent, overall, in many years. There should be less incentive across the entire league for teams to try to trade up because it will make more sense to stay put and let the talent fall to you. That seems particularly true for the Buccaneers in the first round, given that there are many different directions they can go this year and there should be a myriad of attractive options at that spot.
If anything, I could see Licht pulling off another small move up in the middle rounds to make sure a coveted prospect doesn't fly by. Even that, though, is less likely when you aren't holding on to multiple picks in later rounds. An extra fifth-round pick is a very nice chip when you're trying to swing small deals in the second, third and fourth rounds, but the Bucs only have one at the moment.
Draft-day trades are a blast. If I was a fan of the Cleveland Browns, I'd be very excited to watch this year's draft, just to see if the team's brain trust uses all of those high picks to move around the board creatively. (Also, if I was a fan of the Cleveland Browns I'd really have the wrong wardrobe in my closet.) So I'm not saying I wouldn't welcome some wheeling and dealing in the Bucs' draft room. I'm just saying I think anything major happening would be a surprise.
3. Denying the Falcons?
Mr. Smith,Tampa is picking lower this year than they have in awhile, which is a good thing I know. Maybe next year we'll be 32. I like that we're picking after the Panthers and Saints but that also means they might take a couple players that would have been great for the Bucs. At least we're picking before the Falcons. So that's my question. What would be the best pick for the Bucs both for them and for making sure he doesn't end up in Atlanta?Thanks!Jim. V, Clearwater (via email firstname.lastname@example.org)
*Here it is April 6 and I thought we were going to be answering the same five or 10 draft questions repeatedly for the next 21 days. But then I open my email and, lo and behold, Jim here has a different angle on this whole thing. This kind of sounds like fun. So, if I'm getting this right, I'm supposed to choose a player that would be a very good fit for both the Buccaneers and the Falcons, one that will simultaneously bring cheers to the draft room at One Buccaneer Place and discreet frowns in Flowery Branch, Georgia. (Not that they'd ever admit it.) There is one little flaw in this idea: I think there are too many picks between the Bucs and the Falcons too make this a very realistic possibility. Most likely, the Buccaneers are going to be choosing between a handful of players at #19 that will all be gone by #31, where the Falcons pick. (Carolina is at #8 and New Orleans is at #11). READ: Better Fit - John Ross or Corey Davis?*
So let's add another wrinkle here and say that the Buccaneers find a trade partner that is really eager to move up. Say, the Chiefs at #27. So now there are only four picks separating Tampa Bay and Atlanta, and a much better chance the two teams are coveting the same player. I also should point out that the Bucs would have a chance to deny New Orleans, too, since their trade of Brandin Cooks to New England has them picking 32nd, as well. For now, though, let's keep this premise to the Falcons.*Now, as the defending NFC Champs, you would expect that Atlanta has a pretty strong roster across the board and the ability to go in just about any direction with pick #31. Meanwhile, the Bucs have just traded down because they're somewhat in the same boat; for the first time in at least four years, it's not so easy to pinpoint Tampa Bay's top one or two needs. That said, I think there's a clear choice here, in terms of a position to target: Defensive end. After signing Robert Ayers and drafting Noah Spence a year ago, the Buccaneers have a relatively deep group of ends. That will be even more true if restricted free agent Jacquies Smith signs his tender offer and returns for 2017. Still, the depth at defensive end isn't *overwhelming, and I think you can justify trying to add an impact pass-rusher just about any year. Meanwhile, Atlanta's offense is stacked, the secondary has a handful of stars and last year's draft brought two new starting linebackers. The Falcons added to their interior line in free agency by signing former Chiefs DT Dontari Poe. After years of serious struggles getting pressure on opposing passers, the Falcons saw their pass-rush finally improve in 2016 thanks almost completely to the emergence of 2015 first-round pick Vic Beasley. Beasley led the entire NFL with 15.5 sacks (after notching all of four as a rookie) but no other player on the defense had more than five. Beasley is a linebacker in Atlanta's defense; the defensive end rotation consists of Brooks Reed, Ra'Shede Hageman, Adrian Clayborn and a couple others. That seems like a place the Falcons could upgrade with a first-round pick. **
Photos of CBS Sports analyst Dane Brugler's mock draft prospects.
Atlanta was dead in the middle of the pack in sacks last year, with 34. That's a bit misleading, though, because the Falcon offense was so potent that opponents had to throw A LOT to try to keep up. In fact, no defense faced as many drop-backs last year as Atlanta's – they were thrown on 655 times! So when it comes to pass-rushing efficiency – that is, sacks per pass play – they were all the way down at #26 in the rankings.*So, wouldn't Atlanta like to pair Beasley with another force off the edge? Yes, of course! That means the sneaky Bucs at #27 need to grab the best remaining end on the list. And that will be…Missouri's Charles Harris? Takkarist McKinley? I'm assuming that Myles Garrett (duh), Solomon Thomas, Derek Barnett and Taco Charlton are off the board by #27. Harris and McKinley are often mocked at around this point, but the problem is that both of them are considered better fits as pass-rushing linebackers in a 3-4 system. So I'm going to go with Florida State's DeMarcus Walker. I've mostly seen Walker coming off the board in the top half of the second round in multi-round mock drafts, but I'm guessing his stock is on the rise after his strong showing at FSU's recent Pro Day. Walker is bigger than Harris or McKinley, and if he can play with the same sort of speed he showed at that Pro Day, he could prove to be a late-round steal. By the way, if I were trying to get a double-whammy with a pick that denied the Saints at #32, I think I'd probably end up with somebody like Kevin King, Adoree' Jackson or Quincy Wilson. We may see a run on corners near the end of the first round, and if that were to run out before the Saints had a chance to get involved, that would be good. (My answer might change if the long-rumored Malcolm Butler trade comes to pass, though). *Well, Jim, that was fun, but there were so many suppositions and ifs and maybes involved that it probably didn't have much meaning in the end. And, when it actually comes down to it, the Buccaneers are going to be picking a player based solely on what he can do for them, not on denying any other team.