Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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S.S. Mailbag: Of Puppies and Personnel Packages

This week, Buccaneers fans have questions about two-TE personnel groupings, running back trades, uniforms and puppies…yes, puppies

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The 2020 NFL Draft begins on Thursday night with the first round, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will likely be on the clock around 9:30 p.m. ET, barring a trade. If they don't move up or down from their current spot, the Buccaneers will make the 14th-overall pick for just the second time in their 45-year drafting history.

This is, in fact, the first time Tampa Bay has been originally slotted at number 14. In 2001, the Bucs were in the 21st spot to start the first round but then traded up to 14 before selecting Florida tackle Kenyatta Walker. That pick would have to be considered a middling success – Walker started on the 2002 Super Bowl-winning team and was with the team for five-plus seasons, making 73 starts. However, he didn't stick at left tackle, where he was supposed to be the long-term replacement for franchise icon Paul Gruber (after one year with Pete Pierson as the bridge). In addition, one would need to factor in the second-round pick the Buccaneers sent to Buffalo in order to move up seven spots when evaluating that selection overall.

The 14th-overall pick has been an NFC South possession in recent years. The Falcons used it last year to draft guard Chris Lindstrom, and while Lindstrom missed a good portion of his rookie season due to injury he did look like a quality starter down the stretch. Two drafts ago, the Saints made a big move up the board, sending the Packers their 2019 first-rounder in order to go from 27 to 14 and select small-school edge rusher Marcus Davenport. Davenport has 10.5 sacks in his first 26 games for the Saints.

View pictures from TE Rob Gronkowski's NFL career thus far.

Unsurprisingly, the 14th-overall pick has produced some big-name stars and some forgettable names through the years. That's where the Jets got cornerback Darrelle Revis, who would later spend a year as a Buccaneer, in 2007. Three years after that, the Seahawks struck gold with safety Earl Thomas. Other notable picks at that spot in the last 20 years include Jeremy Shockey, Thomas Davis, Robert Quinn and Malcolm Jenkins.

Who is "Mr. 14?" That would be the player at the very top if you ranked every one taken at that position in the draft over the decades. Going back a little further, you would probably add these names to those above: Eddie George, Jim Kelly, Randy Gradishar and John Jefferson. For my money, it comes down to Thomas, Revis, George and Kelly. George is tempting but Kelly is in the Hall of Fame. Earl Thomas will probably join him there at some point, and the same could be true of Revis, but for now I think you have to go with Jim Kelly as Mr. 14. Too bad he wore jersey number 14.

View pictures of QB Tom Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski through the years.

Now on to your questions.

A reminder that you can send questions to me anytime you want on Twitter (@ScottSBucs) and they're easier to find if you include the hashtag #SSMailbagBucs. We are also now soliciting questions each week on our Instagram page; look for that story on Wednesdays. As always, if you want to get a longer question into the mailbag and would prefer to email your question, you can do so to tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com.

Hey Scott,

I saw a video of our buccaneers players receiving their new uniforms in the mail. I just wanted to know the specific puppy breed that Brate had sitting with him. So adorable 😍.. Please let me know.

Thank you, Shane K (via email to tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com)

Yes, yes, we're going to get two questions about the draft and receivers and running backs, but I wanted to get the most important question out of the way first.

As serious and troubling as the situation we are currently in is, it has occasionally been interesting to get a little glimpse of Buccaneer players at home as they check in while keeping their social distance. For instance, when the Bucs set up a video conference with Chris Godwin recently, it was occasionally interrupted by furious barking from one of his dogs. As I have learned from being home with my dog over the last month, that is NOT uncommon, especially if the blinds are open!

I have held that dog you saw with Cam Brate and I can officially verify that, yes, he is adorable. In fact, we may need a stronger term. Insanely adorable? His name is Archie, by the way.

Archie is a Goldendoodle, specifically an F1B Goldendoodle. An F1 Goldendoodle is the result of breeding a purebred Golden Retriever with a purebred Standard Poodle. When you take an F1 Goldendoodle and then cross it with a Poodle, you get an F1B Goldendoodle, like Archie. The main point is to get a dog that has a very high success rate of being a non-shedder. Non-shedding dogs are good options for families with moderate to severe dog allergies.

In addition to having a better chance of being non-shedding, the F1B Goldendoodles end up with more curls in their fur, and tighter curls like a Poodle. And I can tell you from experience that Archie is very soft. F1B Goldendoodles sounds kind of impersonal so a lot of people just call them Mini-Goldendoodles.

Hi Scott,

Thanks for addressing my previous question regarding the possibility of Donovan Smith moving to RT. I've got another one for you.

I've seen a bunch of people saying that the Bucs need to draft a 3rd WR with one of their top 3 picks. While this draft is supposed to be full of good WR's, I think we've got enough capable pass catchers on the roster for Brady. Instead of going 3 wide, we should just utilize a double TE package more. People seem to be forgetting that the Bucs are stacked at the TE position, in addition to WR. Brate, Howard, and Hudson all have shown great receiving potential at one time or another, and we have seen Brady destroy teams with two great TE's when he had Gronk and Hernandez in New England. In 2011, Gronk and Hernandez combine for 24 of Brady's 39 touchdowns and 2,237 of his career high 5,235 yards. I would rather see us use one of those top 3 picks to sure up that Safety position or combined in a trade to move up to get the best tackle. So, I guess my question is, do you think we really need to use a top 3 pick on a WR or can we substitute our great TE group in as a replacement for that 3rd WR spot and look to add to that group later in the draft or even via free agency? I'd love to know who you thought might still be available on the free agency market that could fill that WR depth as well.

Jason Lake (via email to tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com)

Jason sent in this question, in which he lauded the Bucs' depth at tight end, before the Buccaneers traded for Rob Gronkowski. If you didn't agree with his assessment then, you probably do now.

I wrote yesterday about what Gronkowski could mean for the Buccaneers' "12" personnel package, which is what Jason is talking about when he calls for more use of the two-TE set. The Buccaneers ran 20.0% of their plays out of the 12 package last season, which was the 13th-highest percentage in the NFL. They averaged 5.44 yards per play on those snaps, which ranked 14th in the league. In terms of "successful plays" out of the 12 package, the Bucs had a 47% rate, which was only 23rd-best in the league. Successful plays are ones that on first down get at least four yards, on second down get at least half of the necessary yards for a first down, and on third or fourth down produce a first down.

I'd say there is room for the Buccaneers to up their percentage of plays run out of this grouping, though perhaps not by a huge amount. Nineteen of the NFL's 32 teams used it for between 15 and 25% of their snaps last year. Only four teams used it more than 30% and there was only one massive outlier in Philadelphia at 46.1%.

The most common personnel grouping for almost every team in today's NFL is "11" personnel, which features one tight end, one running back and three wide receivers. That's not going to change overall, and I'm pretty sure it won't change in Tampa. The offense run by Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich used that package for 59.8% of their plays last year; after the 20.0% devoted to 12 personnel, no other grouping was used more than 5.5% of the time.

Now, Breshad Perriman proved to be a very good third receiver for the Buccaneers, with 36 catches for 645 yards and six touchdowns. Of course, a lot of that production came when Perriman stepped up in a big way while hamstring injuries were chasing down Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Scotty Miller. If you'll recall, Jason, it was a prominent storyline during the first half of the season that Perriman had very little going on in his stat line. He had all of 10 catches by midseason and there were some who thought the Bucs should release Perriman in order to improve their chances at getting 2020 compensatory draft picks. Fortunately, that didn't happen.

But here's the thing: Even though Perriman wasn't catching a lot of passes in the season's first half, the passing attack as a whole was still doing quite well during that time. Buccaneers coaches repeatedly insisted that Perriman was doing everything that was asked of him, but the ball simply wasn't finding him. You can have success out of the three-receiver set without your third receiver personally putting up big numbers, especially when the other two are Godwin and Evans. But you still want that third receiver to be running correct and precise routes and giving the defense something else to worry about.

Overall, I would agree with you that the addition of Gronkowski makes the pursuit of a high-level third-receiver a little less of a priority. Personally, I would like to see the Buccaneers focus on getting a running back in the third round. If a receiver that makes sense is available in the third round – and this is an historically deep group of wideout prospects – then I still think it makes sense to grab one there. That said, if there are better prospects at say, safety or outside linebacker, you could make a good argument for that being more important than another receiver.

As for possible post-draft free agency targets, I wrote a story about that a little over a week ago. Some of the names that were still available on the free agent market included Jaron Brown, Taylor Gabriel, Rashard Higgins, Ted Ginn, Paul Richardson, Chester Rogers and Demaryius Thomas. If you want somebody who's already familiar with Arians' offense, you could go after Brown. If you want a guy who has specifically worked in the slot quite a bit, you could try Rogers. I think the Bucs will have a better feel for exactly what they need after the draft.

As you probably now, the traditional reason for the Buccaneers usually wearing white jerseys at home in the first couple months of the season, when a lot of teams like to sport their primary color for the home fans, is the heat. Make your opponents wear the darker color in the intense heat and humidity and maybe that's a bit of an advantage.

Why was last year different? Well, as it turned out the Buccaneers only had two games at Raymond James Stadium before November 10, and both of them were late-afternoon starts. The Week One kickoff against San Francisco was at 4:25 p.m. ET, and the Week Three start against the Giants was at 4:05 p.m. ET. The only other "home" game for the Buccaneers in the first nine weeks of the season was in London on October 13. The Bucs returned to Raymond James Stadium for a 1:00 p.m. kickoff against Arizona on November 10 and wore white jerseys and white pants.

That's the factor we don't know yet in this uniform equation, because the release of the 2020 NFL schedule has been pushed back into May. When the Bucs play at home and when those games kick off will surely factor in the decisions the team makes about uniform combinations from week to week. It's also possible that there has been some change of heart and that the need to wear white for hot games isn't as pressing as it has usually been considered. Anyway, the Buccaneers will have to make those decisions shortly after the schedule comes out; you don't get to wait to see what the weather is like and then choose.

Is there a chance we trade back into the first round to get a top running back?

- @bucstracker, via Instagram

Or "The Doug Martin" maneuver, as we call it?

Sure, there's a chance. There's also a chance the Bucs trade down from their 14th overall pick or surprise all of us by picking a running back at 14. That said, I don't think your scenario is a likely one, bucstracker.

When the Bucs traded up to the 31st pick for Martin in 2012, it was only a jump of five spots, from number 36 to number 31, and all it cost them was a swap of 24 spots in the fourth round. If you believe the rumors around this deal, and for the record I do, the Buccaneers were concerned that the Giants were going to take Martin with the last pick of the first round and wanted to get ahead of them. They made their deal with the Broncos to slide just past New York's pick, and the Giants then followed with running back David Wilson.

To get from where the Buccaneers currently sit in the second round this year, at pick number 45, to the last possible spot in the first round would be a move up of 13 spots. According to the Jimmy Johnson draft value chart, the difference between those two picks is 140 points, which is equal to the 90th pick in the draft, which is a third-rounder. The closest thing the Bucs have to that is their third-round pick, at number 76. So that's probably the cost of such a move. It might cost even more to get to pick number 30 or 28 or whatever.

So that's what you have to be comfortable with in order to trade up into the first round. Do you want to use your second and third-round picks on a running back, especially when you may feel like you can get more out of Ronald Jones in 2020?

Me, I'm not doing that deal because I think at least one if not multiple running backs who will fit what the Buccaneers want and need will be available at 45. I think I'm a little higher on Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor than a lot of people, but I do see him going in the second round in a lot of mock drafts. Georgia's D'Andre Swift probably won't make it to number 45, but Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins might. I think there's a great chance that Florida State's Cam Akers, LSU's Clyde Edwards-Helaire or Utah's Zack Moss is available, or at least one or two of those three. All of those guys could reasonably be expected to fit the profile of a three-down pass-catching back that Arians desires.

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