Grading Licht’s draft picks, one at a time

by Gary Shelton on April 25, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

Once again, he is waiting. Once again, he is watching.

Licht

Licht

Jason Licht is biding his time. He's looking at the NFL draft list, and there are a lot of teams in front of his. That's okay. If the Bucs are going to turn things around, their draft position will only get worse.

He can consider moving up, but there really isn't that much to move up for. Maybe Dalvin Cook, if the team is afraid someone will move in front of them. He can consider moving backward, but that's the direction away from most of the good players.

And so he checks his numbers again. The ones the scouts put together on Cook. On Obi Melifonwu. On David Njoku. On a wild-card who might drop, like Cam Robinson. He does his own mocks. He plays  “what if” games. What if this guy falls? What if that one does? What if a team wants you to move four picks? How does that alter the field?

Say what you want about Licht and free agency. He was part of the Lovie Smith throw-millions-to-the-wind exercise, the one that made rich men of Anthony Collins and Michael Johnson and Josh McCown. He has signed J.R. Sweezy and Bruce Carter.

In the draft?

Well, Licht has done pretty darn well.

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Winston has become the face of the franchise./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Winston has become the face of the franchise./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Let's look. In three drafts, he's picked three bona fide stars. He's picked three pretty good players. He hasn't been perfect, but his percentage is probably as good as most general managers working today.

2014

1. Mike Evans, wide receiver: Evans is one of the stars. He's become an impact player for Tampa Bay, one who made the Pro Bowl last year. In three seasons, Evans has 238 catches for 3,578 yards and 27 touchdowns. Grade: A.

2. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, tight end: Seferian-Jenkins scored seven touchdowns in his brief time with the Bucs, but he'll always be remembered as a monumental screwup. He was the guy who was chased out of practice for not knowing his assignments. Seferian-Jenkins gets points for still being in the league, and for his considerable talent. But not many. Grade: D.

Evans has three 1,000-yard seasons../TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Evans has three 1,000-yard seasons../TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

3. Charles Sims, running back: He's started only two games, but he's been a threat for the Bucs out of the backfield, where he has 94 catches. He also has 863 yards rushing, but there remain questions of his ability to be a full-time starter. Grade: C.

4. (Fifth round) Kadeem Edwards: The Bucs envisioned a player who could grow into a starter. It didn't happen, partially due to injury. Edwards has hung around the league, however. He's still on Dallas' practice roster. Grade: F.

5. Kevin Pamphile, offensive guard: Pamphile had 14 of his career 18 starts a year ago, and by the end of the season, Dirk Koetter was referring to him as a solid piece of the team's line. Grade: C.

6. Robert Herron, wide receiver: He didn't make the Bucs, but he also had stints with the Dolphins and Raiders. Still, a non-factor. Grade: F.

2015

1. Jameis Winston, quarterback: The second star of the Bucs. He's thrown for more than 4,000 yards in each of his two seasons, and he's grown into the face of the franchise. He still needs work, of course. But, given the chance, the Bucs would draft him first all over again. Grade: A.

2. Donovan Smith, tackle: The analytic guys seem to hate Smith. Koetter, if you'd rather have his evaluation, thinks he's pretty good. He's started 31 games over two years, and he's done well against the best pass-rushers of the league. Grade: B.

Kwon Alexander was an impressive find in the fourth round.

Kwon Alexander was an impressive find in the fourth round.

3. (Round two) Ali Marpet, guard: Marpet has been a wonderful surprise for the Bucs, a tough, smart lineman. The Bucs get some credit for finding Hobart College to draft him. Eventually, he'll make Pro Bowls. Grade: B+.

4. Kwon Alexander, linebacker: Alexander is the third star that Licht has found, and he found him in the fourth round. Alexander led the Bucs in tackles last year, and he'll probably do it again this year. Grade: A.

5. Kenny Bell, wide receiver: He spent a year on injured reserve, but Bell could never break into the playing rotation. Currently on the Ravens' practice squad. Grade: F.

6. Kaelin Clay, wide receiver: He didn't make the Bucs. He played seven games last year with the Ravens, and signed with the Panthers in the off-season. Grade: F.

7. Joey Iosefa, fullback: Iosefa didn't make the Bucs' roster, but he was signed by New England and had a 51-yard rushing day. He was released after the season. Grade: F.

2016

1. Vernon Hargreaves III, cornerback: Hargreaves showed some signs last year, starting 16 games and defensing 10 passes. He had only one interception, however, and Koetter has said he wants to see more of a playmaker in Hargreaves. Grade: B-.

2. Noah Spence, defensive end: Spence flashed signs last year while playing with an injured shoulder. He had 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. Teammate Gerald McCoy thinks this will be a breakout year. Grade: B-.

3. (Round two) Roberto Aguayo, kicker: At least Aguayo didn't miss a big kick to cost his team a game at the buzzer. He hit 18 of 20 inside the 40. But Aguayo was the worst field goal kicker by percentage in the league, and he'll have to compete hard to keep his spot. Grade: C.

4. Ryan Smith, defensive back: He played in 14 games with no starts. Considering the Bucs' early struggles at safety, you might have hoped he'd figure in the mix. Still, it takes some players longer than others. Grade: D.

5. Caleb Benenoch, tackle: Benenoch played in five games with one start last year. It was too small a sample, really, to tell what kind of player he will be. Grade: D.

6. Devante Bond, linebacker: Bond spent most of last season on injured reserve. This year, he could fight for a starting spot. This grade could really improve. Grade: D.

7. Dan Vitale, tight end: Vitale didn't make the Bucs, but he played in nine games (three starts) for Cleveland. He caught four passes. Grade: F.

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