Temper expectations of Bucs’ rookies

by Gary Shelton on May 1, 2022

in general

Even if Gronk is back, Otten should help.

Sunday, 4 a.m.

It was not a push-them-over-the-top draft. It was not a highlight reel draft. It was not a draft designed to put the Hall of Fame on notice.

For the Tampa Bay Bucs, that's okay.

Over the years, the most common mistakes of all for the Bucs have been these: 1) They have taken the wrong guy. 2) They have asked too much of them.

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Vinny Testaverde was supposed to change things. Bo Jackson was supposed to make the Bucs good. Jameis Winston was a fresh canvas. Charlies McRae was going to be a rock. Eric Curry was going to be a force. Dexter Jackson was supposed to be a water-bug. Roberto Aguayo was going to live in the Pro Bowl. Booker Reese was going to be a Pro Bowler. Keith McCants was going to be the best athlete on the field.

Just checking, but how did those guys work out.

That's the thing with the Bucs. Historically, they have been in better position to draft far, far better athletes than were there this year. But always, the Bucs asked to much of them. They wanted them not only to start, they wanted them to lead. They wanted them to be the best player on the field. They wanted them to rewrite history.

So before you expect too much of this draft class as far as impact, keep in mind taht they'll get fewer starts, and play beside better players, than most Bucs' draft picks have been afforded the chance to do.

With these guys, you have to reserve judgment. It's going to take more than a year to decide if the Bucs' draft class was a hit or a miss. I know no one likes to be patient, but drafting 27th doesn't promise instant impact. It simply doesn't.

Last year, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka -- the 32nd pick in the draft -- had four sacks and 28 tackles. So what's fair to expect of Logan Hall -- the 33rd pick, this year? About the same. Surely, much will depend on whether Ndamukong Suh returns, but it's probably safe to assume that if he's a rotational player, Hall will have about the same impact (or lack of it) as Tryon-Shoyinka.

How about the recently rich Alex Cappa. He didn't start a game when he came in 2018 as a third-round draft pick. So might it take Luke Goedeke time to take over at left guard? You'd think that Aaron Stinnie will line up at guard first in training camp.

Then there is Rachaad White, who came in the fourth round. He'll replace Ronald Jones, who gained all of 44 yards in his first season. Jones had only 428 yards last year, in fact. So White, who will back up Leonard Fournette (and possibly Ke'Shawn Vaughn), probably won't get more than 300 yards or so as a rookie.

Cade Otton? If Rob Gronwkowski cames back, Otten figures to be the third tight end. He'll replace O.J. Howard if Gronk returns, which is where Howard slotted in last year in a 14-catch, 135-yard season. Otten should have more catches than that (he's healthier) but 20 or so figures to be about right.

Jake Carmarda? He'll be the punter; teams don't carry two, and they don't drat one in the fourth round if they're tickled with the guy they want. Bradley Pinion averaged 43.7 yards per punt. Carmade should at least do that.

Zyon McMcCollum? He'll be a backup corner and special teams player who will rarely play unless the team suffers injuries. A team with high expectations that returns Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy Bunting will be slow to play a corner otherwise. Still, his athletic ability makes him worth a shot.

Ko Kieft? The Bucs took a second tight end? And they traded up to get him? According to Licht, that doesn't affect the status of Gronkowski. But if Gronk is back, Kieft might be headed to the practice squad. Special teams and short-yardage blocking might be his ticket.

Andre Anthony? Late in the draft, teams are searching for anyone who can help in depth. Anthony needs to flash enough potential to stick. Again, a practice squad possibility.

I know, I know. Jason Licht has drafted kickers before (Roberto Aguayo and Matt Gay, who were both gone in a year). So it's easy to use him as a pinata.

Is this reason to despair? Of course not. Overall, I'd give the Bucs a solid B. You can criticize Licht for trading back out of the first round, but without it, the Bucs don't get to draft Otten or McCardy (and don't have the ammunition to move up for Goedeke).

To sum up: the Bucs are a stronger team than all of those years when they drafted on reputation and threw the athlete into the swill of a franchise. The Bucs draft later these days, and they can ease in a rookie.

If you expect less than you used to expect, well, that's a good thing. Let these kids grow up. Let them get their feet wet. Let them be a backup singer instead of a leader.

It's the way it's supposed to work.

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