SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL:
FAB 1. DE OAKMAN ON BUCS’ RADAR IN EARLY ROUNDS
From the talent PewterReport.com has scouted and observed at the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl, and from what we’ve learned, this upcoming draft class for Tampa Bay could feature as many as three defensive linemen – two defensive ends and a defensive tackle. As a franchise that has not had a double-digit pass sacker since Simeon Rice in 2005, it’s no secret that the Bucs will try to upgrade their pass rush through the draft.
That’s why PewterReport.com currently has the Buccaneers drafting Eastern Kentucky defensive end Noah Spence with the ninth overall pick, and Tampa Bay coming back in rounds three and four and drafting Boise State defensive end Kamalei Correa and South Carolina State defensive tackle Javon Hargrave. The 2016 NFL Draft is loaded with talented defensive linemen and Bucs general manager Jason Licht and head coach Dirk Koetter will take full advantage of that fact in several rounds a few months from now.
Assuming Ohio State’s Joey Bosa and Oregon’s DeForest Buckner are gone in the top 5, I believe the Bucs will look to secure a starting-caliber defensive end in the first round, whether that pass rusher is Spence, Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah, Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun, Clemson’s Kevin Dodd, or perhaps even Dodd’s teammate, Shaq Lawson.
I don’t think Tampa Bay believes that Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves or Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander are top 10 players at this juncture, and I think they’re right. Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey is definitely worthy of a top 10 pick, but he’ll be long gone by the time the Bucs are on the clock at No. 9.
So if the Bucs draft a defensive end in the first round, is there a chance they could go back-to-back at the position as former general manager Mark Dominik did in 2011 with Adrian Clayborn in the first round and Da’Quan Bowers in the second? Yes, but I think it’s more likely that Tampa Bay would address the secondary in the second round and then come back to the defensive line in the third round.
One of those defensive ends that will get some consideration is Baylor’s Shawn Oakman. Having watched a ton of Big 12 football and seen him play over the last few years, I know that the immediate reaction is that he’s another Michael Johnson – a 6-foot-7, 269-pound physical specimen who is more of an athlete than a football player.
You know the type. Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane.
Fresh off a junior year in which he set a Baylor record for most sacks in a season with 11, Oakman decided to return for his senior season despite receiving some decent feedback from scouts that suggested he could be drafted as high as the second round. After recording 51 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks with three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries, Oakman had just 43 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, an underwhelming 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 2015.
The statistical decline did not help his draft status, which is still mired in the late-second to early-fourth round. Having an early pick in the third round, Tampa Bay will certainly give him consideration if he’s still there when they are on the clock after doing some extensive research on him at the Senior Bowl.
I had the chance to speak with Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett at the Senior Bowl about Oakman, who only began playing football during his junior year of high school and only played three years while in college.
“The thing that people fail to realize is that’s only played about four or five years of football,” Bennett said. “He’s really raw, but he’s a tough guy. He’s not where he’ll be technique-wise yet, but he plays with a high motor. He has a tremendous upside. He’s got to be taught a little bit. He’s not a finished product. He’s smart and he plays violent. He just has to be more consistent with it.
“There was a lot of quick [passing] game against us in the Big 12 this year. There was a reason that ball was out of there quick. Looking at our cut-ups, he did a lot of really good things. He’s still in the learning phase and people schemed for him this year where they didn’t a year ago.”
Baylor head coach Art Briles was also at the Senior Bowl and understands the scrutiny surrounding Oakman and why NFL scouts, coaches and general managers wanted to see more production – not less – during his senior season.
“It’s unfair that everyone doesn’t look like him,” Briles told the Houston Chronicle. “If you look like him, you’re going to be under a microscope. Those guys don’t exist, 6-7, 270 and no body fat. So he understands that.
“When you have the physical presence that he has, you’re going to be under the microscope. Shawn has handled everything greatly. He was a great leader for us this year. He’s a guy who has been through enough trials and tribulations that it’s going to pay off for him when he goes to the next level.”
Oakman wears the No. 2 jersey to represent his second chance, a chance to prove who he really is. Oakman, a native of Philadelphia, was recruited to Penn State by Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien, who was the Nittany Lions coach at the time. Oakman was a four-year starter on the basketball team, but only played two years of football yet had 33 sacks and eight forced fumbles because of his size and athleticism.
Oakman saw football as his ticket out of the rough, crime- and drug-filled neighborhood of Kensington. His mother, Vernetta, was addicted to crack and had been arrested and sent to prison for cocaine possession, assault and prostitution. She eventually contracted HIV. Oakman spent part of his childhood living in shelters with his mother. His father was not present in his life and died three years ago of cancer.
“It was straight-up poverty – everything you see on TV,” Oakman told BleacherReport.com. “Robbing, stealing, drug dealers, crackheads. I should know. I was living with one.”
He was a young boy filled with rage and one step away from going down a dangerous path. In a moment of clarity, Oakman’s mother sent him to live with her cousin, Ken Roberts and his wife, Tracy. Roberts was a 30-year Army veteran who served in Iraq and had been a foster parent to 13 children during the 1990s. They got Oakman on the right path towards success – and college.
But while at Penn State, Oakman’s school cafeteria card had no money on it and he was broke. During his redshirt freshman year in 2012, Oakman wanted a hoagie and snuck the $7 sandwich in his pocket and went to the register to pay for a drink. He was caught trying to shoplift and grabbed the wrist of the cashier woman who held his ID card. She cried for help, he grabbed his card and fled the scene.
Oakman had previously been warned by Penn State’s coaching staff to stay out of trouble for allegedly knocking over a pizza deliveryman and for skipping classes. When O’Brien found out about the hoagie incident, Oakman was dismissed from Penn State and the football team.
“I was real close,” Oakman told the Houston Chronicle. “I watched everybody in my family take the wrong path. I was a day away from going down the wrong path. I stole a sandwich. I could have went back to Philly and headed in the wrong direction, but I went to Baylor, got my degree and now I’m here [at the Senior Bowl].”
Bennett, who was Pittsburgh’s defensive coordinator at the time, remembered recruiting Oakman out of high school and accepted him at Baylor where he lost a year of eligibility transferring before playing his final three years for the Bears.
“It made me into the man I am today,” Oakman said of getting kicked out of Penn State. “Everything can be taken in the blink of an eye. It’s a blessing not everybody gets to achieve. From where I’m from, when people get kicked out of school, they go back to the hood. And they don’t leave. … I’m the first person in my family to get a college degree, and that’s what’s important.”
Oakman came to the Senior Bowl wanting to “dominate” and did. He had a good week of practice and was the South team MVP after recording five tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in the victory.
“I want to dominate,” Oakman told the Houston Chronicle. “I want to be a dynamic pass rusher and run-stopper. They want to see me go full-tilt. I’m my toughest critic. No one puts more pressure on myself than me.”
“He’s a freak,” said Baylor left tackle Spencer Drango, who also got a Senior Bowl invitation. “There aren’t a lot of guys out there like him. It was a huge advantage for me personally because I got to go against one of the premier defensive ends in our league on a daily basis. The measurables on him are unbelievable. His arms are like 18 feet long. He’s really strong for his length and he’s really quick for his length. He’s the whole package. It makes it difficult to block him.
“I attribute a lot of my success to going up against him. He would whip me daily until I started figuring things out. We pushed each other.”
Oakman had an impressive run against NFL-caliber offensive linemen in 2014, recording a sack against Texas Tech’s LeRaven Clark, Kansas State’s Cody Whitehair and Michigan State’s Jack Conklin in successive games to end the year. NFL scouts wondered where that production went this past year.
Most scouts either love Oakman’s athleticism and upside or they don’t believe the hype. The ones that don’t like him pick apart Oakman’s game by saying he’s too tall and doesn’t play with enough leverage.
“When I dip I’m still 6-3, so [offensive tackles] are still able to get their hands on you,” Oakman said. “I have to work on my leverage.”
Some scouts also critique his top-heavy physique. While he has a massive, chiseled upper body and torso, it looks like Oakman has skipped leg day quite often.
“He does need to get bigger down there, but he’ll play better and stronger at the point of attack as he matures a little bit,” Bennett said.
Before he left Tampa Bay for Baltimore, defensive line coach Joe Cullen told me that the Bucs defensive line made good progress over the last two years and has some promising young pass rushers at the defensive end position, especially Jacquies Smith and Howard Jones. But the feeling at One Buc Place is that Smith and Jones are better suited at this stage of their development as situational pass rushers until they do more to prove they can be starters in the NFL.
For Smith, it’s staying healthy. Hamstring and shoulder injuries limited him to just 12 games, yet he recorded a career-high seven sacks, three forced fumbles and returned a fumble for a touchdown in 2015. Smith also missed the entire preseason due to injury, which stunted his development somewhat in his second NFL season.
For Jones, it’s showing more consistency. While he notched five sacks, forced a fumble and returned a fumble for a touchdown during his rookie season, Jones also didn’t record a single tackle or sack in three of his starts for Smith against New York, Atlanta and New Orleans.
Will Gholston recorded a career-high three sacks last year, but is more of a force against the run than he is as a pass rusher. The Bucs will be looking for one or two starting-caliber defensive ends in this draft as a result.
Licht got burned on a similar looking player in Johnson in 2014, but Oakman just might be different. He has a mean streak and he’s got plenty of upside and untapped potential. He played just three years of college football and left Baylor as the school’s all-time leading sacker with 17.5, along with 128 tackles, 46.5 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.
Oakman’s career numbers compare favorably to another monster of a defensive end in the massive, 6-foot-6, 280-pound Carlos Dunlap, who had 84 tackles, 26 tackles for loss and 19.5 sacks in addition to two forced fumbles in his three years at Florida. Dunlap was a second-round pick by Cincinnati in 2010 and has amassed 49 sacks and 12 forced fumbles in his Bengals career. He made the Pro Bowl in 2015 after recording a career-high 13.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
Dunlap just happens to have been coached by new Tampa Bay defensive line coach Jay Hayes, who coached D-line in Cincinnati for the past 13 years up until joining the Bucs staff in January. Is Oakman another Johnson or is he another Dunlap? Hayes would certainly know best as he coached both Bengals giants.
You can bet that Licht and Bucs director of college scouting Mike Biehl will be getting Hayes’ opinion on Oakman during the draft evaluation process. If Hayes gives Licht a thumb’s up, Oakman could very well be a Tampa Bay target after the first round.
FAB 2. BUCS MAY DRAFT OFFENSE IN FIRST ROUND
The Bucs are armed with the ninth overall draft pick and there are two ways to look at the fact that the 2016 NFL Draft is loaded with talented defensive linemen.
The first is to dive right in and grab one of the most talented pass rushers as soon as possible because it aligns best with Tampa Bay’s top perceived need. The second is to draft the best player available on the board – even on the offensive side of the ball – knowing that talented pass rushers will be found in the second and third rounds in this deep draft class.
I had the chance to speak with the Buccaneers’ last two general managers – Mark Dominik and Jason Licht – at the Senior Bowl this year. Dominik had his share of draft successes, selecting three Pro Bowlers in defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, linebacker Lavonte David and running back Doug Martin, as well as his share of misses. Because of two great draft classes, Licht was retained after head coach Lovie Smith was fired and assumed even more control at One Buccaneer Place.
Both men are firm believers in selecting the best player available.
“The one thing you have to be careful about and what you don’t want to do force your number one perceived need into your rankings on your board,” said Dominik, who works as an NFL analyst for ESPN and Sirius NFL XM Radio. “You have to let your board play out. Need always plays a role in it – there’s no debating that. But I think that Jason is a very good worker of the board and pulling players out where they are supposed to be taken.
“A great case in point is trading up for Ali Marpet last year. Jason knew there was a great chance that he was going to come off the board [before the Bucs picked in the third round] and it was a very smart move to do that.”
Licht understands that most mock drafts, including PewterReport.com’s, are full of defensive ends or cornerbacks in the first round at No. 9, but he warned me at the Senior Bowl that he’s not pigeon-holed into drafting a defensive player in the first round.
“The perceived needs that we have according to the public – some of them [our thoughts] are in alignment with,” Licht said. “We also are still kind of going through a re-evaluation of our roster, how that aligns with our coaching staff, and what they feel like their perceived needs are. Defense is something we need to bolster, there’s no question about it and a lot of different positions. This happens to be a very strong defensive draft, too, in my opinion.
But that doesn’t mean that we’re going to, at number nine, definitely draft whatever position that is, defensively, because we can’t force ourselves [into someone] and I always hate to force a pick. Anytime I’ve been somewhere that a pick was forced it rarely works out – the guy’s never as good as you think he is or doesn’t work out, so that’s just not going to be the case.”
The good news for the Buccaneers is that they addressed their biggest need – quarterback – last year with the selection of Pro Bowler Jameis Winston with the first overall pick. The more quarterbacks that are taken in the top 10 this year the better for Tampa Bay as it will push down players at other positions towards No. 9 and give the Bucs even more options.
With teams like Cleveland, which picks second, Dallas, which picks fourth and San Francisco, which picks seventh, all expressing interest in quarterbacks, and three QBs – Cal’s Jared Goff, North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz and Memphis’ Paxton Lynch all carrying first-round grades – there is a chance that the Bucs might have the opportunity to draft Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley or Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. Throw in the fact that Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa and Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey are sure-fire top 5 picks and the chances that Stanley or Treadwell could be there at No. 9 increase significantly, especially if a quarterback or two goes in the top 10 as expected.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Treadwell is vying to be this draft’s top receiver. He has impeccable hands, a nice-sized frame and is ultra-competitive and productive. Treadwell had 202 catches for 2,393 yards with 21 touchdowns in his Rebels career, including a junior season in which he caught 82 passes for 1,153 yards and 11 TDs.
While the Bucs could use another big-play wide receiver to groom behind Vincent Jackson and ultimately pair with Mike Evans, Treadwell is not a perfect prospect. Several NFL scouts suggest he’s not fast and aren’t anticipating a 40-yard dash time of under 4.6 (think Michael Clayton) and believe he’ll have trouble separating in the pros. And while he has good size, he’s not as big, nor as fast as Evans is. With that being the case, is he worth taking in the top 10?
Some talent evaluators believe Treadwell is the second coming of Dallas’ Dez Bryant, but the Ole Miss product isn’t as explosive. With Baylor’s Corey Coleman, Notre Dame’s Will Fuller and TCU’s Josh Doctson likely available near the top of the second round, the Bucs could address the potential need for an explosive, speed receiver there rather than in the top 10.
The Bucs found a franchise-caliber offensive tackle in Donovan Smith in the second round last year. If the right defensive end isn’t there for Tampa Bay in the top 10 and Stanley is on the board it could be tempting to grab another stellar pass protector for Winston. The 6-foot-6, 315-pounder would have been a top 10 pick had he left Notre Dame last year, but returned for his junior season in 2015 yet didn’t show much progress. That’s why Tunsil is the top-rated offensive tackle and not Stanley.
Stanley is a strong, long tackle with more athleticism and quicker feet than Smith. Should the Bucs draft him, Smith could move to right tackle, or the Bucs might try Stanley on the right side first. Having two young offensive tackles that can play on either side of the line to grow with Winston, Marpet and Kevin Pamphile would help solidify the Bucs offense for years to come.
And keep in mind that Tampa Bay, which has only spent one draft pick on the defensive side of the ball over the past two years, now has an offensive-minded head coach in Dirk Koetter. Don’t rule out the Bucs sticking with their draft board and drafting an offensive player at No. 9 – if there is an non-quarterback offensive player that ranks higher than the available defensive players on their draft board and Licht can’t trade down.
“Maybe we move back,” Licht said. “This is a strong defensive draft and maybe we think the value’s better moving back and we pick up more picks. To say that we’re definitely taking a certain position at nine and then in the second round – that would be ludicrous for us to say we’re going to do that and to do that. If it aligns with your need then it’s great – like last year.”
Dominik thinks that the top of the 2016 NFL Draft is so loaded with talent that the Bucs won’t have to trade down in the first round.
“Just like every draft class, this one is going to be heavily laden with underclassmen,” Dominik said. “It’s a good year to be in the top 10 – a very good year. It’s also a nice year to not need a quarterback and to be in the top 10, quite frankly.
“I think there is going to be some great value this year in the top 10. Whether you need offensive line, defensive line, cornerback, safety or wide receiver, there are enough guys that are top-10 worthy so you are probably going to get the best guy at his position up there.”
Of course if Licht wants to trade down he has proven to be an effective wheeler and dealer on draft day.
“He has a good sense of when to move,” Dominik said. “He also traded up for Kwon Alexander [in the fourth round], too. Jason doesn’t say, ‘I’ve got to take a defensive end at number nine’ and just pulls the trigger and takes one. It’s more about letting the board come to him and maybe doing some maneuvering.
“Everybody wants a legit pass rusher, but they are hard to find. Not every draft is going to put one out there. And sometimes you need to be patient and let the right player come to you, but it might not be at No. 9.”
I’m not saying that the Bucs are going to draft an offensive player in the top 10. I’m just saying that they certainly haven’t ruled it out.
FAB 3. BUCS FOCUSED ON EFFECTIVENESS, NOT SIZE WITH D-LINE
One of the draft buzz words that Bucs general manager Jason Licht and former director of player personnel Jon Robinson (now the Tennessee Titans general manager) always use is “juice” when talking about several positions, including wide receivers, running backs and defensive ends. “Juice” is a word used to describe a player’s burst, speed, suddenness, get-off and explosiveness.
Licht has helped the Bucs stockpile several fast, undersized defensive ends over the last two years to help fit Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 scheme, including the likes of Jacquies Smith (6-2, 260) and Howard Jones (6-4, 238) among others. While he was a defensive coordinator at Jacksonville from 2003-07, Mike Smith had a mammoth-sized defensive line, featuring defensive tackles John Henderson (6-7, 335) and Marcus Stroud (6-6, 310) along with defensive ends Reggie Hayward (6-5, 270) and
Paul Spicer (6-4, 287).
So will Smith want to change the Bucs personnel to bigger defensive linemen? Eventually, but Smith has assured Licht and new head coach Dirk Koetter that he will be able to work with the talent he has on the roster and fit his scheme to the existing personnel for the time being.
New Bucs defensive line coach Jay Hayes, who is 6-foot-6 himself, and played a couple of years in the USFL as a defensive end for the Michigan Panthers and the Memphis Showboats, likes bigger defensive linemen, especially at the defensive end position. Hayes spent 13 years as Cincinnati’s defensive line coach and played a role in collecting some massive linemen.
Starting defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson are 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-7, respectively. Reserves Will Clarke and Margus Hunt are 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-8, respectively.
Hayes did have an “undersized” end in part-time starter Wallace Gilberry, though, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 270 pounds. The Bucs’ ever-improving defensive end/tackle Will Gholston, who stands 6-foot-6 and 281 pounds, should fit right in with the defensive line that Hayes eventually wants to build in Tampa Bay.
At the defensive tackle position, Pro Bowler Geno Atkins was one of the smaller Bengals linemen at 6-foot-1, 300 pounds, along with DeShawn Williams (6-1, 295) and Brandon Thompson 6-2, 305. Cincinnati had some much bigger tackles, such as Marcus Hardison (6-3, 315), Domata Peko 6-3, 325 and Pat Sims 6-2, 340.
Although smaller than Stroud and Henderson, the undersized Atkins was faster and more effective than either behemoth tackle. Atkins has 43 sacks and counting in addition to four Pro Bowl appearances with the Bengals. Stroud topped out at 29.5 sacks and three Pro Bowls in his NFL career, while Henderson had 29 career sacks and two Pro Bowl berths.
Mike Smith’s four starting defensive linemen in Atlanta were undersized while he was the head coach in 2013, which was the last year the Falcons were in a true 4-3. Defensive tackle Corey Peters (6-3, 305) was the biggest, followed by fellow tackle Johnthan Babineaux (6-2, 300). Both defensive ends Osi Umenyiora and Kroy Biermann were listed at 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, so he has utilized an undersized front before.
But given the fact that Hayes and Smith ultimately prefer bigger defensive linemen, players like Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman, who is 6-foot-7, 269 pounds, and Illinois defensive end Jihad Ward, who is 6-foot-6, 295 pounds, can’t be ruled out when the 2016 NFL Draft rolls around. Under this premise, the same could be said about Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner, who is 6-foot-7, 290 pounds.
Of course some of the top-flight defensive ends, such as Eastern Kentucky’s Noah Spence (6-3, 264), who appears in PewterReport.com’s most recent Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft, Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah (6-3, 275), who appeared in last month’s PewterReport.com mock draft, and Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun (6-4, 255) are more average sized and their speed – or “juice” – is just as appealing to Licht as size may be to Hayes or Smith. Any of those players would represent an upgrade in size – and still bring the juice to Tampa Bay.
“You always want bigger and faster players at every position, but we’re not going to sacrifice speed just to get bigger,” Licht said.
FAB 4. PAMPHILE WILL GET FIRST CRACK AT REPLACING MANKINS
Now that the Pro Bowl is over, 33-year old Logan Mankins can finally get some much-needed rest. It was around this time last year he texted Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht saying he wasn’t satisfied with his performance or the team’s performance following a disastrous 2-14 season. He swore he would come back with a vengeance and in great shape in 2015 with his sights set on making his seventh Pro Bowl appearance.
Mission accomplished, albeit as an injury replacement.
Now Mankins, who will turn 34 on March 10, has time to decide if he wants to return for a 12th NFL season and the final year of his contract, which is set to pay him $6.75 million in 2016. Nothing has changed since he first discussed the topic of his future plans in December and the team is giving him the time he needs to decide.
The Bucs can rest easy with Mankins’ decision either way. Mankins is a team captain, a personal favorite of Licht’s and had a much better season in 2015 than he did in his first season in Tampa Bay. Having him back would be a plus.
If Mankins decides to call it a career with his appearance in last week’s Pro Bowl, Tampa Bay has his replacement waiting in the wings in versatile offensive lineman Kevin Pamphile.
“Kevin Pamphile did a great job for us last year and we’re really excited about his future,” Licht said. “He’s done so many things for us from playing the tight end role as a blocker, swing tackle and he filled in for Logan at guard. That’s where we think his future is.”
Pamphile has only seen action at guard for just one game, which was a start at Jacksonville in place of Mankins, who missed that contest due to a groin injury prior to Tampa Bay’s bye week. Pamphile helped the Bucs offense rack up 31 points in a 38-31 victory.
“I was out there doing my job,” Pamphile said. “Assignment-wise, I know everything about our O-line plays, it was just technique-wise that I need to correct. I’m happy to come away with the win.
“The coaches put a lot of faith in me and I had to return the favor. I had to play my butt off to let them know I appreciate this and I’m here to help Jameis [Winston], Doug [Martin] and Chuck [Sims] out.”
Bucs center Joe Hawley was impressed with Pamphile’s performance against the Jaguars.
“I don’t think he ever played guard before,” Hawley said. “It was impressive he went out there and did what he did. The way we run the ball, it takes all five guys, and the tight ends, and the running backs. The way he stepped in there was very huge for us.”
Bucs right tackle Demar Dotson took it a step further.
“That’s our future left guard right there,” Dotson said, pointing to Pamphile in the locker room.
If Mankins returns the Bucs won’t need to address the guard position this offseason outside of adding an undrafted free agent or two for training camp competition. If Mankins retires, Pamphile and Ali Marpet figure to be the starting guards in 2016, but the Bucs will have to add some depth either through the draft or free agency, although reserve centers Evan Smith and Josh Allen do have some experience playing some guard.
Pamphile was one of Tampa Bay’s two sixth-round picks in 2014 – a draft that is turning into a very good one in its own right, even if it’s been overshadowed a bit by last year’s stellar draft.
“Kevin Pamphile, we’re very excited about him and that first draft we had,” Licht said. “Mike Evans had a little bit of a slump this year but he’s still only one of eight players to do what he did and one of only two to get 1,000 in his first two years under the age of 23. Charles Sims is great in his role. [Austin Seferian-Jenkins] still needs to show us [that potential] and pick up from where he left off.
“But Cameron Brate – we got him two years ago – he is a player we’re very excited about as well. He’s really coming into his own. He’s a big, smart guy that can really run and has arguably maybe even the best hands on the team, along with Adam Humphries. So there are a lot of things to be excited about our first draft, especially if Kevin develops the way we think he will.”
FAB 5. SR’s BUC SHOTS
• Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman has a plethora of tattoos across his muscle-bound body, but two of them stand out. One is the word “savage,” which represents his attitude and playing style. The word “concrete,” is describes his physique because the guy looks like chiseled granite. Oakman, who was a workout warrior at Baylor, is expected to be a star at the NFL Scouting Combine. He bench presses 400 pounds, squats over 600 and Oakman has been reportedly timed at 4.8 in the 40-yard dash.
• In addition to going against Baylor teammate defensive end Shawn Oakman every day in practice to hone his pass protection skills, Bears left tackle Spencer Drango also got to face Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, who recorded three sacks in three years.
“Ogbah is built similarly to Shawn,” Drango said. “He’s long. He’s got long arms, but he’s not as tall. He’s a great player. I don’t think he quite knows how to use his length yet. I studied him a lot and figured out his favorite move and tried to take that away from him. He goes about three steps and tries to rip underneath. If you can take away a guy’s top move they have to rely on their second move, which usually isn’t as good. But he’s a really good player and he’s a got a future in the NFL.”
• In doing my research on Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman I came across an amazing statistic that I feel compelled to share with you fellow football fans. NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary once recorded 33 tackles in one game against Arkansas in 1978 while playing for Baylor. Not only is that a Baylor school record, it’s believed to be the unofficial record for Division I/FBS schools.
Tackles didn’t become an official statistic until 2000, and SMU’s Bryce Hudman’s 26 against Arkansas State in 2007 is the official highest tackle total in a single game as a result. Boston College’s Luke Kuechly averaged 15.92 tackles per game in 2011, which is also an official record.
But Singletary had 232 tackles for Baylor in 11 games in 1978, which is an average of 21 tackles per game. That’s an average of five more tackles per game than Kuechly had. Wow!
• The Buccaneers raised season ticket prices this week and fan reaction is understandably mixed. The universal increase amounts to an average hike of about 20 percent for general seating (non-club). The last time the Bucs raised prices was in 2008 and the price hike was similar. But then the team held the prices at those level for eight years, which is an unprecedented amount of time, especially for an NFL team. What the price hike represents is an increase of about 2.5 percent each year for eight years.
But instead of happening at a 2.5 percent rate over eight years, the team just decided it was time for an increase and raised prices to account for rising costs to game day operations and member services. Eight years ago there was no pyrotechnics and smoke machines or fireworks as the team entered the stadium prior to kickoff. There are costs associated with that. Now each season pass holder has their own assigned customer service representative to handle member relations, which is a nice, convenient and necessary touch. There are costs associated with that. The Bucs also put various season pass holder events, such as the Bucs draft party at the stadium with free food and drink, a catered VIP session at training camp and – coming this year – a private autograph session and a personal tour of One Buccaneer Place. There are costs associated with those events, too.
And let’s not forget that while TV revenues have increased over the years, which all NFL teams have benefited from, the league has also raised the salary cap exponentially over the last eight years and players’ salaries are certainly much higher as a result.
What the team also wanted to do was to make the pricing in the same sections even and fair – instead of having multiple pricing levels within the same section. I think that’s a very good move. The team felt it was not really fair for a guy sitting in the tenth row of a given general seating section to have to pay say $30 more per ticket per game than the guy sitting behind him with virtually the same view of the action.
The price hike will price some fans out of season tickets. I understand that. No one likes prices raised on anything. But after eight years I think it’s fair for the Bucs to catch up with some of the rising costs associated with running an NFL team. And keep in mind that the Glazers have bought all of the unsold tickets to a lot of games that haven’t sold out over that span to insure that the games will not be blacked out.
Even with the increase, the Bucs season tickets are still in the bottom third in terms of pricing around the league and are still among the most affordable top third of all NFL teams.
In full disclosure, the Bucs do advertise season tickets on PewterReport.com, and our company has purchased a luxury suite at Raymond James Stadium since 2008, which was the time of the last price hike, for business use. But I’m not shilling for the team. As someone who runs a business as the vice president of PewterReport.com, I understand the challenges of trying to raise revenue to meet rising costs of doing business. I understand the Bucs’ reasoning for doing so now. They waited as long as they could to hold off on increase with the fans’ best interests in mind, but everything from concert tickets, theme park tickets, movie tickets has gone up over eight years.
The quality on the field since 2008 certainly hasn’t warranted a price hike. I understand that, too. There’s been just one winning season – 2010 – and no playoffs since the 2007 season. But I think that’s going to change in time with the arrival of star quarterback Jameis Winston and other young talented players. Yet this price increase wasn’t just because the Bucs increased their win total from two victories in 2014 to six in 2015. It was coming regardless of the record.
Tampa Bay also has some stadium renovations coming up that will certainly cost the team millions, and the price increase will help fund those costs, too. The good news is that the season pass holders who are paying the extra money for tickets this year will be reaping the benefits, such as a larger, state-of-the-art video boards and other amenities at Raymond James Stadium.
The one thing that I think can help fans stomach the idea of the price hike and better afford it is the team’s no-interest, 12-month payment plans. I think that has been an under-reported, under-marketed asset that the Bucs instituted some time ago, but it’s a fan-friendly concept that needs more publicity and exposure. That’s what I recently shared with Bucs chief operating officer Brian Ford and he was in complete agreement, and you’ll soon see that being promoted on PewterReport.com and elsewhere. Theme parks have similar 12-month payments plans for their annual passes – and so do the Buccaneers.
Because there is no interest, the team doesn’t make an extra penny from season ticket holders that opt for the monthly payment plans. The Bucs just want to help their loyal season ticket holders be able to afford to continue to support their team with their attendance at Raymond James Stadium – and that’s a good thing. With Winston at the helm, more wins are coming, Bucs fans – and that’s a great thing.