Bucs CBs Ryan Smith (29) and Josh Robinson (26) – Photo courtesy of the Buccaneers
FAB 4. BUCCANEERS’ CHRISTMAS WISH LIST
The holiday season is in full swing and Christmas is fast approaching. By the time the Buccaneers finishing playing the Saints in New Orleans on Christmas Eve it will be mere hours until Santa Claus and his reindeer take to the skies to deliver presents around the world. Here’s a look at what is on the Buccaneers’ personnel wish list for 2017:
Simply put, the kick return position has been the least productive starting spot on the entire roster in Tampa Bay this year. The Bucs rank dead last in kick return yardage with 290 yards on 19 attempts. That’s a paltry 15.3-yard kick return average. Only the Saints at 16.5 yards per kickoff return are worse.
Tampa Bay’s longest return of the year was 26 yards, which is the second-worst in the league behind Cleveland’s 24 yards. Rookie Ryan Smith has returned 10 kicks for a 16.9-yard average, while Josh Huff has returned four kickoffs for 13.8 yards per return. That’s not including a muff he had against New Orleans that caused the ball to go out of bounds at the 1-yard line and set up a Saints safety on the next play.
USC CB-KR Adoree’ Jackson – Photo by: Getty Images
The Bucs’ punt return position could use a little more speed and dynamics, but Adam Humphries and Vernon Hargreaves have the team ranked 11th right now with a 9.4-yard average, which is respectable. Drafting a player like USC cornerback and return specialist Adoree` Jackson, who has four kickoff returns for touchdowns and four punt returns for scores would be a great place to start. Jackson has averaged 30.5 yards per kick return this season, which ranks sixth in the FBS.
Licht tried to draft a return specialist in Kaelin Clay in the sixth round in 2015, but he ultimately didn’t make the team. The days of a true return specialist may be over in the modern day NFL where each game day roster spot is precious. So finding a player that can play another position like wide receiver, running back or cornerback, while returning kicks is important, and Jackson fits that profile.
The Buccaneers need a speed receiver to play opposite Mike Evans next year with 33-year old Vincent Jackson not expected to return in 2017, as his contract will have expired. Tampa Bay has an array of younger receivers that have played okay in fill-in roles, including slot receiver Adam Humphries, Russell Shepard, Freddie Martino and Josh Huff, but the Bucs need a consistent player with speed that is capable of taking advantage of single coverage and producing 1,000 yards over the course of a year.
There are some big names under 30 in free agency, including Chicago’s Alshon Jeffery, Tennessee’s Kendall Wright and Los Angeles’ Kenny Britt among others. Some may make it to free agency, while others will be re-signed or franchised. But don’t be surprised if the Bucs pass on free agency and target the draft where there are plenty of talented wide receivers this year.
Western Michigan WR Corey Davis – Photo by: Getty Images
First-round receivers like Clemson’s Mike Williams, Western Michigan’s Corey Davis and USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster are big-body guys with large catch radiuses to help out Jameis Winston. While players like Washington’s John Ross and Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook are lightning fast, big-play machines under 6-foot.
The Bucs would be wise to double dip in this wide receiver class and grab a player like Davis in the first round and come back in the later rounds and draft a player like Oklahoma State’s James Washington, Louisiana Tech’s Carlos Henderson or Western Kentucky’s Taywan Taylor.
Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht has invested several draft picks in the team’s offensive line since his arrival in 2014. Starting guard Kevin Pamphile was a sixth-round pick that year, and he added left tackle Donovan Smith and right guard Ali Marpet in the second round in 2015. This year he drafted junior Caleb Benenoch in the fifth round. Although there are plenty of in-house options at the right tackle position in 2017, Licht might have to draft another player to compete with Demar Dotson for the starting job.
Dotson, who was re-signed to a three-year deal in August, will be 32 next October and he’s had an uneven year as the team’s starter. Dotson has had a career-high 11 penalties this year, which is one behind Smith. And Dotson has also missed the last two games with a concussion.
Arkansas OT Dan Skipper – Photo by: Getty Images
Veteran Gosder Cherilus will be 33 in June and is in the final year of his contract. His body is breaking down and he’s not expected to return in 2017. That leaves the aging Dotson and two players that are finishing up their rookie season – Benenoch and undrafted free agent Leonard Wester – as the only viable options. The Bucs view Pamphile, who played tackle at Purdue and also saw time at tackle as a rookie, as strictly a guard in the NFL.
There are a couple of right tackles available in free agency, including Atlanta’s Ryan Schraeder, Baltimore’s Ricky Wagner, New England’s Marcus Cannon and Detroit’s Riley Reiff, but there is no guarantee those players will make it to the open market. This year’s draft class is extremely weak at tackle where there may only be 15-20 draftable players with only two or three in the first round, and none in the top 10.
The Bucs re-signed Doug Martin to a five-year contract worth $35.75 million and included $15 million in guaranteed money. The result? Martin has battled a hamstring injury that caused him to miss five games and he still remains the team’s second-leading rusher with 421 yards behind Jacquizz Rodgers’ 422 yards.
The offensive line has done little to help Martin in the ways of creating holes, but at the same time, Martin isn’t breaking tackles the way he did last season when he was in a contract year. Rodgers has ripped off two runs longer than 20 yards, including a 45-yarder, but Martin’s longest carry has traveled just 17 yards. As a result, Rodgers is averaging 4.4 yards per carry, while Martin is averaging a paltry 2.9 yards per carry along with Charles Sims.
Toledo RB Kareem Hunt – Photo by: Getty Images
Martin will return to Tampa Bay next year, as will Sims, but the Bucs need to bring in some real competition in training camp. Peyton Barber has had a decent rookie year and padded his stats with a 44-yard touchdown at San Francisco running through a huge hole, but ideally he’s the Bucs’ third rusher on the depth chart. The Bucs need to focus on the No. 2 spot behind Martin because Sims is strictly a pass catcher and has regressed as a runner this year.
Rodgers should be re-signed for depth and competition next year, but the Bucs should also take advantage of a deep running back class and add some speed and playmaking ability. Drafting Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey late in the first round would help the Bucs’ return game and he has special ability as a runner and as a receiver out of the backfield. If the Bucs wanted to go with a bruiser to push the pile and make big plays, Texas’ D’Onta Foreman, Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine, Wyoming’s Brian Hill and Toledo’s Kareem Hunt are viable options.
The Bucs had hoped to pair Cameron Brate and Austin Seferian-Jenkins this year at the tight end position, but an early-season DUI cost ASJ his roster spot as the team parted ways with the talented, but troubled player. Brate, a former undrafted free agent out of Harvard, has shined this season and should finish the year with around 800 receiving yards. His seven touchdown catches are tied for the most among tight ends in the NFL this year.
While Brate has emerged as the Bucs’ No. 2 weapon in the passing game behind Evans, the team is void of another pass-catching tight end as Brandon Myers and Luke Stocker are primarily blockers that offer little run-after-catch ability. If something had happened to Brate this year, the Bucs’ passing game would have taken a huge hit.
Miami TE David Njoku – Photo by: Getty Images
Because the tight end position is so valuable in Dirk Koetter’s offense, Licht needs to invest in a good receiving tight end to pair with Brate in 2017. The Bucs have Tevin Westbrook in-house as an option, but he hasn’t generated much buzz within the walls of One Buccaneer Place.
The tight end position is actually loaded in this year’s draft, and the Bucs should take advantage. Alabama’s O.J. Howard is a first-rounder, while Michigan’s Jake Butt, Virginia Tech’s Bucky Hodges, Clemson’s Jordan Leggett, Ole Miss’ Evan Engram and Miami’s David Njoku could all be drafted in the second round. Keep an eye on Arkansas’ Jeremy Sprinkle and Toledo’s Michael Roberts as late-round sleepers at this deep position.
The steady play of veteran Robert Ayers and the emergence of second-round pick Noah Spence push the defensive end position down a bit on Santa’s wish list. Both Ayers and Spence have 5.5 sacks on the season, which is tied for second behind Gerald McCoy’s team-high seven.
Spence has the ability to become a double-digit sacker, and his three forced fumbles are second on the team behind Lavonte David’s four. Yet Ayers will be 32 next September and the Bucs would be wise to groom an eventual replacement. Tampa Bay has three defensive ends coming off injured reserve next year in Jacquies Smith (knee), Howard Jones (knee) and George Johnson (hip), but that only muddies the water because their level of effectiveness coming off those injuries is in question.
Florida State DE DeMarcus Walker – Photo by: Getty Images
Ryan Russell has shown more promise this year as a pass rusher than rookie Davonte Lambert, who is more of a run stuffer, but Russell has just one sack and needs to show more production and promise to stick around in 2017. The same goes for Lambert. Will Gholston is a premier run-stopper slated for free agency. The guess here is that he is re-signed by the Bucs to start on the left side, but he offers little pass rush outside of the two or three sacks he gets each year.
Licht would be wise to ask Santa for another pass rusher to eventually start opposite Spence and help rush situationally next year. Missouri’s Charles Harris or Michigan’s Taco Charlton could be an option late in the first round for Tampa Bay, while Florida State’s DeMarcus Walker or Illinois’ Dawuane Smoot or Kansas State’s Jordan Willis might be a good pick in the second or third round.
Scott Reynolds is in his 22nd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
I don’t agree with the defensive end need. I would prefer a DT. As impressed as I am with McCoy, there is only so long that a DT can be that dominant. Since they are playing a lot of cover 2, the DT becomes the cornerstone of the defense that allows them to only rush 4.
I would put Center on my list as a need to make a change. Joe Hawley & Evan Smith are too small, but atleast we have some other in house talent who should be considered to up grade the Center spot. Lets not talk about acquiring OL from other teams as we haven’t done so well. I’m for drafting them. TE is a need and we should bring in a couple players thru a signing and the draft. Let’s still keep focus on a DE; we are one short and same for a big WR and super fasr WR. Looks like BAP might be in order for the early rounds. Go Bucs
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My wishes for you and your family are a very Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with health and happiness!! Again another truly insightful and ORIGINAL info in your SR’s FAB5. In my opinion you cover the Bucs like a GM. You focus on the NOW but you always have one eye towards the future. Great feature on two up and coming players on Ryan Smith and Leonard Wester. These next two games are HUGE for the Bucs! I hope they come up big. I believe the Bucs need to get the run game going in order the finish strong in this playoff push. In my opinion some fans are killing Martin for the run game but I really think the problem in our running game is our OL. I think they miss Logan Mankins leadership ( I know his skills were declining) so that got me thinking about the offensive line next year and how could the presence of JR Sweezy affect it. 1st off have you heard any updates on Sweezy’s injury? (career threatening? healthy and ready to go for next year? still cloudy?) Anyway my guess without having any knowledge of Sweezy’s injury status, next year’s Starting five will be Left OT Smith, Left OG Sweezy, C- Marpet, Right OG- Pamphile, Right OT- Dotson. What do you think? Am I even in the ballpark? Go Bucs! Thanks again for having the Best Bucs info anywhere!!
Sounds like a pretty decent offensive line, Tassonedna. Sweezy was supposed to be a top shelf addition, so if he does fully recover that should help a bunch.
But, we also need to be on the lookout for a possible addition in free agency, as always. And we oughta draft at least one offensive lineman every year, just to keep the pump primed.
The Bucs have 3 DEs on IR – Jacquies Smith, Howard Jones, and George Johnson. Presumably, they will all be back – all have produced in the NFL.
Ordinarily, I would say we’ll be okay. But every once in a while a player come along, a freak if you will, that possesses all the traits the NFL is looking for – size, speed, high motor, and good character.
This year that yet unknown player is Tanoh Kpassagnon 6-7, 290, and runs a 4.76/40 from Villanova by way of Uganda. I going to bet he is a combine story and shoot up draft boards. I’m thinking that because he didn’t play FBS, but FCS, he could be had in the 3rd round.
He is big and strong enough to play DT and fast enough to play right DE. Noah Spence is good but not strong enough to collapse a pocket. He has to run around the OT and come in the back door – too late for a QB like Drew Brees.
Imagine if William Gholston is pushing from the LE and Tanoh is pushing from the RE, McCoy and McDonald are going to eat. Lol. I have no idea how Tanoh or the Bucs will turn out, but you can tell I’m impressed!
great post. I just looked him up and love the idea.
None of those guys you named on IR is going to come back and give you what the Bucs are missing at DE. We need a Micheal Bennet Type of DE and non of them pose that type of threat. Love the kid from Villinova myself but will the Bucs scouts do their job and go and get him. he’s probably the kalil mack of this yrs draft
The wish list should have cornerback at the top. It’s a tough position to learn and Grimes should have one more good year in him then it’ll be time to replace him. Have that guy in house and ready to roll when that time comes. I think WR has a lot of options in FA that could help either in the form of Alshon or Desean both bringing elements this offense could use. TE is another position that could be available this summer as Martellus Bennett only signed a 1 year deal in NE and although its tough to leave NE we could offer him some money to make that interesting. I agree DE should be fine and think we need to find an impact DT to pair with McCoy. I like McDonald more as a rotational DT bc he seems to stay healthy in that role. Ayers could benefit and rush from the end spot a little more as well spell the guys inside. The NFC goes through Dallas so the formula to beating them is stopping the run. Get some explosive big bodies up there and that task becomes a lot easier. That said, Beat the Saints!
SR- Another really great fab 5. I want to say how much I admire your taking responsibility for your misstatement on the Assistant Coaches’ availability. We all make mistakes and it takes a big man to admit them. KUDOS to you. I really like the Santa’s wish list portion. I much prefer the draft to Free Agency. Outside of trading two picks and trading up for RA, and drafting JW ahead of MM, Licht’s drafting prowess has been outstanding!!! I think JW needs above average weapons to be effective so, let’s draft weapons for him! Great job.
What a shock reading your revelation that you preferred Mariota over Jameis. Never figured that out from your posts. Don’t you think Jameis’ fiery personality was more what this downtrodden team needed than the comatose Mariota? Can’t they both be good for their respective teams? I think it’s time you moved on, stop seeking evidence to support your case or switch your loyalties.
Scott’s Santa’s Wish List shows that, in spite of the team’s improvements, a case could be made that there are needs at nearly every position. Needs change. That’s why the best player available will always be my approach to the Draft.
I’m glad that we’re on Christmas Eve eagerly anticipating the game and not secretly wanting to lose for a better Draft position.
I find it amusing when folks in the media and TV announcers comment on certain teams “traveling well” when they show up in droves to games away from their home stadiums. Oh, I’m sure some come here from the far north and other places, but the vast majority who infest our “home” and that of other warm weather places like Miami, Jacksonville, San Diego and Arizona, live within 200 miles. These are the front-runner fans like my neighbor who moved here from New England when the Patriots sucked and became a Gator fan, caring little about the NFL. He became a casual Bucs fan when the local team became play-off contenders and ultimately champions. But as soon as the Gators ended their glory days under Spurrier and the Bucs declined, he was once again sporting his Flying Elvises gear. That is typical of the transplants who choose to align themselves with the perceived better team.
Me, I’m from Pittsburgh. I moved here after graduating from high school to go to UT. The Dolphins were our team at the time so I converted to being a fan until WE GOT OUR OWN TEAM! I don’t know how someone can decide to live here and not adopt the local teams of their new chosen hometown. When I left Pittsburgh in June 1967 I left my girlfriend Sandy behind, telling her I’d see her in August. I met my wife with whom I’ve been married for 47 years and never returned. Twenty eight years after my departure from Pittsburgh, my wife and I, while visiting the area, stopped by to surprise Sandy. It was quite funny. But had the encounter been less than amicable and had the ladies gotten into a tiff, I can assure you I would have sided with my wife and not the girl I left behind.
Hey Scu- I moved from Tampa to Pittsburgh last year. How funny. BTW, I have given up on the JW/MM thing. I have my opinions on that and only time will tell who is the better QB. As far as the draft, I think we need to improve O-line and get more weapons for JW. He needs them. Best,Buc
That’s hysterical Bucnut! Watch out for those folks in western Pa. They all think everyone should be -a “Stillers” fan. If it’s going to become your permanent home perhaps a little black and gold will invade your closet.
Visited last year during the Bucs bye week and went to the Cardinals-Steelers game. How nice it was not to be surrounded by enemy fans. You’ll need to learn some Pittsburghese. It’s “Yuns, as in you-uns not y’all.
We’ll be there in August for my 50th high school reunion. Stay warm.
Totally agree with your proposed Draft needs. Protection and weapons for Jameis.
Shocker bucnut thinks we should’ve taken mariota. Haha let me educate you on something since you have a tough time understanding how football works . For one mariota has a superior offensive line and run game. For 2 he’s had the pleasure of facing one of the weakest schedules in the NFL this year. Oh except his last three games against good defenses were he’s completed 35% of his passes for 1 td and 4 to’s. They’re both good for the teams they are playing for. Leave it be already with your screwed assessments.
Hi guys! did you see your “franchise”qb today? He looked great, didn’t he. He is a turnover machine.
See yours getting carted off after a dismal showing?
Enjoyable read. Speed receiver would be welcome. Lets beat the Saints please.
Bucnut2 make sure you get on the Rolling Rock. When I spent a year in Hershey I found the case of RR in the 7 oz Pony bottles my choice.
— Go Bucs !!!
SR, the error on the assistant coaches leaving was my comment on the last Fab 5. I didn’t think that they could leave. The only exception was if they were made an assistant HC as part of their title. I still love your work!
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