Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.
Sikkema’s Stat of the Week
Whether you were on #TeamVita or #TeamDerwin, it’s very hard and even foolish to try to dislike the moves the Bucs made on NFL Draft weekend. Going into the draft, the Bucs had needs on the defensive line, offensive line, in the secondary all around and certainly needed an extra running back, too.
What they came away with was this:
Round 1, Pick 12: Vita Vea, DT, Washington Round 2, Pick 38: Ronald Jones II, RB, USC Round 2, Pick 53: M.J. Stewart, CB, North Carolina Round 2, Pick 63: Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn Round 3, Pick 94: Alex Cappa, G, Humboldt State Round 4, Pick 117: Jordan Whitehead, S, Pittsburgh Round 5, Pick 144: Justin Watson, WR, Pennsylvania Round 6, Pick 202: Jack Cichy, LB, Wisconsin
So, if you’re keeping score at home, the Bucs, in fact, addressed needs at defensive line, offensive line, in the secondary all around and got themselves an extra running back, too. I thought the Bucs did a good job, not only addressing their needs, but also in the way they were prioritized when selecting them.
The theme of the offseason has been totally recreating the defensive line from its foundation. That started with current defensive line coach Brentson Buckner being brought in to replace former Buccaneers defensive line coach Jay Hayes – something that has already shown promise in the team’s recent rookie camp. Then the team went out and signed Vinny Curry, Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein, and topped all that off by trading for Jason Pierre-Paul. Knowing that, it was no surprise that the Bucs also invested their highest capital in the draft on the defensive line. Some would say that the defensive line had already been “fixed” in free agency, but no one knows that for sure, and after watching what he watched last year, Bucs general manager Jason Licht wasn’t going to roll the dice in any way again in the trenches.
Bucs GM Jason Licht – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
After the selection of Vea to bolster the defensive line, the next two biggest needs were filled in the second round. The Bucs were able to dip into a deep and talent running back class in what I would have called a “sweet spot” just inside the second round to get Jones, and spent their next two selections after that on the cornerback position with Stewart and Davis.
Not only were two cornerbacks selected, the two they chose specifically are stylistically different from what the team deployed last year. We’ll see how much change comes because of that. Before the draft got too deep, the Bucs then picked up a small-school guard in Cappa they think has a lot of potential, and the rest of the draft was rounded out with three high-ceiling players that the team took some development risk on (which I’m always a fan of on Day 3).
Even though you all already know all those picks by now, I wanted to write them out because I don’t think I have collectively, to this point, and I really wanted to state how impressed I was with this draft class. Obviously the players have to play out their careers to ultimately see how good the selections were, but in terms of who they got where and what needs they filled immediately, as well as the potential they could have in the future, the Buccaneers draft warranted good draft grades from all around the media world.
But me being impressed with the Bucs’ draft haul doesn’t stop there – or should I say, it didn’t start there. My strongest tip-of-the-cap to the Bucs’ war room actually comes from how they maneuvered the draft in such a way to end up with the number of players they wanted and needed while moving up and back a few times to make it happen.
I said this on one of the recent episode of the Pewter Nation Podcast after the draft, but I was so impressed with the intel on other teams the Bucs had in this draft thanks in part to director of pro scouting Rob McCartney. They moved back from No. 7 to No. 12 to get exactly what they wanted in two second-round picks all while knowing one of Vea or Derwin James was going to be available for them. They rolled the dice not selecting Davis first before Stewart and ended up betting correctly by getting both. And finally they then had the mindset to wait for the perfect time to give up the right value to move for Cappa.
The NFL Draft is a game and a complex one, at that. You can’t just sit there with your seven picks, one in each round, pick decently well and think you’re OK while other teams are moving up and down from year-to-year getting great value out of their selections in the talent they pick and the time in which they pick them. You have to be aggressive but smart. You have to play the game but not get played yourself. It’s a weekend of deals and treaties, but it’s also one big free-for-all.
The draft value chart is a theoretically accepted way to represent trade value for draft picks. It was created by Jimmy Johnson in the early 1990s when he was the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. What it does is it gives a numerical representation of each pick to (in theory) balance out trades. Though each general manager will obviously have his own personal value of what he thinks his picks are worth, this sort of centralizes it.
The picture above is of the aforementioned draft chart for 2018. Some charts look a little different than others because the original one didn’t have compensatory picks involved in its numerical scale because you used to not be able to trade compensatory picks. But now you can, and thus there are some subtle differences in the exact point value for the later round picks – which usually doesn’t mean too much.
When the 2018 draft began the Bucs had 2,175.7 “draft points” over the span of six draft picks and one compensatory pick. What the Bucs ended up with when the 2018 draft was finished was 2,481.7 “draft points” from the eight total picks they ended up using. More picks and more value? That’s a double win when it comes to the draft game; that’s something every general manager tries to do every year. That’s what Licht did this year.
When you subtract the two numbers, the Bucs had an extra 306 points from where they started the weekend – and didn’t give up any picks in future years. If you look at that number on the chart, that’s like getting an extra late second-round pick of value for nothing more than playing the trade game correctly, moving the pieces and getting the maximum value from another team.
It’s not just who you get but how you got them that ultimately goes into the final evaluation of a good draft. As for 2018, Licht and his staff were true gamers, and played their annual game to a tee.
Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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