Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter, TE O.J. Howard, G.M. Jason Licht – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
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
This week’s Cover 3 is a Cover 3 of the people.
Over the last few weeks, and especially last week, I was asked to do an in-depth review of how Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht stacks up against the rest of the general managers in the NFL South since his tenure in Tampa Bay began in 2014. So, per your request, that’s what this week’s Stat of the Week column is all about.
Up until the Panthers won back-to-back-to-back NFC South titles from 2013-2015, the division hadn’t seen a repeat champion since the realignment that placed the Falcons, Panthers, Saints and Buccaneers in the same division in 2002. Since that time, the Panthers hold the most division titles with five. Thanks to their division win last year, the Falcons are in second place with four, and the Buccaneers and Saints are both tied at three. Tampa Bay has finished dead last in the division more than half the time at 8 out of 15. However, they and the Saints are the only teams to make the most of their playoff appearances with the only two Super Bowl wins in the division.
So, since their Super Bowl run in 2002, there hasn’t been much success to hang their hat on in Tampa Bay. But that’s to be expected with a franchise that has gone through four G.M.s and five head coaches since then. However, the more recent general manager and head coach on those lists seem to be really getting the ball rolling – in ways devoid of false hope like Bucs fans have been fed for so long.
Licht and Dirk Koetter have brought the Buccaneers back to relevance. With the words they say, the mentality they have, the way the prepare and the way they execute, they’ve not only brought in good players, but the right players (and coaches) who find themselves with a locker room and office at One Buc Place.
Bucs WR Mike Evans and QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
A big part of that is in how they’ve drafted. In Licht’s first draft with Buccaneers, he took a player who is projected to be the best at his position in franchise history in Mike Evans. In his second year, Licht took a player who they hope to say the same about in quarterback Jameis Winston.
I mean, the word “win” is literally in his last name.
Last year the team selected two spot starters in Vernon Hargreaves and Noah Spence, both player who are expected to play in full-time roles this season at cornerback and defensive end, respectively. And, finally, just last weekend he played the drafted board well and ended up taking tight end O.J. Howard (a consensus Top 10 player) at No. 19 overall.
Beyond those players there have been hits and misses. The trade up for kicker Roberto Aguayo last year in the second round and a second-round pick on tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins in 2014 seem to be big-time duds, but offensive lineman Ali Marpet in the second round and middle linebacker Kwon Alexander in the fourth round in 2015 have certainly proven to be big-time wins.
Though these draft have made the Buccaneers relevant, as proven by the team missing the playoffs by the slightest of margins last year, no one wants to just be relevant; they want to be great. In order to do that, they first have to get past the foes who know them best, the ones who see them twice every year, and the ones who may be forming their own draft strategies as counters to the Buccaneers and vice versa.
So, let’s take a look at the three other teams in the division and evaluate their draft hit rate against that of Licht since he came down south to see if the separation in the win column is soon to come.
GM: Thomas Dimitroff
Depending on how you view success, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff has a case as the most successful G.M. in the NFC South since his arrival. Dimitroff took the Falcons job in 2008 after serving as the director of college scouting for the New England Patriots for four years. Though it took his team a few years to get over the hump of early playoff exits, Dimitroff has clearly put his team in places to succeed with records of 13-3 in 2008 and 2012, and an 11-5 finishes in 2008 as well as last year which led the Falcons to a Super Bowl berth.
Since his time in Atlanta, Dimitroff’s teams have won the divisional title three times, and has kept things pretty stable. With Licht entering the picture in 2013, here’s how he’s drafted for the Falcons since then.
Consistency has been a big theme with the Falcons since Dimitroff arrived. Not that the team hasn’t had its short-lived ups and down (all teams do), but the fact that he’s built winning season more than half his tenure means I would say he’s consistently good.
The Falcons have a Pro Bowler in two of the past three previous drafts, and it’s probably only a matter of time before safety Keanu Neal makes a Pro Bowl himself, which would make Dimitroff 3-for-3 since 2014. His 2015 draft was stellar. All but one of the players he drafted that year are still on the team, and more than half are starters.
Picking up players like defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and running back Tevin Coleman in the fifth and third rounds, respectively, is the draft picks he probably hangs his hat on the most. Twelve out of the 22 players Dimitroff has drafted since 2014 are starting players in the NFL, and he’s gained four starters per draft each year.
To me, Dimitroff has consistently put his franchise in places to succeed, and by drafting as well as he has, he’s made sure his calls have not been a reason for the team to under-perform. That’s a good G.M.
GM: Dave Gettleman
Gettleman made his way down south in 2013 to become the general manager of the Panthers after working as the pro personnel director for the New York Giants for over 13 years (since 1999). He was a part of both Super Bowls for the Giants, and since coming to Carolina has been the general manager for one of the team’s NFC titles, 2015, the year they made it to the Super Bowl.
Here’s a look at how Gettleman has drafted since 2014 when drafting against Licht.
Since 2014, Gettleman has only drafted on Pro Bowl player, offensive guard Trai Turner. In 2014, he drafted three starters, but one of them, Kony Ealy, is no longer on the team as he was traded to New England earlier this offseason.
In the NFL Draft, picks in Rounds 1-3 are expected to be starter players. If those players aren’t, it’s considered a miss. Any starter drafted after that third round should really be considered a luxury. In terms of that standard, Gettleman, as of late, has fallen short. In the 2016 draft, he drafted both defensive tackle Vernon Butler and cornerback Daryl Worley above that Top 100 line, both of which are not starting players. His percentage for “must hit” starters is 66 percent, which isn’t very good. With only one Pro Bowler to his name, and a starter lost in Ealy, Gettleman’s drafting has left much to be desired since 2014.
The Panthers picked some dynamic players with their 2017 draft, including Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and Ohio State receiver Curtis Samuel, but it will take a good coaching staff to get the most of them.
GM: Mickey Loomis
Loomis has seen it all in the NFC South – he’s been in the division with New Orleans since the realignment in 2002. He was the man who hired Sean Payton back in 2006, and was the man at the top when it came to the Saints Super Bowl victory in 2009.
With the same GM and the same head coach in place since 2006, here’s how the Saints have drafted when facing Licht on draft day.
Since 2014, the Saints drafts have been boom or bust. The team does not have a single players still on the roster form their 2014 draft, and that includes their first-round pick, wide receiver Brandin Cooks. In fact, Cooks was the only starting-caliber player they even drafted that year making them 1-for-6 – and the one is now gone. The following year, they went for volume with nine total picks. Though most of those players are still on the team, only three of them have come to claim starting spots, which makes their Top 100 percentage 60 percent.
The following year, however, they hit a much needed home run. All five of the Saints 2016 draft picks are still on the team, and three of them (defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, wide receiver Michael Thomas and safety Von Bell) played heavy starter minutes and were a big impact for the team. Without that draft, Loomis and Payton would be staring at the worst draft over those three seasons.
GM: Jason Licht
When it comes to the Top 100 standard of “must-hit” starters, there’s only one player Licht has drafting in the last four years who hasn’t been a starter and that is running back Charles Sims, who was drafted in the third round in 2014. You could say he made up for it by offensive lineman Kevin Pamphile being a starter from the fifth round of that draft, but you want those guys to be pure luxury hits on top of the must-have hits.
Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
The 2015 draft is turned out to be quite the haul for Licht with Winston, Marpet and Alexander all looking like future Pro Bowlers, while the jury is still out on starting left tackle Donovan Smith – this most likely is his last year to prove it. The 2016 draft was on par with what you want, though we all know the Aguayo “yes” should be taken with a mountain of salt given where he was drafted, what they gave up for him, and how badly he struggled. The only two late-round hit to this point for Licht would be Pamphile and Alexander, but that’s certainly more than some general managers can say. Licht, like Dimitroff is also poised to have a Pro Bowler from every year he’s drafted, which is well above average for most G.M.s.
In closing, if I had to rank the general managers by these three draft classes, Dimitroff would be in first place with Licht close behind, then Loomis in New Orleans because of that big 2016, and finally Gettleman bringing up the rear but having a chance to really gain some ground with a good weekend in the 2017 draft.
I didn’t rank the 2017 classes because even though we have a good guess of which players were good selections, we really have no idea until at least one year (really, three years) into their careers.
One of the players Licht hope to tout as another Pro Bowler on his draft resume was the team’s No. 19 overall pick, O.J. Howard. Just how will Howard fit in Tampa Bay, and hopefully make his way to that Pro Bowl rank? Click the next page and find out.
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: [email protected]
Trevor, you’re killing me! Was definitely hoping for some more in-depth and analytical. A problem with evluating players as starters is that, paradoxically, if you’re worse at drafting you can see more starters from each draft. I noticed this with Dominik, where he was given accolades for finder starters in the 7th round – but these were only “starters” because the roster was devoid of talent. And the Pro Bowl is just a popularity contest, even among players.
Another interesting way to evaluate the drafts is through PFR’s career-average-value (CAV). Starting in 2014 we see:
Licht’s score is slightly inflated because of Winston – even a mediocre QB will generate a fairly high score over time as long as he starts and no other team needed to draft a starting QB over this time.
Gettleman has also done better than his score suggests as he drafted players like Newton, Kuechly, Norman, Short, etc. before 2014.
There are obviously flaws with CAV, but I think its a much better system than looking at starts/Pro Bowls.
Sure, I get that starts are relative to each team, but, if we take it far enough, so are a lot of careers in general. Drafting fit for starters still matters, so you have to take that into account, even if it’s the GMs fault initially – since I was only referencing the job they were doing with drafting, not with being a general manager as a whole.
The career average calculator is nice, but it basically shows the same end result minus flipping Carolina and New Orleans, which, unfortunately the jury is still out on on my end because they drafted so many starters just last year. Like you said, drafting a young quarterback skews that, but drafting a young running back probably skews it the other way due to the position and we know how valuable Zeke was to the Cowboys last year. Even if you say it was the offensive line who did most of the work, Zeke completed it perfectly.
I guess I’m thinking the only better way, or more analytical way, I could have done this is by seeing which players drafted by each team made it to their second contracts (with the same team), since money is what maters, and how the percentage of that contract stacked up against the other players relative to that positions around the league? But, with Licht only being in Tampa Bay for three season so far, I couldn’t really do that with him. Maybe I could have thrown in a value for positional importance?
Other than that, you still have to use starters and Pro Bowlers (or All-Pros) as the base for accomplishments in a per team basis, no? You can get more analytical, but I think we would need more time for that. That’s probably something I could do better after year 5.
And to be fair, you’ve done such a good job with all your articles I was curious what outside-the-box information you’d bring in to your analysis. The reality is, especially over this condensed time frame, there actually may not be a better way to evaluate it. I do prefer CAV over starter/pro bowl but that’s quibbling.
I’m also not disagreeing with your conclusion . But it also begs the question – how do you objectively evaluate a draft? What makes a good draft? Is 2014 good because you got Evans and Pamphile? That’s not a great haul, especially if Pamphile is replacement level, but Evans could become the best WR in the NFL…
Haha, I feel like I’ve let you down!
Let me keep my eyes and ears open for that question: How does one really evaluate a draft haul? Going into the 2017 season/2018 NFL Draft, I already have the groundwork to totally restructure how I look prospects, positions and value. I will try to expand that with a new way to grade success from a team’s standpoint, too.
I appreciate you expressing a desire for something deeper, though. That’s sort of a challenge for me – and I always enjoy being challenged as a viewer and writer. If you’re wanting something better, chances are many others do as well, and I should, too.
I’ll definitely be curious if you’re able to come up with anything. Excited for this prospect scouting restructuring too.
Its foiled me for a while. Like when you said “Dominik’s drafts aren’t bad” so I looked at them again (THANKS for that) and really disagreed – they were generally bad.
But I couldn’t argue anything beyond subjective opinion. Is getting Gerald McCoy, a few good years from Mike Williams, and production from Grimm and Lorig a good draft? Or in 2013 getting Glennon, Spense and Gholston? Nothing spectacular, but solid starters.
Is it possible that it can be evaluated by draft value? Expected return per pick? Because drafting at 7 has a lot more draft value than at 23.
Caleb Benenoch is still on the team.
I only expect this type of mistake from a Gator. Shout out Mark Cook
I’m an idiot. I thought it was Benenoch that was released today. It was Ben Gottschalk. Apologies.
Apology accepted. Cover 3 is always fantastic. Keep up the good work and Go Noles
I just don’t know. I would just be guessing. After flipping a coin I would say where is the backup quarterback? We really don’t have one and why don’t we? By
I like Jason, I think he learns from his mistakes and doesn’t let a mistake continue because of what was invested. I think he deserves a second contract and I think he did a good job with the recent draft.
Ultimately it comes down to wins and success. The Bucs appear to be on the up swing so a fall back this year would be disappointing.
Al Davis said it best ‘Just win baby’…
Licht is clearly superior than Dominik or Allen. But is he better than McKay? Even if you don’t credit the 1995 draft to McKay, and call it Wyche’s, the draft classes of 1996, and 1997 were just as powerful to propelling the team to a competitive level.
Licht is still a young GM though and is making hiccup mistakes here and there but he is learning which is a good sign. But it seems to me that Licht, like Allen, views 3rd rounders as an opportunity to find depth guys or situational/special team guys not really “starting” caliber.
I do not believe the Bucs drafted Sims on the grounds he could be a starter at some point. Martin injured himself in a freak accident on a RB wheel route in 2013. So, logically at the time it seems to me they drafted Sims as a compliment to form a 1-2 punch. That did not materialize in 2014, but Koetter made it a reality in 2015.
So, it appears some GM’s do not view third rounders as starters or a round with a high likely hood to find a starter. If i was to speculate my hypothesis is that Licht believes you have to trade up into the 2nd round to find starting caliber players which he has done several times (eg Marpet, Aguayo). But what can disprove my hypothesis is if Godwin and Beckwith become starters down the line and Bucs FO seems high on both of them as both were picked after the 2nd round. However, the Bucs did trade up for Beckwith and it is possible that they had a 2nd round grade on him along with Godwin. Basically, if I may speculate if Bucs FO has a 1st or 2nd round grade on a player they view that player as a potential starter. It will be interesting to see how the 2017 Bucs draft class shakes out on the depth chart and three years from now.
There’s certainly validation to that second point. Like Tevin Coleman not getting the starter “Yes” for Atlanta, but we all know he’s still valuable. I suppose I could have gone deeper there. Maybe there’s an efficiency percentage to be had here that I should add if I were to do something like this again.
I like Mr. Licht because he is fearless. He is not afraid to do what he think is necessary to make the team better. He is not egotistical to not correct mistakes. I hope he’s stays for a while. The future is bright. Go Bucs!
I haven’t been this excited about any Bucs pick including Jameis. Reading your analysis (which I thought was excellent) just further confirmed my belief that this was the steal of the draft. The only reason I think he fell to the Bucs was because they were the first team with the luxury of not needing a player in the more glorified positions.
As for GM analysis, yes draft picks are a huge part of their job. Although I would say that is more of a team effort. Having the proper scouts and coaching staff to advise the GM is a major part of the decision making process. Especially for the later round picks. The one responsibility that is strictly that of the GM is player contract negotiations. I think that is yet to be determined because until last year the team had losing records.
The tough part is grading drafts only a few years out. Had you graded Dominik’s drafts a few years after they were made 1) Josh Freeman looked like a franchise cornerstone 2) Mike Williams was looking like an all-time great Buccaneer receiver 3) Mark Barron had upside at safety 4) Doug Martin looked like he could break all sorts of Buccaneer rushing records.
Drafts rarely age well as time passes as the players that looked promising fizzle out (Aaron Sears, Gaines Adams, Adrian Clayborn) and players that make immediate impacts (Michael Clayton, Cadillac Williams, Tanard Jackson) prove that they will never be able to repeat their rookie seasons.
The only ones that you can really spot early on are the misses: We know ASJ is a bust, we are pretty sure Aguayo and Dancin’ Charles Sims is as well.
I think Licht does the right thing more often than not, but I’ll never forget the look on his face when he was informed at the draft press conference that the Aguayo pick was making waves and not in a good way. It was sort of a look of surprise, like he wasn’t actually aware that the idea of trading up for a kicker in the 2nd round when said kicker had a lower FG% the year before than the one he had (Barth) was creating a bit of controversy. He used all sorts of justification on why that number was inaccurate (Aguayo didn’t miss a FG inside NFL hashes, Aguayo was good on kickoffs) and completely ignored the fact that Aguayo single-handedly cost FSU the Ga Tech game that year by getting his weak, noodle-legged kick blocked by Tech’s D and returned for a TD when at worst, a miss would have sent the game to OT. Or ignoring the fact that Aguayo never attempted a game-winning FG until nearly the end of his 2nd year against BC. It’s much easier to make FG’s when your team is blowing out the competition which FSU did regularly in 2013 while Aguayo the freshman had his best year.
I fear that there maybe a little bit of a bubble/groupthink at One Buc and that concerns me. I think the motto ‘Trust in Licht’ is not always the best thing the staff can do for Licht the GM. A healthy debate by some advisors and coaches allows the GM to flesh out some of his ideas and maybe change the initial trajectory such as drafting Charles Sims over Pro Bowls guards in Rd 3 when LG was a gaping hole. The Sims pick seemed like it was clearly there to appease OC Jeff Tedford and get him a ‘speed in space guy’ while it completely ignored the biggest hole on the roster when two great guards (Trai Turner, Gabe Jackson) were waiting to be selected. Not only did the Bucs select a marginal 3rd down back over Pro Bowl guards, they ended up compounding it by spending an additional 4th round pick to get one good year out of Logan Mankins before he retired.
Excellent Cover 3, Trevor. God, are there really people debating the OJ pick? Insanity.
Anyway, the breakdown of each GM’s draft classes really made it easy to compare and think about the impact they’ve had on their teams. Looking objectively, I’d agree that Licht is just behind Dimitroff. I think 2014 is a bit of an asterisk as Lovie was so involved. Even with that, Licht’s only had a couple of questionable moments in the draft.
-Drafting Sims over Freeman in 2014
-Trading up for Berto with Vonn Bell & Yannick Ngakoue both sitting there in round 2.
-Drafting Hargreaves over Rankins or Tunsil
Getting Evans, finding Pamp, Winston, Marpet (gem) Kwon (gem) Smith, Spence, Vern & finding Caleb are all roster improving moves. I like that he doesn’t think he’s the smartest guy in the room & it’s a team effort with his team. This recent draft should produce 4 more starters. Have to be happy with that. I think we’re in good hands.
Licht’s mistakes are largely understandable and forgivable. Sometimes you fill a need despite someone better being on the board (VH3), sometimes you just mistakenly prefer one guy over another (Sims), and sometimes extenuating circumstances and issues you thought would be manageable rear their ugly head (ASJ).
But there is absolutely nothing understandable or forgivable about the Aguayo pick. Not then and not now.
Exactly. He’s not done anything egregious in the draft beside trading up for Berto. There is no Manziel or Barron or Gaines Adams in his first round picks. I think drafting Sims was overhauling his ability at the next level. If he could have stayed healthy, it wouldn’t be as bad. Feels like ASJ taught him a good lesson in managing his risks on players with off field flags.
All in all he’s done just fine in the last 3 drafts. 2014 is all Mike at this point, but it can be better if Pamp keeps starting/plays well and Sims stays healthy.
Based off this draft class, I think one of our strengths going forward will be our 3rd down offense. OJ Howard, Godwin, and McNichols all share one important trait and that is they are good blockers. The screen game is going to be deadly this year, and on long passing down McNichols does a good job protecting the QB. I am hoping McNichols beats out Charles Sims as the 3rd down back. Having Doug Martin back at his best is just going to be a bonus with how prolific this offense is going to be. Maybe I am getting ahead of myself though.
Everyone on this site knows I’m probably the biggest Licht critic for what he has done in free agency as well as the players he missed on in the draft. His issues as a GM arise when he takes on the smartest man in the room persona instead of doing what makes the most sense. His early free agent classes were littered with players that were not starters on their previous teams but he “saw” something in them that never ended up panning out. We have wasted 7th round picks on fullbacks and kick returners when talented OL were still on the board and actually worth the risk. All that negativity aside he has grown into a much better GM than when he started. Overall his first round picks have been great with the exception of VHIII and his second round picks are about 50% hit or miss with a Kwon and Pamphile sprinkled in. He should stay in Tampa as GM because he was smart enough to dump Lovie and hire DIrk who is ultimately responsible for this turnaround and that alone should let him keep his job.
Clearly, Licht has this team on the rise. He represents the team well and has a keen eye for talent on and off the field. Stability is the key to long term success in the NFL and Licht process is now starting to bear fruit. There is no debate at all as to whether he is our future GM. Licht could have drafted the Joe Pesci as our tight end this weekend and I wouldn’t lose faith in Licht. He’s the guy. On a side note; I find it interesting that a lot of the pundits think that the team’s success this year is going to be all about this potential record-setting offense while at the same time making up for our lousy defense. I’d be willing to bet that by the end of the season the offense is not going to be quite as great as everyone thinks and the defense is going to be a lot better than anyone thinks… I still say that Mike Smith coming back as DC is one of our biggest offseason wins. This is going to be a fun team to watch this year! And, yes… Thank you, Mr. Licht.
Our defense last year wasn’t that bad. We didn’t lose any major defensive players and we added a couple more plus our young defensive players (VG3 and Spence) have a year of experience and should improve also. I think you are right on E. Just think what we could have done last year with a better offense. We def could have beat the Raiders and probably Dallas and the Saints.
As for judging Jason Licht as our GM, it’s still too early to make any final judgment. In particular, his first two years as GM he had a humongous millstone around his neck otherwise known as Lovie Smith who seemed to be driving the player selections more than Jason. So the 2014 and 2015 drafts, while having both positives and negatives, aren’t solely attributable to Jason Light’s performance and judment (though not solely void of his judgment either).
Certainly no GM is perfect, not even close to it. The greatest of all of them still miss on at least half their draft picks and FA signings – Bill Belichick included. So a standard of perfection and pointing to misses is a ridiculous measure of a GM’s value.
To me, you measure a GM more than anything else on the following:
1) The bottom line – in sports, the bottom line is always the W-L line … if that line is either very high, or consistently moving in the right direction from season to season, that’s what you want. If that line is wildly gyrating from season to season, many Ws one season, then going off a cliff the next season, that’s bad. If it’s low and stays low, fire the GM. In this regard, Jason Light has produced consistent gains, albeit starting from an extremely low number (2), to a mediocre number (6) to a pretty good number (9). If this year the Bucs drop down to at or below 8 wins, that would be bad. Adding a W or two would continue the trend, and be very good.
2) The quality of his key hires – that would be the coaches in particular, and his front office staff as well. Though saddled with a horrible head coach his first two years, and did not even have a hand-picked front office staff his first year, Jason has managed to put his stamp on the entire organization, and the results look very good so far.
3) The consistency of his hires – has the GM come up with a strategy, a model for success, and is he sticking to it? When he makes inevitable mistakes, does he quickly recognize the error and make corrections, or does he try to get by and make excuses? Do his own people tend to get along, or is there a never-ending series of “palace intrigues” and infighting? Jason is clearly consistent in how he sees “Buccaneers people” – players, coaches, and front office staff. He has made some mistakes, as all GMs do, but he recognized them and corrected them promptly. His team are all on the same page. No in-fighting evident at all, even when they were working on the extremely divisive no. 1 draft pick decision in 2015 where there certainly WERE internal differences of opinion (Koetter later revealed he wanted Mariota over Winston).
In all three areas, I believe Jason Licht has done very well.
Thanks Trevor – the more analysis that can be done of GMs in general would be much appreciated.
I too see some real difficulty in comparing the GMs in the South as you have. Our picks were 7th, 1st and 11th over the period in question (moving around a bit due to tie-breakers and trades). ATL picked (6th, 8th, 17th), CAR picked (28th, 25th,30th) and NO picked (20th, 13th, 12th) over those same drafts. So in 2014 for example, the Bucs had a one pick deficit to ATL, but a 21 pick advantage over CAR and a 13 pick advantage over NO.
You can probably see how the comparison gets a bit apples and oranges quite quickly this way, given that the probability of success (starter, pro-bowl) has been shown over the long-haul by other NFL statisticians to decline (statistically significantly) with each pick. If you could make an adjustment in your analysis for the position within rounds that each player was selected, that would be interesting to see (capture the difference between picking 1st or 25th). However, as has been stated above, it’s probably too early in most of these players careers to assign the success factors anyway.
If you ran New England, for example, through the same analysis, you would probably give their GM a huge failing grade as their best pick in the last four years is likely their back-up QB. Of course, they weren’t picking 7th, 1st and 11th in every round. The one GM held up as a great drafter is usually Ozzie Newsome, but Baltimore’s last few drafts wouldn’t look stellar in that analysis either I don’t think (picking 6, 26 and 17th).
I think this draft-analysis area is really fertile ground for someone to do serious in-depth work….but, I think drafting is just really hard and I doubt there’s going to be an answer ever that (with probably an outlier or two, particularly on the terrible end of the curve – I’m looking at you Cleveland) says some GMs are excellent at drafting relative to the others (or for that matter, relative to the paid ‘experts’ Mel Kiper, Mike Mayock, Todd McShay, Charles Davis, Charlie Casserly, Trevor Sikkema, etc., who as John Lynch said (in reference to Mayock) “put in as much time and were at as many pro-days as [him]”).
Besides, it’s much more fun to look at it in hindsight and say, how good could we be if we took Landry instead of ASJ, or Jackson instead of Sims, or Bell instead of Aguyao, or Collins instead of Vitale, or as much of Noles-Nation seemed to want on PR, moved up to take Cook instead of Evans…who knows, but fun to speculate.
And, there’s a lot more to being a good GM than just drafting – as @stlbucsfan and I have pointed out many times, it’s much easier to statistically assess other decisions GMs make, like (absent salary keep concerns) cutting a starter (with a clear track record) and seeing who they replace him with (yes, sadly sometimes nobody) – that’s a real choice with solid NFL-evidence behind it. Or looking at FA signings, and more difficult (as it requires an assumption the choice was possible), who they passed over at the same positions. Or looking at how good they are in contract work – Dominik was really underrated in this regard – or salary cap management within their decisions (some GMs get put in salary cap “hell” and some don’t).
Anyway, I think there are a lot of factors that could be assessed in grading out GMs, and I would love to see the work done by someone…but I know that’s going to be a lot of work.
Always worth the work if it’s educating in a new way.
You guys are cranking out some great opinions. It’s good stuff.
For me it’s fairly simple. If the Bucs make the playoffs this year I say Licht stays, otherwise I say Licht goes. Improvement means little to me because it’s subjective, milestones like playoffs and super bowls are not.
Like I said in an article over draft weekend, 4 years is plenty of time to get a team into the playoffs the way the NFL is structured, no matter how bad the team started out. Like I said before, normally I only give a GM 3 years but I wanted to see one more year after getting the team to 9-7 on the last play of the season. I thought that warranted one more year.
No excuses this year though, he has the HC he wants, the QB he wants and the OC/DC he wants along with 4 years worth of drafts and free agencies. Yes, 4 years and not 2 years. If Licht gave his signature authority to Lovie to sign free agents and draft players that’s Licht’s problem. If he knew what he was doing he would have stepped in and vetoed those moves because as the GM he has to sign off on them. Every human being is responsible for their own actions unless they have some kind of mental problem.
Mental or physical problem I guess I should say.
I think that is the very reason the Glazers have not already extended him. What I love about our owners is that they are willing to open the checkbook for any regime so that when it ultimately does not come together as planned resources will never be the excuse. Licht better hope that his decisions to draft Aguayo in the 2nd round, let McDougald walk only to replace him with lesser players and standing pat with an offensive that looks suspect to everyone on the outside doesn’t cost him his job.
You know I have a lot of respect for you Pink and enjoy our Training Camp discussions, but I don’t agree that it should be play-offs or start over with yet another regime change.
It’s obvious to this observer that the team is much better talent-wise. But what I see as a major factor is the “culture change” both on the field and even in the stands. No longer did I see the cowering of players at the first “Oh spit” moment. No longer in the stands did we think the game was over if the opponent scored first. If Jude falls backwards instead of grabbing the receiver who ran into him the Bucs would have been 10 dash 6 and in the dance.
This team fought to the end in each game (except maybe the Broncos). At times both the offense and defense were lining up with players virtually off the street due to injuries, yet they remained steadfast. That was impressive to me.
I’ve followed this team, the NFL and been in management long enough to know that stability and consistency is in itself a precursor to success. Finally the revolving door where players and coaches enter and exit is spinning a bit slower. I’m not ready to show Licht the exit just yet.
We’re better than than we used to be but we still aren’t good enough. I agree that stability can be precursor to success and I’ve seen that in my line of work. I’ve also seen stability can be an enemy of success by getting people mired in the status quo. Stability can simply lead to more stability without progressing to the goal.
We are all fans of the Bucs but one of the things I have learned since I started posting on PR about 9 years ago is not all Bucs fans share the same goals. Some fans want to make the playoffs, some fans just don’t want a losing record, some fans want to win the Super Bowl every year, some fans want a poor record if we don’t start the season winning so we can get good draft position, some just don’t want the Bucs players in the news for the wrong reasons. There’s nothing wrong with that either, every fan can enjoy or detest the team for their own reasons and I believe we should all respect the goals of others while still respecting our own goals.
If you want stability and stability is all you want I have to respect that, you’re free to like this team however you want. I want the Bucs to win the Super Bowl. I don’t expect that every year…maybe once every 4 years or so with deep playoff runs sandwiched between. Getting to the playoffs within 4 years is my metric of whether we can win the Super Bowl EVER with Licht. I believe other Bucs fans have to respect that.
This is one hell of an article.
Great job, Bucs fan’s need more information like this.
I am really rooting for Jason Licht. However, he has to overcome that terrible second round pick in 2016. When you put your neck out and do something no other GM would do, you ask for criticism. Look at how they are killing Bears GM Ryan Pace for his trade up this year. Licht traded up last year to do something completely stupid. Jason could have gotten him in the 5th round (likely). But hopefully he learned from his mistake and will move on. Jason used to work under Arizona’s GM Steve Keim who is highly praised among NFL GM’s. I think they probably have a friendly rivalry going on. Keim has missed on picks as well. 2016 First Rounder Robert Nkemdiche hasn’t panned out yet… I mainly want stability. Long time coach, long time GM. Let em work it out.
I enjoyed the analysis. I think the fundamental question about drafting is defining what is “success.” Is success finding Pro-Bowlers or All Pros (high impact-type players)? Or is success keeping the overall talent level high at every position? I tend to think that it is somewhat a mixture, but there has to be a high talent level to sustain consistency. Many unemployed GM’s have drafted Pro-Bowlers, but the really good ones keep a consistent talent level and thus allow their teams to be competitive over longer periods of time.
Maybe you made the most important point without actually saying so. Licht doesn’t have to be “the best” drafter to give this team the talent it needs to be successful, he needs to be a steady, competent drafter. Having draft effectiveness that is on par with the past two NFC champs demonstrates a remarkable level of competence. Just using the eyeball test, I think most fans would agree that this team is more talented that prior to Licht’s arrival.
I don’t think it is wise to devalue this overall quality by pointing to specific misses. Every GM misses on players, it is the nature of the business. But so long is there are more “hits” than “misses” the overall talent improves and the job is done. For me personally, I have more confidence in a pick like Beckwith knowing what Licht was able to find with Kwon. I have not enjoyed that level of confidence in past GM’s. The confidence in talent acquisition helps to build confidence in the overall direction of the team. This is particularly true when fans start to see that talent translate into wins on the field.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again – I’ve been doing in depth prospect evaluations since the 2006 draft, and Howard is the best TE prospect I’ve ever seen, bar absolutely none. There is not a single hole in his game. In the running game, you can pull him, or he can man up on the guy across from him and remove him from the play on power runs. He has the feet and hands to seal the edge on zone plays. His work as an H back is spectacular. And he’s about as good and athletic of a receiver as you’ll find. I love that you made a point to note that Clemson didn’t blow that coverage on that big play down the field. He just blew it up. Watching him outrun the angles multiple defenders have in that screen against Clemson is breathtaking.
There’s nothing – literally nothing – that you’d ask a TE to do that he doesn’t do at an exceptionally high level. He’s incredible.
I totally agree. He’s one of the best tight end prospects in a loooong time.
Wow, that was a great film analysis. I’m sooo pumped to see how difficult Howard makes it for opposing teams now. The blocking you reference WAS dominant. And against quality opponents no less. If I had a beef with Licht’s draft strategy I would say that he hasn’t tended to draft from an inside out standpoint thus far. O-line and D-line are categories that you see perennial playoff teams draft plenty of. And we always seem thin at both. Outside of that I’ve been generally happy. The Kwon pick alone gives him a lot of latitude in my book.
Should Jason Licht be extended? Yes.
Give him another 4 years.
He has plenty of challenges awaiting him this year whether or not he’ll be back or not shouldn’t be on his mind.
LOCK HIM UP.
There’s so much that stats can’t account for that I’ve seen in this draft. We’ve got us a good General Manager.
As a fan of both Barth and Murray, the pick of Aguayo in the 2nd was definitely a WTF?moment. However, the fact that he got Spence w/ the initial 2rd pick, then used the 4th rd that he got in trading down- and still getting VHlll- to move back up, i don’t find it egregious as some here do. Aguayo’s not a bust yet- I’m hoping he wins the battle that we’ll all see on Hard Knocks!
Loved seeing some of that video of Howard blocking DLineman! Thanks again for breaking it down for us Trevor
a 3 year “keep up the good work” extension seems smart, and then extend him for 5 if he turns us into a perennial playoff team with a top 5-10 salary sounds about right to me. he’s done a GREAT (not good, but great job) but this is the Bucs and I’ve seen plenty of meltdowns which could come from anywhere. front office, players, MRSA – you name it
A truly excellent post, especially the very insightful breakdown and analysis of the multi dimensional talents of our latest 1st round draft pick, O. J. Howard.
It’s the first time I have read one of Trevor’s articles and I was genuinely most impressed. Clearly a lot of time and effort was taken to break down the different facets of OJ’s game and I thoroughly enjoyed the excellent usage of relevant video clips to illustrate the points that Trevor was making.
Frankly PR subscription is already incredibly cheap and to get this quality of journalism added to the mix makes it even more of an outstanding bargain. Great stuff Trevor, I shall look forward with anticipation to your next Cover 3 article.
J Licht has one EXTREMELY good draft he got 4 starters and a slot R and a TE in UDFA the same year I think.
The only knock is 5-7 rd to many missed opportunities, it is those picks that help some teams make the playoffs year after year. Go Bucs
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