FAB 4. What Could Have Been Instead Of Aguayo
It’s always easy to second-guess drafts, as no general manager and head coach is perfect when it comes to selecting players. That includes Bucs general manager Jason Licht and head coach Dirk Koetter.
As I pointed out in my column on Saturday about Licht’s draft track record, he’s done a very good job of adding talent to Tampa Bay’s roster since his arrival in 2014 and has built a playoff-caliber team through the draft and free agency and has re-signed the likes of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David, in addition to running back Doug Martin and right tackle Demar Dotson.
But there is no doubt that Licht’s biggest draft mistake was trading up to select Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round in 2016. It was a well-intentioned gamble that was roundly criticized and ultimately didn’t pan out.
Hindsight is always 20-20 and there’s no doubt that the Bucs would have been better off drafting another player last year. But it’s not just switching out a different player in 2016 for Aguayo.
The selection of Aguayo had a chain reaction effect into the 2017 draft, too. For example, if the Bucs had selected a safety in the second round in 2016 they likely wouldn’t have drafted Justin Evans in the second round this year.
The Bucs drafted Auburn running back Cadillac Williams with the fifth overall pick in 2005 instead of Troy defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who went 11th overall to Dallas. Both players were at the Senior Bowl that year when the Bucs were coaching the South squad. Former Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin loved Ware.
Because the Bucs got their running back in 2005, but still needed a defensive end, they made the mistake of chasing the need and selecting Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams with the fourth overall pick and passed on Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson, who went to Minnesota with the seventh selection in the first round.
The Bucs missed on some notable players in the second round when they opted to select Aguayo, ignoring some needs at safety and defensive end among other positions. Here are a couple of scenarios that could have transpired if the Bucs had picked another player instead of the league’s worst kicker.
Because there are dozens of scenarios that we could concoct with what may have happened if the Bucs had kept both third-round picks. Let’s just say Licht still trades both third-rounders to Kansas City to move up to the 59th overall selection to make the selection.
Tampa Bay could have drafted Ohio State safety Vonn Bell, who was New Orleans second-round pick in 2016. He played in 16 games and posted 87 tackles, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one sack.
Or the Bucs could have drafted Maryland defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who had eight sacks to lead the Jaguars last year as their third-round pick, selected 69th overall. Pair Ngakoue with Spence and the Bucs could pile up the sacks by the dozens.
Or Tampa Bay could have selected North Carolina offensive lineman Joe Thuney, a third-round pick by New England that became a starter for the Patriots and gave up two sacks in their Super Bowl championship run.
How about one more? The Bucs could have selected Minnesota strongside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, who was Atlanta’s fourth-round pick. The speedy Campbell helped the Falcons get to the Super Bowl with 48 tackles, seven passes defensed, one forced fumble and one interception.
If the Bucs had picked Bell in 2016, the team could have selected Colorado cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, Ohio State linebacker Raekwon Miller, Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham instead of safety Justin Evans. Any of those players could have been drafted in addition to Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara, Kansas State defensive end Jordan Willis, who recorded a sack against Tampa Bay last week, or Toledo running back Kareem Hunt. Kamara, Willis and Hunt were third-round draft picks.
Had the Bucs drafted Thuney, it would have given the team another starting-caliber guard to compete with J.R. Sweezy and Kevin Pamphile, who is entering a contract year. Tampa Bay likes Pamphile, and his versatility to play tackle, but won’t be cheap to re-sign. Without another player capable of filling in for Pamphile for the long haul at left guard the Bucs will likely have to pay big money to keep him in the offseason. Thuney would have given Tampa Bay greater leverage.
If the Bucs had drafted Campbell instead of Aguayo last year it would have negated the need for Tampa Bay to trade up into the third round to select LSU linebacker Kendell Beckwith. It’s not that Beckwith is a bad player, but Campbell is faster, more athletic and better in coverage, and would have freed Tampa Bay to select a running back that was perhaps faster and better than Jeremy McNichols, who was drafted in the fifth round this year.
Instead of Beckwith, the Bucs could have chosen USF’s Marlon Mack, Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine or Utah’s Joe Williams, or could have drafted Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson or Oklahoma wide receiver-return specialist Dede Westbrook, who had six catches for 131 yards against Tampa Bay on Thursday night. Mack, Perine, Williams, Lawson and Westbrook were all fourth-round draft picks.
Missing on Aguayo not only cost the Bucs a positional player that could have been drafted in the second round in 2016. It also could have eliminated a need heading into 2017 that could have made this year’s draft a bit more fruitful.