FAB 3. Licht’s Draft Record Stacks Up
In doing research for this column, which is primarily on Bucs general manager Jason Licht, I was curious as to how his draft record stacks up against some of the other notable general managers in the league. A quick look at Licht’s draft record in Tampa Bay suggests that the 2015 and 2017 drafts were very impactful with several starters found in each draft, while the 2016 draft class severely lacks impact players and may be a bust year.
It’s simply too early to tell about the 2018 draft class, although it may be shaping up somewhere between the 2017 class and the 2016 class. Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans, who was Licht’s first ever draft pick as the team’s general manager in 2014, remains the only player left from that class, but he’s one of the elite receivers in the league and is having another Pro Bowl-caliber season.
I decided to compare Licht’s draft record against Howie Roseman, who is the general manager of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, and Les Snead, who is the general manager of the Los Angeles Rams, who many believe to be the front-runner to make – and perhaps win – this year’s Super Bowl.
Let’s take a look at Roseman’s drafts with the Eagles, which begin in 2010. I’ve left out Philadelphia’s 2015 draft because that was the year that head coach Chip Kelly demoted Roseman and took over the draft himself before Kelly was fired and Roseman was reinstalled as Philadelphia’s general manager.
The players listed are the G.M.’s notable draft picks from each draft and I’m not including the 2018 draft classes for any of the general managers for two reasons. First, most general managers keep most or all of their current draft picks to see if they can develop over the course of a year. And secondly, sometimes players don’t produce right away or have a limited impact as a rookie while learning a new system and transitioning to the NFL.
Philadelphia GM Howie Roseman’s Drafts
2010: 13 picks – DE Brandon Graham (1), DB Nate Allen (2), DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim (3), DB Trevard Lindley (4), LB Keenan Clayton (4), QB Mike Kafka (4), TE Clay Harbor (4), DE Ricky Sapp (5), WR Riley Cooper (5), RB Charles Scott (6), LB Jamar Chaney (7), DT Jeff Owens (7), S Kurt Coleman (7).
Notes: Only Graham is with the Eagles today and he’s still a stud. Allen was a six-year starter and had 13 career INTs. Cooper played in 88 games in Philadelphia, but is now out of the league. Coleman is on his fourth team and had more success in Carolina than he did in Philly. Out of 13 players, Roseman had four hits in this draft.
2011: 11 picks – G Danny Watkins (1), DB Jaiquawn Jarrett (2), DB Curtis Marsh (3), LB Casey Matthews (4), K Alex Henery (4), RB Dion Lewis (5), G Julian Vandervele (5), C Jason Kelce (6), LB Brian Rolle (6), LB Greg Lloyd, Jr. (7), RB Stanley Havili (7)
Notes: Despite having 11 picks, Roseman struck out early in this draft. While he drafted Lewis in the fifth round, he traded him two years later due to a lack of productivity. Kelce, a sixth-round pick, is the only current Eagles player remaining from this draft class and really the only good pick.
2012: 9 picks – DT Fletcher Cox (1), LB Mychal Kendricks (2), DE Vinny Curry (2), QB Nick Foles (3), CB Brandon Boykin (4), OT Dennis Kelly (5), WR Marvin McNutt (6), G Brandon Washington (6), RB Bryce Brown (7)
Notes: This was a very productive Eagles draft with Roseman hitting on his first four picks with those four players helping the Eagles win a Super Bowl. Of those four, only Cox and Foles remain in Philadelphia in 2018.
2013: 8 picks – RT Lane Johnson (1), TE Zach Ertz (2), DT Bennie Logan (3), QB Matt Barkley (4), DB Earl Wolff (5), DE Joe Kruger (7), DB Jordan Poyer (7), DE David King (7)
Notes: Johnson and Ertz are the only players remaining from Philly’s 2013 draft class. Johnson has been to one Pro Bowl and Ertz is one of the best tight ends in the league. Logan was a four-year starter at nose tackle, but is now on his third NFL team.
2014: 7 picks – DE Marcus Smith (1), WR Jordan Matthews (2), WR Josh Huff (3), DB Jaylen Watkins (4), DE Taylor Hart (5), DB Ed Reynolds (5), DT Beau Allen (7)
Notes: This was Roseman’s wipeout draft as Smith was a bust. Matthews is a backup receiver in Philly, and the only remaining Eagles player left from this draft. Allen was a backup nose tackle during his time in Philly.
2016: 8 picks – QB Carson Wentz (1), G Isaac Seumalo (3), RB Wendell Smallwood (5), T Halapoulivatti Vaitai (5), CB Blake Countess (6), DB Jalen Mills (7), DE Alex McCalister (7), LB Joe Walker (7)
Notes: Roseman found a franchise QB in Wentz and a starting guard in Seumalo along with several other role players that are currently on the team.
2017: 8 picks – DE Derek Barnett (1), CB Sidney Jones (2), CB Rasul Douglas (3), WR Mack Hollins (4), RB Donnel Pumphrey (4), WR Shelton Gibson (5), S Nate Gerry (5), DT Elijah Qualls (6)
Notes: Seven of the team’s eight picks remain on the roster with Barnett and Douglas as starters. Barnett has Pro Bowl potential. Jones and Gibson are contributors and Hollins is on injured reserve.
In seven drafts (not including 2018), Roseman has had 64 draft picks and has 11 current starters to show for it, including Graham, Seumalo, Mills, Barnett and Douglas, in addition to five Pro Bowlers in Kelce, Cox, Johnson, Ertz and Wentz. A total of 20 of Roseman’s 64 picks remain on the team.
LA Rams GM Les Snead’s Drafts
2012: 10 picks – DT Michael Brockers (1), WR Brian Quick (2), CB Janoris Jenkins (2), RB Isaiah Pead (2), CB Trumaine Johnson (3), WR Chris Givens (4), K Greg Zuerlein (6), LB Aaron Brown (7), RB Daryl Richardson (7)
Notes: Of this draft class, only Brockers remains with the Rams. Jenkins was a four-year starter, but left for the New York Giants in free agency. Johnson spent seven years with the Rams but is now with the New York Jets.
2013: 7 picks – WR Tavon Austin (1), LB Alec Ogletree (1), S TJ McDonald (3), WR Stedman Bailey (3), G Barrett Jones (4), DB Brandon McGee (5), RB Zac Stacy (5)
Notes: Olgetree and McDonald were the best picks as Austin turned out to be a gimmick player at the NFL level due to his lack of size. None of Snead’s picks are currently with the Rams.
2014: 11 picks – OT Greg Robinson (1), DT Aaron Donald (1), DB Lamarcus Joyner (2), RB Tre Mason (3), DB Maurice Alexander (4), DB E.J. Gaines (6), QB Garrett Gilbert (6), OL Mitchell Van Dyk (7), DB C.B. Bryant (7), DE Michael Sam (7), OL Demetrius Rhaney (7)
Notes: Robinson, the second overall pick, has been a bust and was traded. Snead made up for it with the selection of Donald, who is the best defensive lineman in football. Of Snead’s 11 draft picks in 2014, only two players – Donald and Joyner – remain with the Rams.
2015: 9 Picks – RB Todd Gurley (1), RT Rob Havenstein (2), OL Jamon Brown (3), QB Sean Mannion (3), OT Andrew Donnal (4), WR Bud Sasser (6), G Cody Wichmann (6), LB Bryce Hager (7), DE Martin Ifedi (7)
Notes: Gurley was a home run and is one of the best running backs in football, while Havenstein is a fixture at right tackle. Mannion is the backup quarterback and Hager is a special teams linebacker.
2016: 6 Picks – QB Jared Goff (1), TE Tyler Higbee (4), WR Pharoh Cooper (4), TE Temarrick Hemingway (6), LB Josh Forrest (6), WR Mike Thomas (6)
Notes: Goff looked like a bust until Sean McVay’s arrival last year. Now he’s one of the league’s best quarterbacks and will be a two-time Pro Bowler after this year. Higbee is a good tight end while Cooper and Thomas are on injured reserve.
2017: 8 Picks – TE Gerald Everett (2), WR Cooper Kupp (3), S John Johnson (3), WR Josh Reynolds (3), LB Samson Ebukam (4), DT Tanzel Smart (6), FB Sam Rogers (6), DE Ejuan Price (7)
Notes: Everett rotates with Higbee at tight end. Kupp has been a dynamic starting receiver and is now on injured reserve. Reynolds, a reserve, has stepped up in his absence. Johnson is a starting safety, while Ebukam was having a quiet year until starring against Kansas City on Monday Night Football two weeks ago.
In six drafts (not including 2018), Snead has had 51 draft picks and has 10 current starters to show for it, including Brockers, Joyner, Havenstein, Higbee, Kupp, Johnson and Ebukam, in addition to three Pro Bowlers in Goff, Gurley and Donald. A total of 17 players remain from Snead’s 51 picks.
Tampa Bay GM Jason Licht’s Draft Picks
2014: 6 Picks – WR Mike Evans (1), TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (2), RB Charles Sims (3), G Kadeem Edwards (5), OL Kevin Pamphile (5), WR Robert Herron (6)
Notes: Evans is a Pro Bowler and one of the best receivers in the NFL. Seferian-Jenkins flamed out due to character issues and Sims was nothing more than a third-down back. Pamphile was a rotational offensive lineman that failed as a starting guard.
2015: 7 Picks – QB Jameis Winston (1), OT Donovan Smith (2), G Ali Marpet (2), LB Kwon Alexander (4), LB Kenny Bell (5), WR Kaelin Clay (WR), FB Joey Iosefa (7)
Notes: This is Licht’s finest draft class to date. Winston has been a record-setting QB in Tampa Bay and made one Pro Bowl. Smith is a solid left tackle, while Marpet is a Pro Bowl-caliber left guard. Alexander went to the Pro Bowl last season.
2016: 7 Picks – CB Vernon Hargreaves III (1), DE Noah Spence (2), Roberto Aguayo (2), CB Ryan Smith (4), OT Caleb Benenoch (5), LB Devante Bond (6), FB Dan Vitale (6)
Notes: This is regarded as Licht’s worst draft class, yet five of the players remain in Tampa Bay. Injuries have robbed the Bucs of gauging Hargreaves’ development. Spence has been riddled by shoulder injuries, but is now buried on the depth chart due to veterans ahead of him. Aguayo was a bust and Licht’s worst pick and a gamble that didn’t pay off. Smith and Bond are depth players, while Benenoch has struggled as a starting guard.
2017: 6 Picks – TE O.J. Howard (1), FS Justin Evans (2), WR Chris Godwin (3), LB Kendell Beckwith (3), RB Jeremy McNichols (5), DT Stevie Tu’ikolovatu (7)
Notes: This is a strong draft class from Licht with Howard having Pro Bowl potential, and Evans, Godwin and Beckwith as starting-caliber players.
In four drafts (not including 2018), Licht has had 26 draft picks and has 11 current starters to show for it, including Marpet, Hargreaves, Benenoch, Howard, Godwin, Beckwith, Justin Evans and Donovan Smith, in addition to three Pro Bowlers in Mike Evans, Winston and Alexander. A total of 14 players remain from Licht’s 26 picks.
A comparison of all three general managers in this exercise shows:
• Roseman with 20 players left from 64 picks, including 11 starters and 5 Pro Bowlers
• Snead with 17 players left from 51 picks, including 10 starters and 3 Pro Bowlers
• Licht with 14 players left from 26 picks, including 11 starters and 3 Pro Bowlers
I had no idea how Licht’s draft success would fare against two of the better drafters in the business in Roseman and Snead, but Licht has actually done just as well with far fewer draft picks, which was quite enlightening. While Licht may have had his off year in 2016 when it comes to drafting, both Roseman (2014) and Snead (2013) have had some awful wipeout drafts, too. If not for finding Kelce in the sixth round, the 2011 draft would have been another wipeout draft for Roseman
No general manager is perfect when it comes to trades, free agency and the draft, but considering the talent the Bucs have acquired with Licht at the helm, his draft classes might shine even brighter as members of the 2015 and 2017 drafts gain more experience and get better as time goes on.
Licht is building a playoff-caliber roster in Tampa Bay, mainly through the draft, which is the way most Super Bowl teams are built. The evidence in this comparison exercise suggests that he should stick around and finish the job.