Random thoughts on the Bucs and the NFL

Last week I posited that it makes sense to build a team from the lines out, and on the offensive side of the ball, a tackle might make sense. As all Bucs fans know, Tampa Bay has traditionally built its team from the defensive line out, going all the way back to 1976 when Ron Wolf made Lee Roy Selmon the very first draft pick in Tampa Bay Buccaneer history. But, what are the historical odds of success in drafting defensive ends and tackles in the top ten picks of the draft? This week, we’ll check out the tackles. Below is a listing of defensive tackles drafted in the top ten overall from 1991 – 2004:

a. 1991 Russell Maryland, 1st
b. 1992 Steve Emtman, 1st
c. 1992 Sean Gilbert, 3rd
d. 1994 Dan Wilkinson, 1st
e. 1994 Bryant Young, 7th
f. 1994 Sam Adams, 8th
g. 1997 Darrell Russell, 2nd
h. 2000 Corey Simon, 6th
i. 2001 Gerard Warren, 3rd
j. 2001 Richard Seymour, 6th
k. 2002 Ryan Simms, 6th
l. 2002 John Henderson, 9th
m. 2003 DeWayne Robertson, 4th
n. 2003 Johnathan Sullivan, 6th

This is a much scarier list than I would have thought before diving in. Emtman, Russell, Warren, Simms and Sullivan have to be considered busts by almost any yardstick. Gilbert had a decent career until he signed a big deal. The jury is still out on Robertson.  Out of the 14 picks, only Maryland, Seymour, Henderson, Simon and perhaps Adams would really qualify as difference makers.  Five out of 14 is just 36 percent. So, it would appear the odds of a total bust vs getting a difference maker are about the same (call it one in three) if you draft a defensive tackle in the top ten.

Interestingly, I found this (incomplete) list of picks for defensive tackles taken after pick number 10 in the first round from 1991-2004:

a. Tommie Harris
b. Vince Wilfork
c. Ty Warren
d. Marcus Stroud
e. Casey Hampton
f. Chris Hovan
g. Daryl Gardener
h. Warren Sapp
i. Tim Bowens
j. Dana Stubblefield
k. Chester McGlockton
l. Ted Washington

I’ll throw in that Kris Jenkins and Shaun Rogers were second rounders for good measure. Now, this comparison certainly isn’t scientific. There were “strong” years for defensive tackles when certain players were pushed down, and there were “weaker” years for defensive tackles when the top name on the board was beyond the 10th pick.  There are also special situations, like Warren Sapp and his alleged drug use at Miami, which caused him to drop from a consensus top three pick to number 12 where the Buccaneers snapped him up. However, what strikes me is that the list of difference-makers above numbers 14. Without reading too much into it, I’d say a team doesn’t necessarily need to get the hottest defensive tackle name to wind up with a great player from a draft.

4) Practically, what does this mean for the Bucs? To me it means I certainly don’t reach for an Alan Branch or Quinn Pitcock or Amobi Okoye in the first round. Antonio Johnson of Mississippi State or Kareem Brown from Miami might provide the same or better value a bit later on. Next week we’ll check out defensive ends, but for right now Joe Thomas still looks good to me in the first round.

From the I’m glad I have a day job department:  The Patriots didn’t lose the AFC Championship Game as much as the Colts won it. What a game! Hats off to coach Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning. They didn’t choke when it mattered.  The Patriots led 21-6 at the half, and New England had been 15-0 all-time in the playoffs when leading at halftime.

6) Turning point? At one stage over the second and third quarters, the Colts had the ball for 29 of 30 offensive snaps and 37 of 42 snaps. Essentially, the Patriots’ beleaguered defense was on the field for the equivalent of an entire quarter.  They were fried after that.

Thanks for making me look like an idiot for praising you last week, Reche Caldwell.

Want to compare NFL dynasties? Well, you can’t really compare the New England Patriots to any other team, because they are the only team that has created what can be called a dynasty in the era of free agency. Know how many starters are left from New England’s first SuperBowl winning team after the 2001 season?  Five. Tom Brady, left tackle Matt Light, linebackers Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi, and defensive end Richard Seymour.

Some get tired of talking about the Patriots, but what they have accomplished is something that is supposed to be impossible in the salary cap era: sustained excellence. Don’t believe me? Then take the word of Gil Brandt, who spent 30 years as vice president of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys, “What this (Patriot) team has done,” said Brandt, “is the most unbelievable accomplishment in the history of football.”

This is what we need to do people:  copy the Patriot blueprint. They compete for the Championship every season.  Next season?  They have $30mm in cap room and two first round draft picks. I know who my early favorite is in the AFC.

Did you know that old friend Tony Dungy is tied with Chuck Noll for second all-time with eight consecutive playoff seasons? Tom Landry heads the list with nine. With Peyton Manning at just 30 years old, I am guessing that record will be Dungy’s by a mile if he wants it.

No idea if Larry Coyer is going to make a great defensive line coach.  I do know that if I had my choice of former defensive coordinators to come coach with the Bucs I would have taken Mike Zimmer in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, he got a better gig becoming the defensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons. Zimmer is a great one-gap coach, and would have made a fine successor to Kiffin in time. However, with Mont Kiffin at just 66 and people living (and coaching) forever these days, it wouldn’t surprise me if he coaches another five seasons.

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