Monday, April 27, 2009

The Bucs Draft and What I Would Have Done Differently

The Bucs went into the draft with 8 picks and left with:
1 – Josh Freeman (QB, Kansas State)
3 – Roy Miller (DT, Texas)
4 – Kyle Moore (DE, USC)
5 – Xavier Fulton (T, Illinois)
7 – EJ Biggers (CB, Western Michigan)
7 – Sammie Stroughter (WR, Oregon State)

That’s a pretty unimpressive performance IMO, and the majority of it is directed at the first round pick. That, sadly, set the tone for the rest of the draft and prohibited the Bucs from better addressing actual areas of need. I think draft grades are pointless this early and are pretty irrelevant until we’re 2 or 3 years down the line. So while I’ll abstain from giving it a grade, I’ll provide comments/thoughts on how the Bucs “attacked” the draft.

1 – Josh Freeman, QB (Kansas State)

I didn’t see it as a position of need. The Bucs sell both Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich on the fact that they’ll get to compete for the starting job. That’s got to be the #1 or #2 reason each of them decided to sign with the Bucs. You do this while knowing full well that Josh Freeman was going to be the draft pick if available. No, they couldn’t guarantee that Freeman would be there at #19 when negotiating with McCown or Leftwich (maybe), but it still comes off a bit shady. Think McCown and Leftwich are having second thoughts now? Think Freeman isn’t going to get every chance humanly possible to be the starting QB ASAP? Think Gruden and Allen wouldn’t have been vilified for that?

Throw in the fact that the rookie made veteran Leftwich look like a chump when he came out and publicly said that the Bucs told him Leftwich was a smokescreen to throw teams off the Bucs/Freeman. How would that have been received if done by Gruden/Allen? I’m not liking what I’m seeing early on from this new regime? Not much consensus building it appears if you ask me.

At #19 or #17 (rolls eyes), you pass on two guys:
1) Jeremy Maclin – I wasn’t big on going WR in round one, but I never fathomed that Maclin would be there. He’s exactly what the Bucs need at receiver (quick, explosive, straight line speed, versatile, great teammate). Makes no sense.
2) Michael Oher – A top tier tackle falls to them at #17/#19, and they pass. Donald Penn wasn’t happy about his one year tender as a RFA and could be gone next year. Depending on how the CBA works out, Trueblood could be a free agent as well. Oher would have been great in the new ZBS the Bucs are implementing.

They also befuddlingly trade away a 6th in the process. I know that the draft is watered down and a 6th isn’t terribly valuable, but what was the purpose of doing that? There was no chance Denver was going to take him. They wanted Robert Ayers all along it turns out; a versatile defensive player for their new scheme.

The most emphatic thing I can say? Josh Freeman would not have been the pick if Raheem Morris wasn’t the head coach of this football team. How sad is that?

The rest of the picks?

3 – Roy Miller (DT, Texas)
I like Roy Miller; had him going to the Bucs in round 5. He’s experienced and productive; the anchor that Bates prefers. He has very good upper body strength, and while he may not be much of a sack artist in the NFL, he can push the pocket and cause disruption in the backfield.

Summary – Miller probably doesn’t have much upside, but he will be a fine rotational player up front with Chris Hovan, Ryan Sims, Greg Peterson, and Dre Moore as the Bucs transition to a beefier interior.

4 – Kyle Moore (DE, USC)
Although Kyle led USC in sacks in ’08, IMO he’s not explosive enough to be a big pass rushing threat in the NFL. He’s very strong against the run and uses his hands well in shielding linemen and making tackles. He’s a strong side end who allows the Bucs to keep Gaines Adams on the weak side and will probably compete with Jimmy Wilkerson for playing time.

Summary – He’s an “eh” kind of pick. Nothing flashy; should support the run well. I would have preferred a pass rusher earlier.

5 – Xavier Fulton (T, Illinois)
I like this pick too. I had him as my initial 3rd option to the Bucs in round 4 and moved him up to second as they headed into day 2. He’s very athletic and has nice balance and footwork. He’s also raw with lots of potential. I really like him in a ZBS.

Summary – He’s good depth and a promising project at tackle. Penn was a RFA this offseason, and Trueblood could leave at the end of the year depending how the CBA works out. Great value and addresses a need.

7 – EJ Biggers (CB, Western Michigan)
I don’t know much about the guy other than the Bucs really liked him and that he has great timed speed (4.3 something). He has good size (5-11, 180) and decent (2 years) experience.

Summary – Raheem Morris is a DB guy, so I’ll trust his evaluation. I would have preferred Mike Mickens here and think Biggers could have been picked up as a free agent. Corner was in bad shape going into the draft, and I don’t think they helped themselves enough there. If it works out, great, but it’s pretty tough to rely on a 7th round pick and an undrafted free agent (Elbert Mack) to be key contributors this early in their careers.

7 – Sammie Stroughter (WR, Oregon State)
He’s explosive of the line and out of his breaks while exhibiting elusiveness in tight spots. Stroughter possesses good hands and is an experienced return man. He did only play 2 years at receiver for Oregon State, but they were 2 productive years. He’s more quick than fast and doesn’t have great straight line speed.

Summary – He’ll likely be in a fight with Dexter Jackson to make the roster as a slot guy. If they weren’t going to take a burner early on, I would have preferred Jarrett Dillard who went to the Jags in the 5th.

Bottom Line:
I don’t think it’s a necessarily awful draft. If you remove the Josh Freeman pick and the giveaway of 6th and 7th round picks, I like it for the most part. I would have taken a different approach at DE and got what I feel is better value for the 4th round selection. I also would have acted swifter and, I believe, more prudently in addressing CB. I had high hopes for this draft but in the end, I come away underwhelmed.

I really hope I’m wrong about Freeman and he becomes the franchise player the Bucs have never had, but I don’t feel terribly encouraged at this point. The player has a lot of work to do before he’s NFL ready, and waiting for him to do so not only took away resources that could have been better used elsewhere. It also makes it pretty clear that the Bucs don’t expect to be competitive in the short term. That will surely sell season tickets. A puzzling, slow footed approach to rebuilding a fragile franchise.

What Would I Have Done Differently?

Well for starters I wouldn’t have traded away the 6th rounder to move ahead of Denver for no reason. I also wouldn’t have traded away one of the 7th’s to move up 3 spots for Kyle Moore. Here’s how I would have used the picks with the players on the board in those spots:

Round 1 (#19)
Jeremy Maclin, WR (Missouri) – They sit tight and have one of the top playmakers in the draft fall to them at #19. They get a guy who is explosive, versatile, makes plays all over the field, and is a great teammate. He needs to improve his routes a bit, but Maclin is exactly what this Buc offense is lacking. Denver wouldn’t have taken him with Marshall and Royal locked in already and especially after just drafting Knowshon Moreno. Ayers was their guy. Also, Cleveland was targeting Alex Mack the whole time with their trade downs.

Round 3 (#81)
Roy Miller, DT (Texas) – I thought it was a little early for him, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s make him the pick here.

Round 4 (#120)
Lawrence Sidbury, DE (Richmond)
Here’s a guy I’m not terribly high on, but he’s a late day one / early day two talent who fell to pick #125. Now we get to see him twice a year with the Falcons. He’s not terribly big (6-2, 266), but you’re not paying premium money to him either in this spot. Sidbury is an athletic guy with long arms that gets to the passer. He’s explosive off the line and pursues well. He does need a bit of coaching to develop his skills, but there’s a lot of potential here as a pass rusher. I don’t think he’ll be much of a run supporter in the NFL (the main reason I shied away), and while I realize the Bucs feel the need to keep Gaines Adams tucked away on the weak side, a pass rusher with Sidbury’s upside is hard to pass on in round 4. A strong side end can be acquired elsewhere.

DJ Moore, the corner from Vandy was tough to pass up here. I have no idea why a firm round 2 guy fell this far. I know he’s a bit short (5-9), but he’s not lean. He was a four year starter with tremendous football instincts and field awareness. He doesn’t have great straight line speed, but he’s a guy with good tape.

Round 5 (#155)
Xavier Fulton, T (Illinois)
No change.

Round 6 (#121)
Coye Francies, CB (San Jose State)
Francies is a guy with a round 2/3 grade who tumbled all the way to round 6. Great size at 5-10, 185 with the frame to get bigger. He’s athletic and aggressive with really good straight line speed and hips. Francies also pulled off 4.59 and 4.65 forties while recovering from a sprained ankle. He’s another guy with superb field awareness and the marbles to lat a hat on someone in the run game. He’s an absolute steal here.

He’s the guy that went in this actual draft spot, but too bad we gave away the pick to the Browns.
That Josh Freeman pick is making me happier all the time .

Round 7 (#217)
Mike Mickens, CB (Cincinnati)
We emerge from the draft with two corners who were projected as early day 2 picks. Mickens doesn’t have elite straight line speed, but he did run a 4.53 forty at his pro day while recovering from torn cartilage in his left knee. He was very productive during his time at Cincinnati and is a tough cover man. He’s physical with receivers and in the run game, and while he lacks elite straight line speed, he has the quick feet and awareness to put himself in position to make plays. Mickens was projected as a first rounder prior to the season. What a steal.

Round 7 (#229)
Zach Follett, LB (California)
Here you get a really tough hitter from the LB position. He’s probably a SLB at the next level who would have provided spirited competition in the preseason and ended up a likely practice squad addition. Follett needs to be more consistent in his technique and approach, but he’s an explosive tackler. He gets into the backfield well, which is something Jim Bates will ask his linebackers to do.

Round 7 (#233)
Rashad Jennings, RB (Liberty)
I’m astounded he fell to the Jags at #250. I know I’ve been all over him this offseason, but he has no business going as late as he did. Apparently there were some questions about whether or not he’d be tough enough as an inside runner. I guess I was watching different film. He has a solid build (6-1, 231) and ran impressive 4.39 and 4.47 forties at his pro day. He also topped both Chris Wells and Knowshon Moreno on the bench (29 to 25) at the combine. The cone and shuttle drills allowed Jennings to display his ability to change directions quickly and move well laterally. He’s a big, physical runner with a strong upper body. He has experience playing in various offensive sets and schemes and displays good vision and footwork in the holes. He has a sharp cutback that would be valuable in the Bucs’ new ZBS. Jennings also uses a strong stiff arm, is a reliable receiver out of the backfield, and doesn’t shy away from contact. He runs a bit upright and got dinged for his level of competition. Grabbing him this late would have made me feel a lot better about the underwhelming draft the Bucs put together.

Free agents:
EJ Biggers (CB, W. Michigan) – Raheem still gets another guy he wants. I have a hard time believing he would have been picked by anyone else.
Everette Pedescleaux (DE/DT, N. Iowa)
Chris Baker (T, Hampton)
Quan Cosby (WR, Texas)
Kory Sheets (RB, Purdue)
Devin Moore (RB, Wyoming)
Jason Watkins (T, Florida)
Joel Bell (T, Furman)
Darius Passmore (WR, Marshall)
Mitch King (DL, Iowa)
Darry Beckwith (LB, LSU)
Domonique Johnson (CB, Tennessee State)
Derek Pegues (S, Mississippi State)

In summary:
1) Jeremy Maclin, WR (Missouri)
3) Roy Miller, DT (Texas)
4) Lawrence Sidbury, DE (Richmond)
5) Xavier Fulton, T (Illinois)
6) Coye Francies, CB (San Jose State)
7) Mike Mickens, CB (Cincinnati)
7) Zach Follett, LB (California)
7) Rashad Jennings, RB (Liberty)

In the end, I keep two of the Bucs’ draft picks that were needlessly traded away (yeah, I know they were late picks, but still), and I take a non-Kansas State biased approach to the draft. Here they get a desperately needed dynamic playmaker for Luke McCown, Byron Leftwich, or even Josh Johnson (eventually, oops not anymore) to go to in the passing game, a stout run defender who will play well in a rotation, a promising pass rusher with big upside, a nice developmental tackle, two extremely great values at corner, an intense linebacker, and another quality RB to go with Earnest Graham and Derrick Ward.

This team isn’t going to contend for a title anytime soon, and I believe more of a “best player available” approach should have been taken. This would give them a lot of players with big upside who could all (for the most part) come in and contribute right away.

Again, if Raheem Morris wasn’t the head coach of this football team, Josh Freeman absolutely would not have been the selection. Funny how a lot of fans bemoaned the illusion that Jon Gruden called all the shots in the Bucs war room. Well, it’s obvious with this new regime how the collective thought process works. Disappointingly to say the least.

That said, chin up, and Go Bucs!


  1. This FO needs to stop wetting their pants so often! Winslow trade went down way too soon and the two draft picks ???

  2. To me it comes across as too narrow minded and lacking of a true plan. They don't pay me for my opinions, but spending the #1, #2, and #6 picks on a 5th QB with a ton of questions and a TE with shoddy knees doesn't seem to be the best allocation of limited resources.

  3. This is a line from an email I wrote Cameron while I was stewing over the weekend, after having finally finished vomiting in my own mouth: 'Raheem Morris should call up Steve Spurrier and ask him how well it went for him in Washington when he brought in Wurfell and Matthews because he had a 'relationship' with them when he coached college ball.'

    I was the caller in front of you today. The one that was pissed the Bucs didn't have the acumen to understand they were bidding against themselves for the services of The Bust. SOME BRAINTRUST.


  4. Thanks for checking us out. That's a pretty good comparison. My problem is that it appears as if there's only one voice coming out of that war room. I have a hard time seeing how drafting a huge project in Freeman, when you’re supposedly finally giving McCown his chance to be a starter, is an intelligent move. You bring in a class act in Leftwich and make him look like a clown. They’re not getting off to a good start. I wish the best for the Freeman kid. It’s nothing personal, but he hasn’t shown anyone anything to make them think he’s a leader. Sure he’s big and has a strong arm. He also has poor pocket presence, couldn’t elevate the talent around him in a horribly offensive friendly conference, threw 34 interceptions in 3 seasons, and had a hard time impressing anyone at the combine, a place where he was expected to look good for a change. Can he process the action fast enough at the next level to make decisions?

    Whether he does or not, that’s far too many questions for a guy you spend the 17th pick in the draft on. My problem is the mentality of this regime. To me, if they really had to have him, trade back and get him. Cleveland showed that you can inch down the board a bit. This draft was set up perfect to do that. Would have been nice to recoup that Winslow pick. No, what did they do? They traded away a 6th to move up and draft the guy that neither the Browns or Broncos wanted. Who else wanted him? Minnesota wanted Harvin from the outset. Would the Bills have taken him at #28? The Rams at #35? Seattle at #49? What was the urgency to move up and take the guy? They look foolish. We seem to have been the only team in the draft that was 100% stuck on one player months leading up to the draft. It’s sad.

  5. Anonymous, excellent and scaring point with the Spurrier and Gator QB analogy. I hope(but I'm not real confident) that this isn't the case but the extreme "fixation" by Raheem worries me. The fact they traded up shows just how they had to have him "hell or high-water", which reflects poorly on Raheem's decision making regarding evaluating talent at the top of the draft.(Though he has shown the ability to develop lower round talent, I still think he eventually gets run out of town if he is so cavarly in his future 1st round picks.) And it also reflects poorly on Dominik and Hickey's abilities if they weren't able to add an counter balance and were caught up in "group think".

    One thing for sure though is has definitely bet the farm on Freeman making the pro-leap. But if things go badly, Raheem may end up hitting the bricks sooner than Freeman and possibly missing Freeman fully develop. Its not a bet I would be willing to take but I guess the shows just how much brass Raheem brings to the job.