General manager Jason Licht has been a hot topic since his first draft in 2014. Many fans would have liked to see him fired after the Roberto Aguayo pick, but some think his players have been mismanaged with poor coaching.
Whether you like him or not, Licht has had some big draft hits and some huge misses. We’re going to take a look at all of his drafts to see just how Jason Licht has performed over his five years.
First, we need to get some criteria out of the way. We’re going to separate players into three categories; Hit, miss, or “to be determined”. Obviously the round each player was drafted plays a crucial role. A starter from the 6th round would be a hit, but not necessarily from round one.
Round one a borderline pro-bowler, round two a solid starter, and rounds three/four a decent starter. These are the criteria we will base all of Jason Licht’s picks.
Lastly, I won’t be evaluating the 2019 class, as I think it is unfair to label a player after just one year.
But with that being said, let’s jump right in, starting with the 2014 draft class.
2014 Draft Class
Hits: Mike Evans
Misses: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Charles Sims, Kadeem Edwards, Kevin Pamphile, Robert Herron.
When you look at this class, Mike Evans is the obvious standout. He is a top wide receiver in the league and was Jason Licht’s first draft selection.
Seferian-Jenkins had talent but struggled to stay sober. Charles Sims was a quick and decent third-down back but was really a wide receiver disguised as a running back.
Kevin Pamphile was serviceable for a few years and is actually still playing on the Titans. But besides Mike Evans, this draft class was a bust.
2015 Draft Class
Hits: Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Kwon Alexander
TBD: Jameis Winston
Misses: Kenny Bell, Kaelin Clay, Joey Iosefa
This one was admittedly hard to judge. You can easily put Donovan Smith in the miss category, but he is a serviceable starter.
Jameis Winston was also extremely difficult to place as well. Five years of film should give us enough data to form an opinion, but that’s just the nature of Winston. Year six will tell us a lot about his career moving forward.
The 2015 class wasn’t bad, with three hits, but putting a number one overall selection as “to be determined” will not look good on Licht’s resume.
2016 Draft Class
Misses: Vernon Hargreaves, Noah Spence, Roberto Aguayo, Ryan Smith, Caleb Benenoch, Devante Bond, Danny Vitale
Easily Licht’s worst draft, the 2016 selection of players was a complete dud. Vernon Hargreaves was not equipped to cover the opposing team’s wide receiver one. He was ultimately cut before the 2019 season was complete. Noah Spence was released in the offseason and Roberto Aguayo was a disaster from the start.
Ryan Smith is a solid special teams player, but he doesn’t belong on an NFL defense. Even Devante Bond was released earlier this year. This is as ugly as it gets.
2017 Draft Class
Hits: Chris Godwin
TBD: O.J. Howard, Justin Evans
Misses: Kendell Beckwith, Jeremy McNichols, Stevie Tu’ikolovatu
This class is really frustrating on paper. We all know how much talent O.J. Howard has, and for whatever reason, it didn’t translate to a productive 2019. I think he can be a pro-bowler, his talent just needs to be used effectively
Justin Evans has been serviceable, but his career has been derailed with injuries. I’d like to see if he can bounce back in 2020 before I declare him a miss.
Chris Godwin may have been the find of the draft. He was a clear cut pro-bowler in 2019, helping lead one of the NFL’s best passing offenses.
Kendell Beckwith’s career came to a close after an unfortunate car accident that shattered his ankle three years ago. It’s tough to peg Jason Licht on this one, as Beckwith looked like a solid player in 2017.
Lastly, McNichols flamed out after Hard Knocks cameras glorified his relationship with Snoop Dog, and Stevie T bounced on and off the roster.
2018 Draft Class
Hits: Vita Vea
TBD: Ronald Jones, M.J. Stewart, Carlton Davis, Alex Cappa, Jordan Whitehead, Justin Watson, Jack Cichy
I think this draft class is almost unfair to grade. Most of these players have been in the NFL for two years, so choosing categories is very ambiguous.
Ronald Jones II had a much more productive year in 2019, but is it enough to call him a hit already?
Alex Cappa started to play well through six weeks but injured his arm after week five. The three defensive backs did not look great collectively to start 2019, but they finished the year strong. Still, I think you need at least three seasons to fully evaluate an NFL player.
The only selection I’ll put as a hit is Vita Vea. His power up the middle has wreaked havoc for opposing lines. The only downside is that selecting a nose tackle in the first round will be scrutinized, as this position isn’t typically a huge need. But I don’t think many will complain as the Buccaneers led the league in rushing defense in 2019.
Let’s take a look at the totals
If we go back and look at our earlier criteria, Jason Licht has failed to draft four starters in each draft. In fact, he has barely selected over one starter on average.
Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Ali Marpet are Licht’s biggest hits, these players should be pro-bowlers for years to come. But only three stud players in five drafts isn’t good enough.
Maybe Licht’s draft picks will look better as they adjust to Bruce Arians’ system, but for now, his doubters may be right.