I came across this quote on the interwebs, and it got me thinking. Thinking led me to researching, “…a little over 2 out of every 3 players drafted are a bust – with over half (53%) of all draft picks adding no value to the team that drafted them- and 9 out of 10 have basically undistinguished careers in the NFL, and you get a better idea of what expectations should be…” (see full article here).
What do you think Jason Licht’s draft hit percentage is? Below league average? League average? Above league average? Way below? Way above?
Here is every draft pick Jason Licht has made at the helm of the Buccaneers’ pirate ship:
Licht has overseen five draft classes for the Bucs.
His 2014 class produced Mike Evans and the much-maligned Chuck Sims (who is better and more productive than every backup RB the Bucs have this season). In addition, ASJ looked like a star until he proved his decision-making as a drunk guy at the wheel of a car was poor. Pamphile was signed by the Titans, Edwards by the Cowboys, and Herron washed out of the league quickly.
2014: 1 star, 4 backups, 1 wash out
In 2015 Licht had a great draft, producing immediate starters with his first 4 picks. His last three picks are now out of the league, but Bell and Clay held on briefly. The question marks from this draft are (surprisingly) Jameis Winston, who has not progressed as expected, and Donovan Smith, who still has not missed a start at LT but is dogged each week by fans. Marpet and Kwon are captains and fan favorites; both will sign extensions in Tampa, assuming Kwon heals from his ACL tear as expected.
2015: 2 pro bowlers, 4 starters, 2 temporary NFLers, 1 wash out
Licht’s 2016 class may well be his undoing and seems to be the class fans remember and love to hate the most. Licht made a crafty trade in the first round and a questionable one at the end of the second round.
I want to talk about Robert-oh-no for a moment. We all know what he did not become. I’m not sure many fans thought about why we drafted him when we did. The 2016 Bucs were a team on the rise with serious kicking problems. Aguayo was the most accurate kicker in the history of college football and projected to be a 3rd round pick, which rarely happens with special teamers. Licht tried everything to fix the kicking woes during the 2015-16 season, but nothing worked. With a crafty trade he acquired the capital to take a moderate risk to grab the solution at kicker (the position that scores the most points in football). He pulled the trigger, and then the boo-birds killed the pick before Aguayo ever set foot on the field. They got louder at training camp with a few missed kicks. When Licht drafted Aguayo as early as he did, he doomed him. Aguayo was going to have to be perfect his whole career to be a success in Tampa. As we have seen the last 3-4 seasons, practically no kicker is perfect. Tucker, Gostkowski, and Vinatieri are about it in the league, and maybe that Matt Bryant bum. Hell, some of last year’s best kickers seem to have forgotten how to kick this year! But back to the overall draft class, it’s safe to say this entire class could be out of the league by 2020. That’s awful. As of right now 5 are with the Bucs, and Vitale is on the Browns’ PS.
2016: 5 question marks, 1 PS guy, 1 mentally broken kicker
On to 2017—odd years favor our GM. We let the draft come to us and came away with some excellent players. OJ will be a star as long as he remains healthy. He is a beast of a man at 6’6”, 250+ with 4.5 speed, which many WRs don’t even possess. He is a nightmare of a matchup who still isn’t being used to his full potential in this offense, but that’s for another article. Why can’t we just play jump ball in the red zone?! Justin Evans has flashed, just not since Conte went down. Godwin is a #1, and Beckwith would be starting at MLB right now if not for the car accident. When he returns healthy, he will change the quality of our defense on the field. He is the MIKE we need, size and speed. Kwon is fantastic, but Beckwith is a true MIKE. We need his instincts and stoutness in the middle. McNightmare looked like a great late round value until he proved too stupid to be able to run a football in the NFL. I still struggle to understand how scouts missed so badly on this dude’s lack of brainpower. Maybe they thought he could just run like Forrest Gump. And Stevie T was never likely to produce much, though we all wanted to root for the big guy.
2017: 4 starters, 2 wash outs
Finally, Licht’s most recent draft. Coming into this draft the Bucs had their biggest needs at RB and Safety. There was an unaddressed need for talent at DT to couple with GMC. While we grabbed DTs in FA, we have often seen Licht double dip positions in the draft as well, signing players in FA and then drafting rookies to compete with them or learn from them in the draft. A crafty trade once again put the Bucs in a fantastic position to let the draft come to them. Licht could have grabbed the fan favorite Derwin James here but elected to go with Vea, who looked like a special talent at DT. That hasn’t yet translated due to either lengthy injuries (best case scenario) or poor scouting (worst case scenario).
In the 2nd, Licht chose the prolific Ronald Jones II over Derrius Guice, another fan favorite (with some serious baggage fans wanted to sweep aside). RoJo has looked terrible on all fronts. Again, a very confusing development. DT and RB are two of the positions that assimilate the fastest between the NFL and college ball. Both players were expected to step in and have a significant impact. Both have brought nothing to the table halfway through the season. James has looked great with a very good defense in LA. Guice tore his ACL at camp and has nearly as many yards on the season as RoJo. It’s a clear, giant hope that these players will improve next year, but they are off to starts that have put them in the corner in the fan dog house.
MJ Stewart has played okay. He should be watching and playing ST this season. Davis has the look of a future #1 CB and has done okay after being thrown into the fire due to injuries. Cappa is a project at a position of dire need at the moment, given how poorly Benenoch has played. Cappa is not yet at Benenoch’s level. Whitehead should also be watching/rotating but is starting due to injury. Cichy and Watson won’t crack the starter level due to massive talent in front of them.
2018: 8 picks, 8 guys made the team, which is damn good except the quality of play hasn’t yet arrived.
5 years: 34 picks, 22 Bucs starters or backups, 3 guys playing elsewhere in the NFL, 9 wash-outs. Compared to league average Licht is hitting a homerun! He is at a 67% success rating in drafting NFL talent. The league average of success is equal to his misses. He may not always retain this lofty success rate, but he is twice as good as the average GM when it comes to drafting NFL talent. And this does not account for his finds in UDFA. Guys like Hump, Brate, Auclair, and Cross are the glue that helps the Bucs compete each week.