With the 2018 season behinds us, let’s see how the draft class for the Bucs did.
Vita Vea – Defensive Tackle – Round 1
Selected 12th overall, the first rounder missed three games of the 2018 season. The Washington standout performed lower than expected given his draft status with three sacks, 28 tackles, four tackles for loss and four quarterback hits.
Vea’s 6’4” and 347 pounds didn’t help with the 27th ranked defense, but the team did finish tied for 19th in the league in sacks with 38 as the unit slowly climbed out of the cellar. Vea will be far more important in defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ aggressive scheme, resuming his role in the 4-3 (presumably) beside Gerald McCoy. He will be the nose tackle in the 3-4 to clog up the middle.
Grade – C
Ronald Jones II – Running Back – Round 2
As the 38th overall selection, the product of USC was a disappointment all around. Jones finished with 44 yards rushing in 23 carries and one touchdown through nine games, averaging a miserable 1.9 yards a carry. Despite finishing fifth on the team in total rushing yards, Shaun Wilson had far better production in his five carries for 29 yards, averaging 4.8 yards a carry. Also ahead of Jones were quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick, running backs’ starter Peyton Barber, and backup Jacquizz Rogers.
The team did finish third best in the league in offense but a sorry 29th in rushing with 1,523 yards for the season. The poor running game contributed to their 12th standing in points scored, averaging 24.8 points a game.
Given Jones’ draft standing, he’s proven to be a worse draft bust for Jason Licht than kicker Roberto Aguayo so far. That’s saying a lot. Since Jones is still under contract, we can hope offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and running backs coach Todd McNair can make his 2018 an anomaly.
Grade – F
M.J. Stewart – Cornerback – Round 2
Selected 53rd overall, the corner from UNC played in 11 games and started in five under a depleted defense. He was tested early and often with three passes defended, 33 tackles, two tackles for losses and two QB hits. His lack of productivity is not without context, the team’s struggle for a competent pass rush playing the biggest role in the Bucs’ 26th finish in passing defense and contributing to their 27th ranking in overall defense.
If Stewart was taken in a later round, I would give him a C.
Grade – D
Carlton Davis – Cornerback – Round 2
Selected 63rd overall, much of the commentary about Stewart also applies to Davis. Starting in 12 of the 13 games he played in, Davis has better stats with four passes defensed, 40 tackles, one tackle for loss, one fumble force and one recovery.
Grade – C
Alex Cappa – Offensive Tackle – Round 3
Selected 94th overall, the Bucs were hoping to get similar success with Alex Cappa as they did with Ali Marpet coming from a smaller school. The former Humboldt State product stands at 6’6” and 305 pounds, having played in six games. He was the primary backup for starting right guard Caleb Benenoch. The offensive line surrendered 41 sacks, tying for 14th in the league. If the rushing was better, he would have a higher ranking.
Grade – C
Jordan Whitehead – Safety – Round 4
Selected 117th overall, the former Pittsburgh player started in 11 of the 15 games. Rushed to start due to injury to starter Chris Conte, Whitehead did about as expected at his draft position with four passes, 76 tackles, and four tackles for loss.
He should see an increased and more productive 2019.
Grade – C
Justin Watson – Wide Receiver – Round 5
Selected 144th overall, the Pennsylvania receiver played in 12 games but only caught one out of the three times he was thrown to. It’s clear he’s not getting open or making more of his opportunities.
Grade – F
Jack Cichy – Linebacker – Round 6
Selected 202nd overall, the Wisconsin linebacker only appeared in six games before an injury sidelined him the rest of the season. He’s had 4 tackles in his brief time. He’ll be the only player of this draft I will refrain from grading.
Grade – NA
Conclusion: Jason Licht drafted more projects that haven’t panned out or made meager impact on the team. The best players of the draft progressed as expected. Otherwise the 2018 draft was a bust.