When Buccaneer GM Jason Licht rolled the dice at #7 in the 2014 NFL draft, he came up a big winner with a 13, as in #13 WR Mike Evans. Each April 32 teams get a shot at the NFL crapshoot that is the draft. But unlike a dice table in a casino, the results of this game of chance can take years to determine the results. General managers. Personnel departments, scouts, NFL draft analysts have all been right, and have all been wrong. These talented athletes are on average, pretty good bets but it can be as simple as did the right team have the right roll at the right time?
First and foremost, you can clamor all you want about how you just knew Khalil Mack out of University of Buffalo was going to be a beast. I have a great friend, Anthony Mancuso, who is a huge Buffalo Bills fan. It’s a little perplexing as his father, Dan Mancuso, played fullback for the Pittsburgh Steelers back in the 70’s. One would think there would be some “Rooney Rule” of the house that requires all offspring to root for black and gold. But that’s not why I mention it.
I told Anthony that the Bills, who picked at #4 in 2014, had to be looking at keeping the University of Buffalo beast in the Buffalo area and building a defense around him. He hadn’t been following Mack as I had but wasn’t in disagreement. The Bills ended up drafting Sammy Watkins out of Clemson at #4, a speedy receiver who battled injuries, showed flashes of brilliance, and made his way from the Buffalo to the Rams.
Another notable draft pick from that 2014 draft is Blake Bortles at #3 by Jacksonville Jaguars out of UCF. The NY Giants drafted Odell Beckham at #12 from LSU, and the St. Louis Rams drafted Aaron Donald at #13 from Pittsburgh. Another solid pick was at #16. The Dallas Cowboys found a gem in offensive tackle Zack Martin.
The #1 overall pick in 2014, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, found himself franchised in Texas by a Texans team that is looking to move the pro bowl defensive lineman, probably to free up space to sign quarterback DeShaun Watson to a long-term deal.
The NFL draft is subject to speculation, debate, and criticism as we look back at players who were missed. Players that should have been missed. Then, just to add insult to injury, some free agents become strong starters that every team passed on for seven rounds. It really makes for great entertainment, even if it takes 3-5 years to be able to look back and determine who won each draft definitively.
Having just exercised the fifth year option on their #1 overall 2015 draft pick Jameis Winston, the jury is still out on if this pick will become Buccaneer lore. Early indications are positive. 2016’s Vernon Hargreaves, 2017’s OJ Howard, and last year’s “Monster in the Middle” Vita Vea are all trending up as far as solid picks who will help this team succeed.
For now, Buccaneer General Manager Jason Licht and his first round selection WR Mike Evans are a solid part of the team’s success. Let’s all speculate, make our opinions known, and remember that when Jason Licht tells the team to submit that draft card on April 25th, he will have shaken the NFL tree of talent and hopefully found talent that is ready to be harvested into red and pewter. Because, as we know, the draft can be a crap shoot.