Over the past two years, the Buccaneers have found a plethora of day-one starters through the NFL Draft. In 2015, the team’s first four picks – Jameis Winston, Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet and Kwon Alexander – were all starters for opening day. The Bucs’ 2016 class was also impactful, with the team’s first-round pick, Vernon Hargreaves, starting all 16 games.
In addition, Noah Spence, a second-round pick in 2016, recorded 5.5 sacks as a situational pass-rusher. For their efforts, NFL.com’s Gil Brandt named Hargreaves and Spence to his All-Rookie team. Hargreaves was also selected to the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie team.
This week, NFL.com has taken on the task of grading every team’s draft class, giving the Buccaneers’ class a B.
“The Buccaneers' three-win jump in 2016 (to 9-7) was fueled by a defense that gradually improved with young defenders in key spots,” NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks wrote. “Noah Spence quietly enjoyed a strong rookie campaign as a designated edge rusher. He finished the season with 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles as a rotational player. Spence could blossom into a double-digit sack guy if he masters the nuances of pass rushing in his second year. Vernon Hargreaves played well on the island opposite Brent Grimes. He flashed outstanding footwork, movement skills and instincts occupying the CB2 spot on the perimeter.”
In addition to Hargreaves and Spence, the Buccaneers secured their starting kicker in the second round, snagged a key special teams contributor in the fourth and added depth to their offensive line in the fifth.
But the production from the Bucs’ rookies expanded far beyond the draft. Undrafted free agents Peyton Barber, Alan Cross and DaVonte Lambert all saw significant playing time, with all three playing in at least 11 games.
For NFL.com’s full analysis, click HERE.