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Read and React: Week of May 5

Posted May 9, 2014

Continuing our weekly survey of, and reaction to, articles regarding the Bucs…This week that can mean only one thing, the NFL Draft, in which the team made a pick that has drawn a favorable reaction


STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lovie Smith's comments about Mike Glennon on Thursday night sparked a new debate about the Bucs' draft intentions
  • The Bucs pick six spots into Round Two on Friday night and the cupboard is still bursting with top prospects
  • Identifying the draft grader who may have the most solid take on Thursday's first round
The NFL generates a massive amount of online media coverage, a share of which is devoted to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Even the most avid Buccaneer fans might not catch everything that's out there.

That is why I will be taking a weekly look around the web to gather some of the analysis you might have missed.  I'll also provide my own take on those articles; I will "read and react," if you will.

The pieces that caught my attention this week…well, duh.  The collective reaction to the first round of the NFL Draft in general and the Buccaneers' selection of Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans specifically.  There was no shortage of articles from which to choose; if the world wide web's sports sites comprised a lake and I was standing on a fishing boat in the middle of it, I could cast a line in any direction and hook a draft review.  You could easily spend all day on Friday reading about the "winners and losers" from Round One, though you would probably want to wrap it up by 7:00 p.m. so you could watch Rounds Two and Three unfold.

On the other hand, there's not a wide variety of opinions when it comes to the Buccaneers' selection of Evans.  There isn't too much to elicit a reaction from me beyond, "Well, thank you!" and "Isn't that nice?"  Here, for instance, is SI.com's Chris Burke giving the Bucs an A- for the pick (the minus was because there were, in Burke's opinion, "at least two" potential franchise quarterbacks the Bucs could have taken, but you have to believe Tampa Bay management was not in strict agreement).  And here is a thumbs-up on the pick by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas.  I'm almost feeling slighted by this B+ from CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco, but SportsonEarth.com's Mike Tanier loved it, the locals loved it (a lot) and – thanks to Twitter – we even know that Evans' new teammates and fans loved it.  Rotoworld's Adam Levitan even loves it from a fantasy perspective, believing Evans will be the most impactful rookie in 2014.

If you want a more thorough round-up of all the Bucs' first-night draft grades, Bucsnation took care of that for us.  It's mostly As, a couple Bs and one, um, good-job sticker.  That's nice.

So let's fish a little deeper and try to come up with some different takes beyond grades and thumbs up or down, and possibly dealing with other teams such as the Bucs' NFC South foes. Keep in mind, the opinions stated below are my own and don't necessarily reflect Buccaneers management, coaches or ownership.

1. NFL draft day 1 winners and losers: Sam Bradford still the man in St. Louis, Frank Schwab, Yahoo Sports

I chose this one because there's a Buccaneer mention in his winners category, but maybe more so to comment on the entry right after that one.

Schwab tabbed Mike Glennon as one of his "winners" on Thursday because the Buccaneers did not draft Johnny Manziel or any other quarterback in Round One, but even more because of the rather direct comments Head Coach Lovie Smith made in his press conference.  I noted those comments last night on Twitter.


As Schwab notes, attributing ESPN.com, the third sentence of that quote is, "So why would you want to add a third quarterback to the mix?"  The author takes the statements at face value, believing that Glennon got a true vote of confidence and that he not only can look ahead to a day when he's back as the Bucs' starter but also one in which he's throwing to the incredibly-talented Mike Evans.

Of course, not everyone is reading it the same way, some gently wondering (and some not so gently) if Smith was engaging in some second-level effort to put up a – I apologize in advance if you've grown weary of this word – smokescreen.  The thought is that the Bucs couldn't pass on Evans, even if it meant skipping Manziel, but that the team might still be targeting a quarterback in the second round.  In that scenario, Smith makes his comments specifically to make opposing teams feel the opposite so that they are not tempted to leap ahead of the Bucs at #38 on Friday night and take their targeted passer.

Okay, yeah, I suppose that's possible.  NFL.com's Marc Sessler even thinks the Bucs will trade up to get their targeted quarterback (Derek Carr).  I doubt it though.  I'm going out on a limb here, because I could be proven wrong in a matter of hours, but my guess is that Schwab is right and Smith was saying what he meant.  The Buccaneers did their due diligence on the quarterbacks before the draft, chose to go in another direction but didn't mind that those efforts clouded their intentions at #7.  Giving Mike Glennon that vote of confidence before Thursday night would have removed those clouds too soon.  Now, saying those words late Thursday night is a different and much more aggressive approach if you're trying to obfuscate the issue, and I just don't get the impression that's what Smith was trying to do.  If I'm proven wrong, then next year I'll have to remember to be less naïve.

Now, as for the other "winner" of note in Schwab's column, let me say this: My least favorite pick of the entire night on Thursday was Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks.

I'm not ripping Cooks; quite the opposite.  I cringed at that pick because I hate the fact that Cooks is now another weapon in Drew Brees' arsenal.  Darren Sproles is gone; good!  Lance Moore is gone; good!  There's no telling how the Jimmy Graham contentiousness is going to work out in the long run; potentially good!  Anything that takes any sting out of the Saints' offense is fine by me.

But now the Saints get Cooks, and it was the one pick last night that I particularly disliked from the standpoint of what it meant for the Buccaneers.  Okay, there were 32 players who would be drafted on Thursday, and only one of them could be a Buccaneer (barring trades).  There was no doubt that some very good prospects – and some future Pro Bowlers – would end up on other teams.  But if somebody had to get Jadeveon Clowney, who could become the most terrifying pass-rusher in the NFL, it might as well be Houston, a team the Bucs rarely see.  Khalil Mack went to Oakland, a team the Bucs will face once every four years.  The Buffalo Bills traded up for Sammy Watkins, who could be a game-changer but he won't change many Tampa Bay games.

As for the Bucs' division foes, Atlanta probably helped themselves immensely with the pick of Jake Matthews, but as much as you can appreciate that on an intellectual level it's not a move that immediately inspires fear.  The Panthers had to wait until pick #28 and thus didn't get a shot at Watkins, Evans, Cooks or Odell Beckham.  They went with Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin at their position of greatest need.  For all I know, Carolina had Benjamin rated higher than one or more of those wideouts who went before them, but most draft analysts considered the Seminole a bit of a project.  There's enough of a cautionary note there that Buccaneer fans (as long as they're not also FSU fans) can at least hope that the Panthers won't be satisfied with the pick in the long run.

And, of course, Cooks could end up being a miss for the Saints, too.  But I personally doubt it, and I think the Saints were right to trade up seven spots to get him.  Cooks is lightning fast, quick as a water bug and adept at turning short passes into long gains.  That was a Darren Sproles staple in the Saints offense, but Sproles is now with the Eagles.  Cooks is a receiver, not a running back like Sproles, but they both weigh about 190 pounds and Cooks is just a few inches taller.  I have no doubt that Sean Payton can find a way to use Cooks' talents in some of the ways he used to use Sproles.  NFL.com's Chris Wesserling was thinking along the same lines last night.  And that's a bummer, quite frankly.

It's a good thing the Buccaneers' defense has the look of a vastly improved crew in 2014.

2. 2014 NFL Mock Draft: Round 2, Don Banks, SI.com

Here's one way to get away from instant draft grades (which are probably even less meaningful than mock draft predictions): Start mocking it up again!  Some analysts put out pre-draft mocks that go two, three or even seven round deeps (the last of which is just a waste of time, IMO).  Of course, those predictions are decimated about an hour into Thursday night's Round One.  But this is better – wait until that first round is over, cross 32 names off your board, apply what you've learned about teams' intentions and remaining needs, and come up with a whole new mock for Round Two.

We'll choose Banks' version because he starts by gamely reviewing his own Round One success, and also because the ESPN.com version is behind the Insider subscription wall.

My first impression as I start down the list: Wow, now we're really seeing what everyone meant when they said this was an incredibly deep draft.  Here, let me take 10 seconds to throw out an off-the-cuff list of six players I think could help the Buccaneers significantly: G Xavier Su'a-Filo, T/G Joel Bitonio, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, WR Bruce Ellington, DE Kony Ealy, LB Kyle Van Noy.

Why six?  That's how far into the round the Buccaneers are scheduled to pick on Friday night, so they are 100% guaranteed to have a shot to get at least one of those six.  Chances are, in fact, that four or five of them will still be on the board.  Part of the reason for that, of course, is that the above list is my list, and it doesn't necessarily match what's left at the top of the Bucs' board.  Maybe they want a guard but like Gabe Jackson or David Yankey better.  Maybe they think it's a good idea to get some DT depth and choose from among Timmy Jernigan, Louis Nix III and Ra'Shede Hageman, all players who showed up in dozens of Round One mock drafts.

Banks gives the Bucs' Su'a-Filo, which makes immense sense to me.  I say we write it on the card now and cross our fingers during the first five picks.  And if the UCLA guard does go, then go to either Bitonio (who could start at guard and maybe be groomed as a tackle of the future), Gabe Jackson or Trai Turner.  The chalk picks for the Buccaneers before the draft were wide receiver in the first round and guard in the second, based completely (and for good reason) on what appeared to be the two biggest holes on the depth chart.  In the days and hours before the draft started on Thursday, the Bucs were linked to such positions as quarterback, defensive tackle and offensive tackle, but in the end they made the chalk pick with Mike Evans.  I say they do it again and let the depth of the draft come to then.

Okay, so I'm rolling with Banks on this one, but let's discuss a few dark horses that could fit for the Buccaneers if Su'a-Filo is gone or the Bucs are not, in fact, thinking guard is their top need.  I'll go with two of the names I included in my off-the-cuff list of six above: Ellington and Seferian-Jenkins.

The Buccaneers put a check mark by their top target on Thursday with the big and physical Evans, but that doesn't necessarily mean they drew a line through the rest of the receiver position.  Maybe it seems like a luxury for a 4-12 team to use its first and second round picks on receivers, but I still think there's room for improvement on the unit, especially if you can get a second player with a different kind of skill set.  That's Ellington, who is just 5-9 and 197 but runs in the 4.4s and is described as a receiver who plays even faster than his 40 time.  How about stressing the edges of the defense with Evans and Vincent Jackson on opposite sides and then putting Ellington in the slot and letting him dart all over the field, or take the top off the defense with his acceleration?

On the other hand, some draft projections have him as a third or even fourth-round pick (thanks in part to that amazing receiver depth this year) so perhaps the Bucs would be better off going in another direction in Round Two and waiting to see if Ellington is still around later on Friday night.

That other direction could be tight end.  I do not think that the Buccaneers came into the draft intent on getting a tight end; the signing of Brandon Myers in free agency gave them the luxury to look elsewhere, and I do think Myers is going to be productive in Jeff Tedford's offense.  In addition, the Bucs have a developmental type at the position in Tim Wright, who showed a lot of promise as a pass-catcher last year but, as a converted receiver, probably still has ground to make up in his blocking.

But the Buccaneers have never taken a tight end in the first or second round.  Not once in 38 previous drafts.  They've only used a third-round pick on the position once in the last 20 years, getting Stanford's Alex Smith in 2005.  It will not surprise you to learn, then, that virtually all of the top-performing tight ends in franchise history were either free agent signings or trade acquisitions: Kellen Winslow; Jackie Harris; Dave Moore; yes, even Jimmie Giles.  The highest-ranked tight end on the Bucs' all-time receiving yardage list is Ron Hall, a third-round pick in 1987.

Smith had two touchdowns in his very first NFL game and was actually still in the league last year, with Cincinnati.  Still, he had a fairly uneventful four-year career in Tampa.  The Bucs have not drafted and developed a long-term answer at tight end in decades, though they have spent a few years trying with Luke Stocker, a fourth-round pick in 2011.

Seferian-Jenkins could be that guy.  What I like about the prospect scouting reports of ASJ (can we just call him ASJ to make things easier?), is that he appears to have the potential to develop into a true two-way tight end, excelling at both receiving and blocking.  That is not easy to find.  No, he's not there yet, and he apparently has some work to do to fulfill that potential as a blocker, but the payoff on this 6-5, 260-pound tight end with good foot-speed and agility could be tremendous.

Personally, I was nervous for the first hour of the draft last night, worrying that somebody would snap up Evans before he got to the Bucs (and, at the time of course, I had to also worry that Evans was not the actual target inside the team's draft room).  On Friday night, I don't expect to be nervous at all.  There are so many attractive options for the Buccaneers at #38 it's hard to imagine the team not getting a player who ably fills a very big need.

In fact, now that I think about, anybody in favor of trading back a bit with a team targeting one of the leftover quarterbacks?

3. KSK NFL Draft Coverage: Grading the First Round Picks, Johnny Sugar, KissingSuzyKolber.com

Okay, I did go ahead and include one "grading" article for you here, but I'm not going to break it down or excerpt any of the author's remarks.  Just go read it for yourself because I'll say this: I completely agree with all 32 of his grades.

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