After three very long days, the 2013 NFL Draft finally came to a close with the selection of tight end Justice Cunningham, who will now be known as Mr. Irrelevant, out of South Carolina by the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had six selections overall and opted to go for defense with four of them. It’s obviously too early to figure out how each pick will pan out, but Bucs general manager Mark Dominik and head coach Greg Schiano are surely hoping that this draft class turns out to be a productive one, as there were certainly some questionable picks made.
With the No. 43 overall pick, the Bucs decided to bolster the secondary even further with cornerback Johnthan Banks out of Mississippi State.
Even with the acquisition of Darrelle Revis, Tampa Bay felt that the secondary still wasn’t where it needed to be or where they wanted it to be, so Dominik and Schiano decided to go with the tall, lanky corner out of Mississippi State. Banks will be paired with Revis, Eric Wright, Dashon Goldson, Mark Barron, and others in a secondary that can now be talked about as being one of the best in the NFL.
According to Schiano, Banks should fit right in. “He’s really, really diverse in what he does in (Mississippi State’s) scheme,” Schiano said. “We ask our corners to do a lot, everything from press to bail to baiting to (playing) off, rotating. He’s done all that. He’s shown that he can do that. I really like the way he plays the game.”
Reportedly, the Bucs were trying to get back into the first round to possibly select cornerback D.J. Hayden from Houston, who went to the Oakland Raiders at No. 12 overall. But that was never the case. While the Bucs were pondering certain scenarios to get into the first round, they quickly realized that the board was evolving in their favor, so they went with Banks, who could possibly start next season.
Quarterback Mike Glennon from North Carolina State went to the Bucs in the third round, instantly reigniting speculation about the quarterback situation in Tampa. Josh Freeman appears to be the guy for now, especially now that he has something to play for with him being in a contract year. But again, the same rhetoric about competition was reiterated by Dominik after making the pick.
“We want to increase the competition for everybody, bring out the best in everybody,” Dominik told reporters. “It’s a position on our team that we felt was a good fit for the third round and the value of the player and what he can do.
“And frankly, it lets him come in here and be around Josh Freeman and be around Dan Orlovsky and learn from the coaches, John McNulty and Mike Sullivan and what we do offensively.”
With uncertainty surrounding the future of Freeman as the starter, it may be a tad naïve for the Bucs to assume that this is the ideal environment for Glennon, but he certainly has potential.
The next three times the Bucs were on the clock, they went with defensive linemen, taking defensive tackle Akeem Spence out of Illinois with the No. 100 overall pick, defensive end William Gholston from Michigan State in the fourth round, and defensive end Steven Means out of Buffalo in the fifth round.
Spence is easily the best prospect out of these three and he seems to be at least somewhat of a fit for what the Bucs want to do on defense. Spence is a big bruiser and a sure tackler at nose tackle and sort of resembles Roy Miller, who left via free agency.
The same can’t be said for Gholston and Means. Gholston clearly has a strong upside and an ideal frame for a defensive end, but there were many questions about his lack of consistency coming into the draft, and it’s likely that Gholston would have been available in the fifth or sixth round.
Furthermore, Means didn’t receive very high grades from most scouts and he’ll probably be a contributor on special teams at best. With Means, there’s talent there, but it looks like the Bucs are the only ones that see it.
Dominik and Schiano rounded out this year’s draft by taking running back Mike James out of Miami in the sixth round. James is a big, powerful back that can also be utilized as a receiver out of the backfield. Dominik compared him to former Bucs running back Earnest Graham, in that he displays the same “selflessness” that Graham did. James’ ceiling, though, is probably as a number two or three option.
LeGarrette Blount was also traded to the New England Patriots for a seventh-round pick, which was traded to the Minnesota Vikings when Tampa Bay moved up to grab James, and versatile running back Jeff Demps.
The Bucs were only expecting to get the draft pick in the trade, but the Patriots also threw in Demps, who plans to continue his track and field career and play football, according to a source close to him. Tampa Bay also appears to be alright with Demps’ career as a two-sport athlete, another source said.
Again, it’s far too early to tell how this draft class will turn out. But at first glance, the Bucs didn’t appear to get much better through this year’s draft. To be fair, though, they had an excellent draft last season when they got Barron, Doug Martin, and Lavonte David. Still, the Bucs, in effect, got Revis with the No. 13 overall pick that they traded away to the New York Jets to get him, so that ultimately has to be factored in as well.
Why did Geno Smith fall so far?
In retrospect, it’s silly to imagine West Virginia’s Geno Smith, who was drafted in the second round (No. 39 overall) by the Jets, going No. 1 overall. But that’s where some mock drafts had him. Others had Smith as a top-10 pick, but most of them had him going in the first round at least.
That didn’t happen. But why?
The answer is that a combination of things led to Smith going in the second round, per multiple league sources.
First and foremost, many teams felt that they were already set at quarterback and as one plugged-in league source put it, there was a “herd mentality” early in the draft with teams addressing their more immediate needs, such as offensive tackles, cornerbacks, safeties, etc., first.
But Smith was certainly discussed by nearly every team picking in the first round. The source also said that many of the teams did, in fact, have Smith rated as the top quarterback on their respective draft boards and that, generally, the interviews and workouts went well. However, the NFL is a copycat league so there was a hesitant feeling among many of the teams interested.
Then there was speculation by one league official about how the Pro Football Weekly report that bashed Smith affected his draft stock.
But that’s not the case. The report, which was written by Nolan Nawrocki, had “zero to do with it,” per someone in a position to know. This makes sense, as Nawrocki has oft been criticized in the scouting community.
Finally, there’s perhaps the most obvious reason. Many teams didn’t feel Smith’s value was sufficient for the first round given that there were much safer options at other positions, as another top league source suggested.
While many teams did have Smith as their top quarterback, the herd mentality and the value at other positions ultimately caused Smith to tumble into the second round.
So, in the end, Smith joined the ongoing circus in New York with the Jets and will have a chance to compete for a starting job. But by dropping well into the second round, Smith lost a lot of money in the process; however, he will get a chance to prove his critics wrong on one of the biggest stages in the NFL.
Follow Max Luckan on Twitter: @MaxLuckan