Andrew Astleford breaks down the 2016 Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft class.
My take: The draft momentum continues for general manager Jason Licht. A year after producing a standout class that featured Jameis Winston, Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet and Kwon Alexander, Licht gained a promising talent in the 5-foot-10, 204-pound lanky corner while securing the No. 106 pick in the trade with Chicago.
There’s not much to quibble about with this pick. The Bucs had targeted Hargreaves for some time, with Licht and coach Dirk Koetter both confirming they would have taken the cornerback if they had remained at No. 9. Koetter compared Hargreaves to four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes, and Licht said he considers Hargreaves' "ego" a plus. The Bucs’ cornerbacks lacked bite last year under former coach Lovie Smith. The defense allowed an NFL-worst 69.87 completion percentage, so more aggression will be a welcome change.
Hargreaves' addition will bolster what should be a more sound secondary under new defensive coordinator Mike Smith. As long as Hargreaves stays disciplined in his coverage as he develops, he should be a fine fit in the Buccaneers’ evolving defense.
Tampa ties: Hargreaves hasn’t strayed far from Tampa in recent years. He played at Wharton High School in the city before signing with Florida, where he earned first-team All-SEC honors in each of his three seasons with the Gators. Football runs deep in Hargreaves’ family. His father, Vernon II, played at Connecticut and is now the linebackers coach at Arkansas.
Hargreaves’ local connection should play well throughout Tampa Bay. He isn’t shy about sharing his love for the area. He wore custom cleats that read “City of Tampa” at the NFL combine and at his pro day workout.
Hello, defensive help: It’s fair to wonder what Lovie Smith is thinking now. The former Bucs coach, known for his defensive reputation, saw Tampa Bay draft only one defensive player of the 13 selections in his tenure before he was fired in January. Three months later, the Buccaneers’ shift to finding impact defensive talent for the future has begun.
Hargreaves represents the first of what should be more defensive draft picks ahead for Tampa Bay. Defensive end remains a need for the Buccaneers, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them take a safety or a defensive tackle as well. The days of offense-dominated drafts for Tampa Bay seem to be over for now.
My take: It will be fascinating to see how this pick pans out. There’s so much to like about Spence. At 6-foot-2, 251 pounds, he’s a physical specimen with intriguing talent. He had eight sacks as a sophomore at Ohio State before moving on to Eastern Kentucky because of failed drug tests in 2013 and 2014. After he was drafted, Spence said football is his life and vowed to concentrate on his career. He blamed his past problems on immaturity, saying he doesn’t consider himself to be a bad person. The Bucs are banking on the belief that Spence has grown up. If he reaches his potential, he will fill a big need.
Boom or bust: Sure, this pick comes with risk -- lots of it. Failed drug tests and the arrest for alcohol intoxication and second-degree disorderly conduct last May can’t be ignored. Still, it will be interesting to see if the obstacles have humbled Spence. It’s entirely possible. The Bucs benefitted from believing in Jameis Winston last year despite the ample questions related to the former Heisman Trophy winner’s off-the-field character. If the Buccaneers’ read on Spence is accurate, he has a chance to become a defensive cornerstone for years to come.
Possible streak-buster: The Bucs’ situation at defensive end has been questionable at best in recent years. The last Tampa Bay player to earn 10 sacks or more in a season was Simeon Rice with 14 in 2005. Gerald McCoy, a defensive tackle, led the Bucs in the category with 8.5 last season. Spence will have a chance to make an impact right away. It will be a good sign if McCoy and Spence develop an instant chemistry on the defensive line together. Keep a close watch next fall as Spence becomes the latest in pewter and red to chase the elusive 10-sack mark.
My take: At first glance, this is an eyebrow-raiser. Really, taking a kicker this high when the Bucs have other needs? Really, using the fourth-round pick gained in the trade with the Chicago Bears on Thursday to move up 15 spots here? My gut feeling is that Tampa Bay should have gone another route. Yes, poor kicking burned the Bucs early last season, when Kyle Brindza made 6 of 12 field goals and 6 of 8 extra points. Yes, Connor Barth was inconsistent as well, going 23-for-28 on field goals and 25-for-26 on extra points. Still, why not continue to build the defense?
There’s intrigue: Aguayo comes with an incredible college résumé. The most accurate kicker in NCAA history, Aguayo had a .9673 conversion rate (267-of-276). He established an ACC record for consecutive PATs made at 198 and became the 12th NCAA kicker never to miss a career PAT. If he continues that success in the NFL, he will be a valuable weapon and will be around for a long, long time. Brindza’s struggles were a nightmare, and Aguayo has more upside than Barth. There’s nothing to suggest Aguayo will collapse soon. If general manager Jason Licht’s bet on Aguayo pays off, this will be a gift that keeps giving.
Licht showed guts: Whatever you think of this pick, you can’t say the GM was timid. Who pegged this one? It was unpredictable. It was interesting. It will continue to fascinate. This much is known: Jameis Winston will be a fan of the move, with him gaining a familiar face in the locker room after the two played together at Florida State. Licht said the Bucs “needed to be bold there, and we were.” Does Tampa Bay have the next Sebastian Janikowski? Licht wants to find out.
Acquired from the Chiefs
My take: Bring on the cornerback depth. Smith is the latest face to join the Bucs’ remade cornerback group. The Bucs drafted Vernon Hargreaves III with the No. 11 overall pick on Thursday. In March, the Bucs signed free agent Josh Robinson and four-time Pro Bowl player Brent Grimes. The Bucs’ secondary struggled so often last season that it’s hard to argue with any move made to add new talent to the cornerback ranks. It will be interesting to see how Smith fits into the picture at the position.
Short story: In remaking their cornerback depth, the Bucs haven’t exactly added height. Smith is short at 5-foot-11, 189 pounds, and Hargreaves is 5-10, 204 pounds. Robinson is 5-foot-10, 199 pounds, and Grimes is 5-foot-10, 185 pounds. How will they hold up against taller targets? Grimes is a proven player. But rookies Hargreaves and Smith will be question marks entering the season.
My take: Finally, the Bucs addressed the offense after defense and special teams received attention through the first four rounds. Benenoch, born in Nigeria, can play guard or tackle, so he offers some flexibility. The 6-foot-5, 305-pounder might push veteran reserves Gosder Cherilus and Evan Smith if he makes an impression early. He’s somewhat rough, with scouts questioning his strength and power. This isn’t a headline-grabbing pick, but Benenoch has the potential to provide depth on the offensive line.
Football, not futbol: Benenoch’s football career happened by mistake. At age 8, his mother, Esther, signed him up for football thinking it was soccer. Safe to say it turned out to be a happy accident. Benenoch was UCLA’s team leader with 35 consecutive starts. He was part of an offensive line that allowed just 14 sacks last season.
My take: This has the look of a depth pick at strongside linebacker. Bond figures to be a contributor on special teams early, and he showed flashes of potential at Oklahoma. He had 43 tackles, seven tackles for loss and three sacks in nine games (five starts) with the Sooners last season when he wasn’t out with an ankle injury. In 2014, he had 29 tackles in 12 games.
Winding road: Bond’s football career didn’t begin until his senior year of high school. He played at Sierra College in Rocklin, California, before he eyed a career with Miami (Fla.). He committed to the Hurricanes before the 2013 season, but he didn't qualify academically. He started classes at Oklahoma in January 2014.
My take: The Bucs needed a fullback. They didn’t have one on the roster before Saturday, and Vitale fills that void. At 6-foot-1, 239 pounds, he offers versatility, and that will be a good thing as the Bucs’ offense develops in its second year with Jameis Winston behind center. It will be interesting to see how Tampa Bay coaches devise ways to use Vitale. The more playmakers around Winston, the better.
Super versatile: Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said he envisions Vitale being a part-time fullback and a part-time tight end. Vitale was Northwestern’s “superback,” meaning his athleticism in a variety of roles should serve him well as he transitions to the NFL. Consider him the Bucs’ offensive Swiss Army knife.
*Acquired from Redskins