Dissecting Desperation

April 27th, 2020

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Every NFL team walks away from draft weekend feeling good about the results — and the Bucs are no exception.

Jason Licht and Bruce Arians are crowing like they just hit the lottery.

Despite all the pre-draft chatter about taking the best available player, Tampa Bay’s weekend haul was driven primarily by need. The three biggest holes to fill were offensive tackle, running back and safety, in that order. It’s no surprise those were the areas addressed with premium picks.

Next up were wide receiver and defensive tackle — straight out of the need handbook.

In reading the national reports, it is now clear that Licht was a desperate man on Thursday evening.

Desperation can be a good thing because it means a franchise has a sense of urgency regarding the upcoming season. The flip side of desperation? It can trump rational thought.

Buc fans owe Jacksonville GM Dave Caldwell a huge thank you for rebuffing Licht’s misguided offer that night. Licht was so focused on getting a particular tackle, he was willing to surrender picks in the third and fourth round for the opportunity to jump from No. 14 to No. 9.

Peter King, deeply embedded with the Bucs during the first round, described Licht’s disappointment when the Jaguars remained in their spot and selected Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson.

The fact remains that Licht was ready to potentially sit out two rounds of a critical draft. That’s an extraordinary price to pay for a prospect who will line up at right tackle this fall.

Right tackle, not left tackle.

The Deep End

My guess is Tampa Bay’s target at No. 9 was Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, who was promptly chosen by Cleveland with the 10th pick. Once the Jets followed with Mekhi Becton, the heat was on.

At that point, Wirfs was the only tackle still standing among the Big 4, and the Raiders and 49ers were still ahead of the Bucs. Licht wasn’t worried about Oakland, but John Lynch posed a problem, particularly with the impending retirement of Joe Staley.

Adding to his reputation as a fast-rising GM, Lynch grabbed a fourth-round choice from Tampa Bay, moved back one spot and drafted the guy the 49ers wanted all along, Javon Kinlaw. Lynch would soon engineer a deal with Washington, adding tackle Trent Williams to replace Staley.

Super Bowl mindset

Licht didn’t want to yield that fourth-round pick, but he was concerned on two fronts: Lynch might draft Wirfs or a team like Miami would make a deal with the 49ers and jump the Bucs to grab Iowa’s big man.

That scenario wasn’t going to fly at One Buc Place. If it’s all about Tom Brady, it’s also about protecting Tom Brady.

We’ve all seen the amazing video of Wirfs jumping out of the pool, feet-first. Now, he’s in the deep end. Now, every whiff in pass protection will be potentially devastating.

In Round 2, the Bucs could have selected a back like Cam Akers or J.K. Dobbins. Instead, they chose Antoine Winfield Jr., a versatile safety who had a very high grade on Tampa Bay’s board.

He was too good to pass up.

Ten picks later, the Ravens felt the same way about Dobbins. The league’s No. 1 ground game, powered by Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram, just got stronger.

“We didn’t really expect Dobbins to be available there, I don’t think anybody really did,” said Ravens GM Eric DeCosta. “But we just had to take him.”

That’s the way the Bucs felt about Winfield, who seems like a natural fit for Todd Bowles at slot corner.

Patient Finish

Bucs RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn, the back selected in Round 3, was productive at Vanderbilt but he’s no Akers when it comes to soft hands. Given Brady’s penchant for throwing to backs, the Bucs still have work to do in this regard.

Fifth-round pick Tyler Johnson looks like a Chris Godwin clone, which isn’t a bad thing. In a draft this rich in wide receiver talent, the Bucs were wise to be patient in their search for a No. 3 wideout.

Mr. Jagger told us you can’t always get what you want … and the Bucs just proved it. They still need an accomplished pass-catching back, but this team has a dangerous look.

And while the savvy Saints aren’t going away, the Bucs appear to be closing fast.

“I want our guys to feel that we are a team to beat,” Arians says. “Everybody that left our locker room in that last meeting knew we should have been playing in the playoffs, and we beat ourselves.”

Thanks to Dave Caldwell, the Bucs didn’t beat themselves in Round 1.

Ira with his good friend Sean Sullivan, general manager of Bill Currie Ford, Tampa’s first family of Ford. Sean will help you personally in any way he can. It’s the Bill Currie way. Click Ira’s nose to visit BillCurrieFord.com.

37 Responses to “Dissecting Desperation”

  1. Casual Observer Says:

    A consensus summary of about 20 FB pundits had the Bucs in the top 5 for draft grades. Not bad for being at no. 14. Won’t know the true value for a couple of years though, of course. Still, they did very well, imo.

  2. Blameless Jameis Says:

    Licht, man this guy is the definition of a dope. Listening to him fumble through press conferences and now fumble through the draft to trade up makes me doubtful for this franchise once Brady hangs them up.

  3. ZZbuc Says:

    Far from being an expert, but Wirfs has been always my first choice on the 14 position…..I´ve never been a Jason licht fan, but I will say this, this is the first time I am VERY pleased with what he has done on free agency and draft, obviously time will tell……

  4. AlteredEgo Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation. Says:

    Ronde …ext GM

  5. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Is anyone else bothered or surprised that Caldwell ratted out Licht in the middle of the draft?…….It seems to be at least a bit unethical to blab deals that didn’t happen….
    Actually, Caldwell looks like the fool who didn’t take the deal…..

    And, yes….we definitely drafted for need and that’s a good thing…..that’s why they call it need.

  6. LordCornelius Says:

    All that really matters is how these guys careers go ultimately.

  7. Rayjay1122 Says:

    I am very happy with our draft. I am glad we were able to get Wirfs and another 1st round talent in Winfield. The one thing I wonder is who our 2nd round pick would have been had CEH still been available. Regardless, Winfield is a very good pick compared to our 2nd round draft history under Licht.

  8. DBS Says:

    That’s right. It is your Guess. But like everyone else You do NOT know. Nor do you know the plans of what would have been had that taken place. And the rest of us don’t either.

  9. Op Says:

    Why is Ira so fixated on Wirfs being a right tackle? There are still plenty of pass rushers that line up on the right. The 49ers line up Nick Bosa over the right tackle so the notion that Tampa shouldn’t put resources there is incredibly dumb. That is ancient thinking that would have gotten Brady killed. Not to mention Wirfs played multiple games for Iowa at left tackle and can most likely easily move over if we decide to move on from Smith.

  10. Dusthty Rhothdes Says:

    Altered I am with you on Ronde; he is involved with the game and does scouting on all of the teams; the GM with the initials JL that works out West is the varsity JL in the NFL we are stuck with the JV JL here in Tampa

  11. Chris@Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Says:

    I agree, Caldwell looks like a dumb fuk, for not raping Jason Licht.

  12. Buc1987 Says:

    We’ll see how the picks pan out…

    Licht’s track record sucks though imo.

  13. AJ Says:

    No problem with the Ke’Shawn Vaughn pick. As a Gator fan, this guy was a handful when you played Vandy. Vaughn will turn out to be a steal in this draft. Cam Akers, a good back, gets a waiver because he played behind a “poor” offensive line. What in the hell do you think Vaughn played behind @ Vandy???? Against SEC defenses week in – week out? This will be one helluva weapon for Brady.

  14. Joeypoppems Says:

    Really happy with how the draft went. Added depth in key areas as well as starters/impact role players

    I really dont think another RB is needed unless Vaughn and Calais just flame out, but they can always get a cheap vet like Chris Thompson pr Theo Riddick for that

  15. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Vandy had the worst run-blocking line in the FBS………Vaughn is much better than most are giving credit…

  16. Leighroy Says:

    AJ: completely agree. In 2018 Vandy was actually a threat and he averaged 8+ yards per carry against UF and UGA. He put up 243 yards on 13 carries against Baylor in their bowl game. You think Matt Rhule is excited to see him again?!

    In 2019, SEC teams learned that he was all Vandy had. He really deserves a chance and I think we’ll be excited to see what he can do running behind Tristan Whirfs instead of future electrical engineers.

  17. Bucsfanman Says:

    “Licht’s track record sucks though imo.”

    ’87- You are what your record says you are! It’s not opinion, it’s fact. The “highs” the “lows”, he owns them ALL

  18. Pryda...sec147 Says:

    Great article Ira! Really enjoy how you write!

  19. Phil Says:

    I would have rather had Cam Akers than Winfield.

  20. m0j0 Says:

    Honestly, I wasn’t overly impressed with the RB’s in this years draft, save maybe CEH, so going with a Safety in Round 2 that probably had a Round 1 grade was the right move.

  21. LordCornelius Says:

    It’s weird how the scouting reports on Vaugh are not really consistent.

    I was bummed on the pick until i went to watch tape/ read up.

    I was very high on Akers but their stats are super similar and Vaugh played on a worse overall team in a more difficult schedule. Both their O-lines sucked but Akers still had some more talent at QB/WR around him.

    Akers: 586 attempts, 2875 yards (4.9 YPC), 27 TD
    69 receptions 486 receiving yards (YPC), 7 TD

    Vaugh: 572 attempts, 3296 yards (5.8 YPC), 30 TD
    66 receptions 648 yards (9.8 YPC) 3 TD

    Looking at the tape the guy has good vision, initial burst, balance. He can’t make the cuts / moves of the top guys in the class like Swift / CEH and doesn’t have that same athleticism, but he doesn’t seem like a guy destined to just be a #2 at best.

    Licht is usually terrible at RB evaluation so we’ll see lol.


  22. Defense Rules Says:

    Fantastic piece Sage. Love that someone finally had the cajones to say that we drafted primarily based on NEED, especially in the Top-3 Rnds.

    As for Wirfs, Jason had no choice but to do whatever it took to grab him once he passed #12. RT was our biggest NEED, and Wirfs should fill that perfectly.

    Also appreciate what you said about Winfield Jr … that he “seems like a natural fit for Todd Bowles at slot corner.” Personally think we’ll see him at BOTH safety & at slot in different packages, but I still would’ve preferred to bring on a veteran Safety prior to the draft & use our Rnd 2 pick on a RB then Rnd 3 pick on DLine. Only time will tell which approach would’ve been better.

  23. 541BucsFan Says:

    Cappa was projected as a RT, while pro scouts believe Wirfs would be an all pro RG. Wirfs at guard would make for a ridiculous interior o-line.


  24. ArmchairGM Says:

    I’m very happy with our draft. I didn’t like the 1st round trade until King spelled out what was going on. We were lucky Lynch had the confidence that SF would get Williams. Licht didn’t have the luxury of possibly missing out on Wirfs.

    Winfield in the 2nd is a steal. He’s one of three top tier safeties in the draft, a mid first rounder that dropped all the way to mid 2nd. Given the taboo of drafting RBs early, I don’t think any GM expected the run on them in the 2nd. In a normal year, I think 1 of the top 5 RBs is available in the 3rd.

    I’m high on Vaughn in the 3rd. He had decent production in 2019 considering Vandy had one of the worst O-lines. You can compare the production to Akers, who also had a terrible O-line, but Vaughn had tougher competition throughout the year. Check out Vandy vs. LSU. Most of Vaughn’s yards came against the starters, including a 50+ yard TD run. Even if you take that out, he still averaged 4+ ypc against a top defense behind an atrocious O-line.

    Tyler Johnson in the 5th is also a steal. I don’t know how he was still there. I saw nothing but praise for him and picks as a sleeper for the 3rd round. Bucs would probably have taken him in the 4th if they had a pick that round.

    Overall, I see 2 starters, 2 role players, and 1 or 2 backups/special teamers. If that pans out, it will have been a phenomenal draft.

  25. Destinjohnny Says:

    Gm’s High 5 staffers when they see the 813 area code come up.
    Can we get a proper gm already?

  26. Pugs&Bucs Says:

    “ In Round 2, the Bucs could have selected a back like Cam Akers or J.K. Dobbins. Instead, they chose Antoine Winfield Jr., a versatile safety who had a very high grade on Tampa Bay’s board.

    He was too good to pass up.”

    🚨🚨🚨OJ Howard was too good to pass up too.🚨🚨🚨

  27. Look at my stats, I'm ballin Says:

    2019 Stats
    Player A: 28 receptions
    Player B: 23 receptions
    Player C: 24 receptions
    Player D: 26 receptions

    Player A: Keyshawn Vaughn
    Player B: JK Dobbins
    Player C: DeAndre Swift
    Player D: Jonathan Taylor

    BuT wE dIdNt GeT a PaSs CaTcHiNg BaCk

  28. Mike Johnson Says:

    WE did pretty good in this draft considering. I just hate KC got a hella lot better with the no 1 running back out of LSU. That guy is the real deal and is going to break some records. We got our tackle and a decent RB.

  29. AwshBucs Says:

    Honestly, I like the Wirfs pick a lot based on the way the draft played out… But, if we had traded up to #9 that would have landed us Mekhi Becton. Now, Wirfs can be a plug and play RT for us this year and do a serviceable job. But the position where he projects to be an All-Pro Guard due to slower than desired feet and lateral quickness compared to his explosive athleticism going north and south.

    Where as Mekhi Becton projects to be a dancing bear. He’s got the athleticism, skill set, strength and build comparable to that of Johnathan Ogden or Orlando Pace or Orlando Brown Sr.

    Becton dominates the point of attack. And landing him over Wirfs might have been the difference between making a playoff run and winning the Superbowl.

  30. mark2001 Says:

    Awsh…but remember…Becton was flagged on the combine drug test, as I remember. And he looks like the kind of guy that might just eat himself out of the league, if not extremely disciplined every hour, every day, every year.

  31. Alvin Scissors Harper Says:

    I really like Tyler Johnson in the 5th round. He’s gonna be a solid #3 for us, I think.

  32. gotbbucs Says:

    Year in and year out, the Ravens are one of the top drafting teams in the NFL. They just sit back most times and let the draft just fall to them. Every single year it seems like good draft picks fall right into their lap.

    I’m not upset about giving the 4th for Gronk and I’m not overly upset about giving the 4th to move up for Wirfs. I think it was probably unnecessary though.

    What giving up those two 4th’s did though was make it hard to move around in the 2nd and 3rd round. They missed out on some good players in those two rounds by not having any ammunition to throw around. I preferred Delpit and McKinney over Winfield Jr., and they could have gone up to get either one if they would have had anything left in their back pocket.
    Running backs are a product of their surroundings most times. Beyond the top one or two in any draft, it becomes a toss up after that. That’s why I could care less about the argument about Moss vs. Vaughn. Moss was just a name casual fans read more frequently on their favorite draft sites, otherwise most wouldn’t know one from the other.

    It’s a solid but unspectacular draft. I do not like the fact that Licht went drunken sailor trying to trade a bunch of picks for a right tackle. There were starting caliber right tackles all the way into the 3rd round, there was no need to get that hot and bothered over that position.

  33. stpetebucsfan Says:

    It was a great draft. BPA and need matched up for us this year. We needed an RT in a year laden with tackles…needed a good safety and gotta steal with Winfield…our RB’s should fit team needs nicely.

    I just wish we could see them all on the field in their new unis.

  34. Just Sayin’ Says:

    Licht loves to pay through the nose, he can’t wait to give away all of his picks to move up unnecessarily. Lynch schooled him. I like all of our picks overall. Hadn’t heard anything about Vaughn but I am really liking the pick the more I hear about his production with a lousy line in a tough division. So glad all of licht’s attempts to move up more than he did were rebuffed.

  35. buccanstopit Says:

    Wow, we are a top 5 team in Vegas for the Super Bowl and all you naysayers act like we kept Jameis and drafted his backup with our top pick. Get real, we are the Jefferson’s of the NFL…deluxe apartment in the sky…

  36. buccanstopit Says:

    My bad we’re 6th

  37. Buczilla Says:

    Good article Ira.