Trust Your Board

April 11th, 2024


If he played it any closer to his vest on Thursday, Jason Licht would have had trouble breathing.

As usual, Licht gave bupkis away to the media during his 11th pre-draft news conference as GM of the Buccaneers. We expected nothing less and frankly, Licht would have been derelict in his job if he tipped his hand regarding Tampa Bay’s draft plans.

Licht and his brain trust do a nice job when it comes to draft intel. The Bucs have a pretty good idea which players might be on the board through the first 25 picks. Still, things tend to change markedly once teams are on the clock and phones begin to ring at draft headquarters.

Bucs GM Jason Licht

Like all general managers, Licht has had his ups and downs when it comes to the draft.

The first player he ever selected, Mike Evans, appears destined for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There have been other standouts like Tristan Wirfs, Chris Godwin, Antoine Winfield Jr., Vita Vea and Ali Marpet.

You hear a lot about the draft plan of sticking to your board and taking the best available player. So many executives swear by that approach — but fail to implement the strategy when they are on the clock. They panic and allow perceived needs to trump production and tape analysis.

That’s what happened to the Bucs in 2016, when they were coming off a 6-10 season with a defense that ranked 26th in points allowed. Opposing passers completed their throws at an alarming 70 percent rate and the Bucs allowed 31 TDs through the air while registering just 11 interceptions.

Only two of those picks came from the cornerback position, so when the Bucs were up at No. 11, they turned in the name of University of Florida corner Vernon Hargreaves.

In his 69-game pro career, Hargreaves finished with four picks. Still on the board at that point were tackle Laremy Tunsil, center Ryan Kelly and defensive tackle Kenny Clark, a trio that has combined for 11 Pro Bowl appearances.

In the second round, with Derrick Henry and Tyler Boyd still available, Licht chose defensive end Noah Spence. In his 43-game NFL career, Spence posted 7 1/2 sacks.

Former Bucs DE Noah Spence.

Determined to address Tampa Bay’s pass defense issues, Licht was burned.

“The only caveat we had was if the need line crossed the talent line and if there were three players there and one was in a need position and all the grades were equal, we’d lean toward the need,” says former GM Bill Polian. “But never at the expense of best player available.”

If you’re wondering why Polian has a bust in Canton, consider some of the players he drafted for the Colts in a 7-year span. Batting leadoff was Peyton Manning in 1998, followed by Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, Dallas Clark, Robert Mathis and Bob Sanders.

“I always point to the fact that nobody thought we needed a wide receiver when we had Marvin Harrison and we took a guy named Reggie Wayne because we thought he was the best player available after trading down,” Polian says. “That worked out O.K.”

Ron Wolf, another Hall of Fame executive, echoes Polian’s philosophy.

“What we tried to do every year was draft the best player,” he says. “We spent so much time with our draft board and got it ready. It seemed like every time we jumped the board, it didn’t work out.”

In two weeks, those cautionary words should be hanging on a wall in Tampa Bay’s war room when Licht, Todd Bowles and the Glazers are open for business.

Trust your board.

Don’t be obsessed with filling needs.

If the Bucs remain at No. 26, Penn State’s Chop Robinson could very well be available. He posted a 4.48 time at the combine and Bowles certainly would appreciate help at edge rusher. But Robinson was credited with only 11 1/2 sacks during his 30-game college career and he sounds like the second coming of Joe Tryon-Shoyinka.


“It’s a hard process, a very diligent process,” Wolf says. “You have to be very careful that you put the players where they belong in your mind, then draft off your board.”

Eight years have passed since that dreadful 2016 draft — Hargreaves, Spence, Roberto Aguayo, Ryan Smith, Caleb Benenoch, Devante Bond and Dan Vitale. The Magnificent Seven they were not.

Licht has grown significantly as a draft guru since that forgettable haul. Buc fans hope he remembers that placing need over value usually backfires.

If quarterback Michael Penix is highly rated by the Bucs as a prospect, turn his card in, should he be available. If the Bucs covet LSU wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr., go get him, even though Evans and Godwin form an outstanding tandem.

“We want to kick ass every year in the draft,” Licht vows.

That process begins by heeding the advice of a pretty savvy judge of talent.

“I think it’s important to acquire good players wherever they are,” says Bill Belichick. “If you take a player at a position that you might so-call ‘need’ but he’s not good enough to fill that need, then it’s a wasted pick.”

24 Responses to “Trust Your Board”

  1. Dew Says:

    Payton Wilson

  2. Joseph C Simmons Says:

    As good as Licht is, the draft is still a 50-50 crapshoot. The Bucs did so well last year that the odds are we draft a few stiffs this year.

  3. Scott Says:

    Chop seems to be way stronger and faster than Tryon. Joe just has the body type that teams covet.

  4. gotbbucs Says:

    You had me until “Michael Penix”. QB is the exeption to the BPA strategy.

    No on QB, TE, RB, and ILB in the 1st round of this draft. Every other position should be on the table for discussion.

  5. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    If Brock Bowers is there at 26, you have to take him….he would completely transform our offense…

    And no, he’s not OJ Howard……

    Let’s sell some jerseys with our #1 pick.

  6. OrlandoBucFAn Says:

    Ira, I totally agree. It is best to get the best value for the position, even if it is not a position of need. If it is close, draft for need, otherwise….go with the superior talent.

  7. Joe in Michigan Says:

    Scott Says:
    April 11th, 2024 at 6:15 pm
    Chop seems to be way stronger and faster than Tryon. Joe just has the body type that teams covet.
    The fact that you’re comparing Chop to JTS is proof that he shouldn’t be a 1st Round pick.

  8. Pickgrin Says:

    To be fair – the 2016 draft was not very talented beyond the first few picks.

    Tunsil was the obvious BPA in the 1st for the Bucs but I guess that bong mask scared them off.

    If they were determined to go Defense – in retrospect, should have reversed the order of picking CB and Edge – stuck at 9 and selected Leonard Floyd – then James Bradberry in the 2nd. Would have worked out a lot better with those picks than Hargreaves and Spence.

    Licht has gotten much better at drafting since that 2016 draft which was definitely the low point of Jason’s career. Especially considering he moved up for kicker Aguayo in the late 2nd round….

  9. Scott Says:

    Joe in Michigan I haven’t watched any film on the Chop but I know he grades out well and has elite athletic traits. Ok I won’t compare him to JTS.. he is more similar to Jared Verse and YaYa.

  10. ScottyMack Says:

    In other words, “Joe” is unlikely to get the edge rusher he so wants if the Bucs truly pick the best player available when pick #26 comes around.

    I agree with the philosophy 100%. Especially with the first pick, take the guy who you KNOW is going to be plug and play and who you foresee is going to be an integral starter 10 years down the road – regardless of position – even if you are pretty solid at that position (think salary cap and the future).

    Belichick is absolutely correct. Filling a need with a “hope” (a.k.a. “project”) is a wasted pick unless you are talking round 6 or later. That’s why I roll my eyes watching all of these threads about who the Bucs should take because of what they NEED right now. It’s no way to build a football team that wins year in and year out IMHO.

  11. Capt Ahab Says:

    Do not draft the underachieving Chop Robinson, super athletic but unproductive.
    Former GM Rich McKay valued production, guys that get it done. Chop has bust written all over him. Super athletic, can’t find the QB. Sounds just like JTS.

  12. ScottyMack Says:

    Oh, I forgot to add, as much as I like him, Michael Penix is not only NOT going to be available at pick #26, he surely won’t be the best player available at that pick.

  13. Saskbucs Says:

    Ooof, 2016 was ugly! Obviously remember the busts that were Hargreaves and Aguayo but forgot that the rest was full of nobodies. I will be happy to never see that list of players again.

    At this point, seems most fans are likely aligned with the Bucs and their needs. Very excited for this draft. Could be a ton of action and will be fun sweating it out for a couple names as 26 draws near. Licht has been drafting very well the past 3-4 years. He has clearly learned from his mistakes, looking forward to seeing what they acquire in 2 weeks! Go Bucs!

  14. Joe in Michigan Says:

    Scott: Maybe Chop will be good in the NFL, we don’t really know. I’d be okay with the Bucs drafting him in the 2nd Round, if he happened to fall that far. I see at least 7 or 8 prospects who might still be there for the Bucs in the 1st Round that I’d like them to take.

  15. gotbbucs Says:

    The value in this draft is going to be in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. Ideally we trade down in the first round and pick up a 4th round pick that can be used to maneuver around in the 2nd and 3rd rounds.

  16. Bucsfan Says:

    Move up and take JPJ and you are set at the Center position for 10 years and you will NOT finish last in rushing 3 years in a row……..

  17. SenileSenior Says:

    So if you are going to make a mock draft regarding our pick at 26, then put who you think is the most likely BPA there. See how easy it is.

    Now what our board actually looks like is beyond my reckoning. Speculating is a lot of fun for me.

    Go Bucs!!!

  18. Capt.Tim Says:

    Lets see.
    WE had the worst pass rush in the league.
    Then we cut Shaq and White
    We had the worst rushing attack
    Then we cut everyone o played left guard- Aaron Stennie and Matt Feiler
    We had the worst Tight end production.
    Two first year players and a rookie. Horrible
    We had the worst pass defense,
    Then traded our pass Cornerback

    Are you guys Sure Jason Licht is a genius?

  19. BigBoiBuc Says:


    Shaq injured and not the same.
    White an unproductive Diva.
    TE’ s Otton and Durham – guess you don’t believe in development?
    CB – we will fill the need in this draft with someone better than Davis

    Yeah, I’d say Jason is pretty smart!

  20. BillyBucco Says:

    Joe in Michigan Says:
    April 11th, 2024 at 7:24 pm
    Scott Says:
    April 11th, 2024 at 6:15 pm
    Chop seems to be way stronger and faster than Tryon. Joe just has the body type that teams covet.
    The fact that you’re comparing Chop to JTS is proof that he shouldn’t be a 1st Round pick.

    How is that COMPARING him to JTS, except to say he isn’t. Who should he compare him to when the article specifically mentions him? You guys are so quick to bash and are RUDE. You need to spend some time around old ladies opening doors or something.

  21. Capt Ahab Says:

    Chop has all the measurables except acutual production. Somehow I’d think producing is more important then running fast or getting through a 3 cone drill superbly.

  22. Capt.Tim Says:

    So the last place pass rush, rushing offense, TEs, and pass defense is the work of a genius!
    Then you also have proven yourself a genius

  23. Darin Says:

    I’ve heard Licht tip his draft hand more than any other GM. I usually think it’s a smoke screen. He’s not a good liar, which I appreciate.

  24. BigBoiBuc Says:

    @Capt Tim

    To my point, thanks for making it for me. We were last place in the categories yet you are advocating KEEPING the players that got us there??? Werent Shaq, Davis, and White key parts of the problem?? Lol. Thanks for the help. The TE group ( top 2 anyway) will be fine. Otton is fine and will continue to develop, as will Durham. Maybe you’re not the genius you think you are!