NFL Draft Retrospective, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2016 NFL Draft Retrospective and Regrade

How does the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2016 NFL Draft class look three years later?

In 2015, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted who they believed was their future franchise quarterback in Jameis Winston. Even with a rookie under center, many believed the championship window was open.

While Winston won Rookie of the Year, the Bucs finished the season with a 6-10 record, good for last in the NFC South. Head coach Lovie Smith was out; enter Dirk Koetter as the new head coach. Koetter was given the job after major success as the Bucs’ offensive coordinator, prompting GM Jason Licht to hire an internal candidate to hopefully mold Winston and the Tampa Bay locker room into a group of winners.

The Buccaneers traded back from the ninth overall pick to the 11th overall pick and added a fourth-round pick in the process, then used that fourth rounder to trade back up into the second round to select a kicker; a precursor of things to come.

Original Grade

Sports Illustrated: C

“Tampa Bay’s first two picks were great.  Getting Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves in the first round and Eastern Kentucky pass-rusher Noah Spence in the second fills two prominent needs with great players, as long as Spence continues his off-field rehabilitation. But things went off the rails after that when the Bucs traded up(!!!) to take Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo with the 59th overall pick.

It really doesn’t matter how good Aguayo is or isn’t—you simply don’t trade up in a high round for a kicker with a lot of needs still on the board. Cornerback Ryan Smith from North Carolina Central is a value pick if he can square up to a higher level of competition, but there wasn’t anyone spectacular in the late rounds, which makes the Aguayo move all the more curious” – Doug Farrar

FanSided: C-

“This class doesn’t make a ton of sense. The pick of Vernon Hargreaves III is fine and Noah Spence is a decent fit because the Buccaneers really needed a defensive end, but trading third and fourth-round picks to get a kicker is insane. It’s indefensible. Kicking is very important, but not worth that price. Tampa Bay needed to do better here.” – Matt Verderame

Draft Class

Round 1 (No. 11)

Vernon Hargreaves III

CB, Florida

Current Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Hargreaves was taken with the hopes of bringing the future lockdown corner to Tampa Bay, however, he has not lived up to those expectations. In fact, he may be on the last leg of his chances and his fifth-year option is not expected to be picked up. He has played better out of the nickel, an easily replaceable spot, and has struggled mightily outside of the numbers.

Not to mention, Hargreaves has been fairly injury prone thus far in his career. 2019 is truly a make-or-break year for Hargreaves, getting a fresh start under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. If Bowles cannot get the most out of Hargreaves, there may not be anyone who can.

Round 2 (No. 39)

Noah Spence

DE, Eastern Kentucky

Current Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

At the time, it was considered a steal for the Bucs to snag Spence, who was viewed as a fringe first rounder in 2016. He has not produced as expected as the athletic edge rusher he was viewed as coming out of college. Falling out of favor with the current coaching regime, Spence had a hard time even finding the field in 2018. While he remains rocked up and athletic, Spence will need to win over this new coaching staff, again earning a second chance with Bowles.

Round 2 (No. 59)

Roberto Aguayo

K, Florida State

Current Team: Free Agent

In what may go down as one of the worst draft picks in NFL history, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded back into the second round after selected Spence to select the highly touted kicker out of Florida State, Roberto Aguayo. A year and a half later, Aguayo was no longer on the roster after missing nine field goals and two extra points as a rookie. Aguayo has not made another team since and did not live up to his top 60 selection.

Round 4 (No. 108)

Ryan Smith

CB, North Carolina Central

Current Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

In the fourth round, the Bucs took safety Ryan Smith out of North Carolina Central. Smith has been a contributor in Tampa Bay but has not figured to be more than a rotational and special teams player. Smith does not look to contribute any further, even as the secondary is hurting. In fact, the Bucs drafted Justin Evans a year later to play safety and are moving MJ Stewart to safety in 2019. Smith too, is on his last leg in Tampa Bay.

Round 5 (No. 148) 

Caleb Benenoch

OG, UCLA

Current Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Yikes is the best way to describe Benenoch’s time in Tampa Bay. The starting right guard in 2018, Benenoch was by far the worst graded offensive lineman of the starting five for the Bucs. Now moving to tackle to compete as a swing-lineman, it looks that Benenoch’s time as a starter is over.

Round 6 (No. 183) 

Devante Bond

LB, Oklahoma

Current Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The only player in this class to sign an extension with the Bucs, Bond still has only figured as a rotational, substitution starter, and special teamer. However, Bond knows his role, is paid appropriately and does what he is asked to do. He is possibly the best player selected by the team in 2016.

Round 6 (No. 197) 

Danny Vitale

FB, Northwestern

Current Team: Green Bay Packers

With their last pick in the draft and second pick in the sixth round, the Bucs selected fullback Danny Vitale. He failed to make the team and signed with the Cleveland Browns. A perfect way to end a mediocre draft for the Bucs in 2016.

Retrospective Grade

The Buccaneers had one solid pick out of this draft in Hargreaves. The rest are either role players or guys who simply didn’t meet the expectations seen in them when they were picked. The move to grab a kicker in the second round, unfortunately, may end up being Licht’s legacy if things don’t improve in a hurry under Bruce Arians.

There are no two ways about it, this draft class was a failure in just about every way possible.

What had been graded as average on paper at the time for the Buccaneers figures to be even worse three years later, as every selection during the 2016 draft has struggled to make an impact or is no longer on the roster. With new head coach Bruce Arians at the helm in Tampa Bay and Winston on the last year of his rookie deal, Licht needs to nail down this draft leading up to a make-or-break 2019.

by Cory Kinnan

Cory and his wife, Hannah, live in Columbus, OH where he works as a case manager connecting the homeless population with the resources necessary to find and maintain housing. Cory graduated from Anderson University in Indiana in 2015 and recently completed his Master’s degree from the University of Dayton. 

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