Monday, March 29, 2010

Adding Nuance To The Numbers

Rick Stroud had an article in the St Petersburg Times that is causing a lot of buzz. He took a look back at the draft failures of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2004, the year Bruce Allen took over as GM. On the one hand it supports the Glazers contention that they have to start drafting better and build the team that way. On the other hand however many people are using the article as a reason for pessimism. The thought is if the it's the same people in the scouting by in large directing the draft, that we will see similar failures this year.

In particular this morning Dan Sileo was on 620 WDAE hurling around invective. It was kinda funny I have to say because Sileo is a big time Jon Gruden supporter who is still bitter about he and Bruce Allen being let go. But when faced with the facts about how bad the Bucs drafted while both guys were here he TOTALLY bypassed them for blame and instead pointed the finger at new GM Mark Dominik and head of college scouting Dennis Hickey as being the guilty parties. It seems that Sileo is in such a rush to blame anyone but the guys he liked that he decided to go with the "the inmates were running the asylum" defense when it comes to the Bucs draft room from 2004-2008.

Well after hearing that bit of hackery along with a few other, less hyperbolic, sources using Stroud's article to cast doubt in the hearts of Buccaneer fans, I decided to do a little bit of research and add a little more nuance to the numbers from the column.

First for those who haven't read Stroud's column already and are too lazy to click the link (yes you lol) here what I feel like is the relevant part.*

Take a look at the numbers.

The only player remaining from the 2004 draft is WR Michael Clayton, the Bucs' first-round pick whose career has gone south since his rookie year. The Bucs did re-sign Clayton last year to a five-year, $24 million contract with $10 million guaranteed. He rewarded them with 16 receptions.

The 2004 draft was the first under then-general manager Bruce Allen. The 2005 draft wasn't much better, netting only two starters from 13 picks — RB Cadillac Williams and LB Barrett Ruud — and no backups. Two of those picks are with other teams, and nine are out of the NFL.

Guards Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood are the only starters remaining from the 2006 draft. From 11 draft choices, one other is a Bucs backup (WR Maurice Stovall), one is with another team, and seven are out of the league.

The 2007 draft was the Gaines Adams draft. Three starters remain: S Tanard Jackson, LB Quincy Black and S Sabby Piscitelli. Of the 10 picks, four are no longer in the NFL. The 2008 draft netted CB Aqib Talib in the first round. But it produced WR Dexter Jackson as a second-round pick. He was cut in training camp in August.

Before I get into the meat of my post, its worth laying out some ground rules. First off most teams don't really think they are getting an immediate starter with guy picked after the third round or so. Second in general 1st round picks and high 2nd round picks are supposed to not only start but contend for Pro Bowls, but its seen as a bonus if you can get that from a player selected in later rounds. Third, a guy not being in Tampa any more is not automatically a bust. They could have found a better opportunity elsewhere or the Bucs could have found an upgrade.

The last caveat may just blow your mind, This is NOT a defense of the Bucs drafts from 2004 through 2008. Rather I am just adding context to the conversation because I think that's what's lacking right now. As usual with some radio guys they try to make everything black and white, but also as usual there are actually some shades of grey here.

Before I go any further I want to acknowledge the fact that two draft picks from that time frame, Gaines Adams and Marquis Cooper have passed on. Now at the times of their deaths neither guy was a Buccaneer and with Cooper it seemed that as a former 3rd round pick his career did not live up to that selection, with Gaines I would say the jury was still somewhat out. Still I'm not sure that either guy should be included in such an analysis because it just seems too crass. So people can judge for themselves whether that's the right approach or not but I'm not going there with either guy.

Now that we have that out of the way...

Let's look beyond the numbers in Stroud's column

There are two things that are apparent when you look at the players the Buccaneers selected from 04 to 08. The first is that there is a heavy slant towards offensive players. The second is that the later picks after the 4th round tended to be reach guys who were more potential than production.

In total 26 out of the 47 draft picks from that time period were offensive guys. That's better than 55%. But really its even worse than that because if you go year by year there was only one year where we drafted more defensive guys than offensive guys, in 2007 and it just so happens that most of those defensive guys are still here and productive for better or for worse. On the flip side in 2005 we we used 8 out of our 12 picks on offensive guys.
Caddilac Williams 1st rd

Alex Smith 3rd rd

Chris Colmer 3rd rd

Dan Buenning 4th rd

Larry Brackins (?!) 5th rd

Rick Razzano 7th rd

Parris Warren 7th rd

J.R. Russell 7th rd

Now I am willing to be fair enough to say that Buenning and Warren may have had much better careers if each hadn't had major injuries and inopportune times. And Alex Smith will never probably be an all star but he was decent here for a little while.

But Larry Brackins? The guy from JUCO? In the 5th round?

But the selection of Brackins is the symptom, not the disease.

It was the Buccaneers' willingness to reach on guys like Larry Brackins that goes to their philosophy at that time. Allen and Gruden were all about free agency and bringing in veteran guys to start or backup the starters. Other than their picks in the first three rounds or so it seems apparent that instead of going after guys who were solid prospects, they instead were on the eternal quest for the diamond in the rough ie the guys with more potential than production. Now there is nothing against that approach per se, but it can't be your wholesale second day draft philosophy. If it is sooner or later the fact that you never developed your own draft picks will eventually catch up to you. And that's exactly what ended up happening.

On the other hand you also have to be fair and point out some of the draft successes during that time period. Davin Joseph, Jeremy Trueblood, Tanard Jackson, Aqib Talib, Jeremy Zuttah, Cadillac Williams, and Barrett Ruud have all been pretty productive players so far. Aaron Sears looked like the real deal before personal problems derailed his career last year. Alex Smith and Will Allen started quite a few games for the Bucs and Geno Hayes seems poised to be a standout while Maurice Stovall still has the potential to be a very good player for the team.

Still you can't come away from our draft history from those 5 years and feel good about it. But at the same time you can't separate the head coach and GM from that history. Gruden and Allen were so focused on free agents that the draft appeared to be an after thought to them. They didn't do their due diligence and it showed. Some of the biggest failures weren't the first round picks but the 2nd and 3rd round picks like Dexter Jackson and Chris Colmer. And again what do those two guys have in common?

They are both offensive players.

That's what makes Sileo's argument so laughable. The funny thing is if you have listened to the guy for any stretch of time you come away convinced that if the Bucs had drafted better he would have given ALL the credit to Gruden and Allen. But since the drafting was so atrocious all of a sudden it was Dominik and Hickey running the draft.

Go figure.

Listen, I don't know if the front office people for the Bucs are geniuses or a bunch of numbskulls. I do know that so far we have one draft to go on under the new regime. And last year 4 out of the 6 guys we drafted were significant contributors. And the other two guys, Xavier Fulton and E.J. Biggers at least still looked the part. Bad season and all you still never saw that under Gruden and Allen and that's a fact. And to Sileo's strawman that Bruce Allen got a job with the Redskins and thus that must mean that our bad drafts weren't his fault, hmmm do you think MAYBE that had something to do with his dad being a coaching legend for the Redskins? I mean in what world does Dan Snyder hiring somebody give them credibility?!

The truth is I am on record as being opposed to the Buccaneers focusing exclusively on the draft without participating much in upgrading the team through free agency. I believe in building through the draft but I also feel strongly that you have to sprinkle in some free agents as well to fill holes that would otherwise probably take a few years to fill with a draft pick. But, having said that I still believe that the core of the team should be the guys you draft. And it appears that in that regard at least the Bucs and I are on the same page.

I will leave you with this. Tell me if you recognize any of these names.

Marquis Hill

Guss Scott

Dexter Reid

Cedric Cobbs

P.K. Sam


Those are the New England Patriots 2nd, 3rd, two 4ths and 5th round picks from 2004. Are people scrutinizing THEIR scouting department? And is it just a coincidence that Bill Belichick is also a guy who values free agents over developing draft picks?

I think not on both counts.

The lesson here is, give it time. We will all see pretty soon whether Raheem Morris, Mark Dominik and Dennis Hickey are up to the job of selecting the right guys for this team. No need to ASSume that the past will have any bearing on the future in that regard, especially now that the people at the top have changed.

1 comment:

  1. Nice report Steve. I think the Bucs will have a killer draft this season. Maybe it's rose colored glasses, but I believe they have picked this draft class apart from top to bottom, and really put the work in on it. I would guess their class will be about 60% defense and 30% offense, with a punter taken in the 7'th round. It may be me, but the team played much more cohesively when Raheem took over the defense and looked good often, well except against the Jets. Still, I think the Jets are one team that could have beaten the Saints, just not the Colts. I bet we will have a lot of happy campers here in Tampa right after the draft. Thanks for all at JBF.c and keep up the good work, Coach. Yea, your time's coming. I'd bet on that too.