In a wide-ranging press conference Wednesday morning at the NFL Scouting combine, Bucs GM Jason Licht fielded a variety of questions on everything from: his thoughts in draft evaluation, the possible retirement of cornerback Brent Grimes (they want him back, but don’t know), and even a couple of draft prospects.
However, we paid the most attention most to when Licht was candid about his own shortcomings and misses in the previously, in the draft.
First, here’s the full video of the Q & A with Licht, if you are interested, courtesy of Pewter Report.com, as Licht took questions for almost 13 minutes Wednesday:
— PewterReport (@PewterReport) February 28, 2018
The important parts to us, included being asked about the development of former 2016 #1 pick, DB Vernon Hargreaves. Hargreaves was basically demoted in playing time and position to “slot” corner early in the 2017 season. This meant: that he usually was only on the field when the opposing team had a third WR in the game. It cut down on his playing time, but he did appear to be more comfortable playing “inside” with coverage responsibilities, than often one on one deep with receivers.
Hargreaves finished the year on IR with an injured hamstring.
Licht said Wednesday, “Last year he (Hargreaves) had a couple of setbacks. He’d be the first one to tell you that. And then, he got injured….. by no means are we giving up on Vernon.”
One would hope not after drafting him in the top 15 two years earlier, which Licht did.
Then the Bucs GM, who’s entering his fifth off season with the team, was asked about the key to success in the draft, “We have had some successful drafts. I’ve been very fortunate to have guys on my staff to help.” He continued, “Scouting is always a challenge. You never truly know what you’ve got in year one, and maybe, year two.”
Licht is right that most of the time you have to judge good/bad in the third, fourth, year etc. Is the player still on your roster, is he effective, or did you already get rid of him, etc.?
The Bucs drafted WR Mike Evans in the top 10 of Licht’s first draft in 2014. He’s been one of the best in the NFL for four seasons and that looks tremendous for years to come.
However, taking TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the second round of that same draft does not. He was released early in the 2016 season.
The Buccaneers selected QB Jameis Winston at #1 overall in 2015, and could have gone with the other Heisman winning star, Marcus Mariota, but chose not to. The debate will continue for the near future and beyond on who got the better of those two picks.
And, we also all know that Licht traded up into the second round famously in 2016, to take kicker Roberto Aguayo of FSU. That obviously, failed so badly, that Aguayo was cut after the first preseaon game last year.
Licht used a very interesting answer, when being asked Wednesday about player evaluations, “The players I’ve missed on, haven’t been the player. It’s been the person.”
In other words, that individual: their character, work ethic (Seferian-Jenkins fits this), mental toughness (Aguayo), and not so much their skill or talent caused their failings and eventual departure.
And in fairness, Licht is the same guy who chose to be bold and draft Division III offensive lineman Ali Marpet in the second round, too. And that looks like a tremendous pick.
Also, WR Chris Godwin developed into a sold #3 option and at times, second receiver in his rookie year last year, after being taken in the third round by Licht and his staff.
Bottom line, no GM is without “misses” in drafts and free agency. It happens to the best of teams.
Another bottom line though, the Bucs have had three 10 loss seasons in Licht’s four years.
That has to change for Licht, starting now, at the Combine and beyond.
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