Tight end O.J. Howard wasn’t the only Alabama product to tumble out of the first half of the first round of the NFL Draft last Thursday night. Linebacker Reuben Foster suffered a similar fall.
A run-in with medical personnel that got him kicked out of the combine and his admission that he failed a drug test sparked Foster’s fall but none of that deterred the San Francisco 49ers.
The 49ers, run by former Buccaneers safety John Lynch, had Foster ranked third overall on their board, according to this inside look at their war room from Peter King.
The 49ers, however, spent their first pick in the draft, No. 3 overall after making a trade down one spot with the Bears, on defensive end Soloman Thomas, who as ranked just ahead of Foster on their board.
That and Foster’s eventual fall sparked a furious attempt by Lynch from the mid-point of the draft on to move back into position to get Foster and that attempt included a call to the Buccaneers seeking a trade for their pick, No. 19 overall.
According to King, the call that went out from 49ers executive vice president of football operations Paraag Marathe, probably to Bucs general manager Jason Licht, at 10:14 ET, went like this:
“Hey it’s Paraag. You are? … Anything? … Okay.”
Marathe off phone (to Lynch). “(They’re) standing pat.’’
The opportunity was clearly there then for the Buccaneers to move down, and add a couple of picks (the 49ers were offering at least a pair that included the 34th overall in the draft), buy the Bucs passed.
This came amid a lot of talk that the Bucs were entertaining an opportunity to trade down from 19, but it’s clear now that the Bucs found Howard way too valuable, more valuable than even an extra pick or two.
A lot of Bucs fans will argue that the Bucs could have used that extra pick to add running back Dalvin Cook or a safety rated higher than Justin Evans and those are good arguments.
But when you’ve targeted one prospect above all the others as arguably the best fit for your team you’re better off sticking to your original game plan and taking quality over quantity. And the Bucs did.