Bucs drafts under Dominik haven't always panned out
They say it takes three seasons to properly evaluate an NFL draft class. Bucs general manager Mark Dominik took over the job of picking talent in 2009. Only quarterback Josh Freeman, the team’s first-round pick from Kansas State, has developed into a starter from his inaugural draft class while two other players – fourth-round pick Kyle Moore, a defensive tackle from Southern Cal, and fifth-rounder, Illinois tackle Xavier Fulton – are no longer with the team. The other two selections – cornerback E.J. Biggers and receiver Sammie Stroughter – have limited roles as backups.
“I think it’s a fair question for me,’’ Dominik said. “You have to go back and look at your draft classes. And you’ve got to look. Our fourth round pick was Kyle Moore. He’s in the league, still. He was on a practice squad last year, so he’s still playing. But you would want more.
“I mean, let’s just be honest. Xavier Fulton didn’t make it for us. So you’ve got to step back and look at that. (Sammie) Stroughter is still here, (E.J.) Biggers is still here. They’re still trying to contribute to the football team. But you go back and you have to learn why are those two players not on our team anymore.''
The Bucs did not own a second-round pick in 2009, having sent it and a fifth-rounder in 2010 to Cleveland for tight end Kellen Winslow.
Dominik said he has spent a lot of time looking at the Bucs’ past three drafts and has tried to learn from his mistakes.
“And I do that for 2010,’’ Dominik said. “And I’ve already done it last year looking at last year. You have to. If you don’t look at your mistakes, you’re bound to create them again. So you really try to dig into deep and look and say, “what was it about that that I missed on? What was it as an organization that we didn’t make the right selection?
After the 2010 NFL draft, when the Bucs used the No. 3 overall selection on Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (one pick behind Lions Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh) and the 35th pick on UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price, Dominik said he hoped it would be a ‘defining class.’
"You had the 1974 draft for the Steelers, the 1991 draft for the Cowboys, the 1995 draft for the Packers, that defining class, that class that helped the guys that were already there accelerate the process," Dominik said at the time. "You can always find that class with the great championship teams, and I'm optimistic that 2010 is ours."
But McCoy has played in only 19 games in two seasons, producing only four sacks. Both years ended with McCoy on injured reserve after tearing the biceps in each arm.
Price played in only five games as a rookie before having to undergo pelvic surgery and procedures to reattach both hamstrings. He has 27 tackles and three sacks.
Illinois receiver Arrelious Benn, who tore his ACL in the 15th game as a rookie, has 55 receptions for 836 yards and five scores in two seasons.
Dominik says the sand is already starting to run out of the hour glass for players such as McCoy and Price.
“We don’t have much more time, and nor do the players,’’ Dominik said. “They have two more years remaining on their contract, except for Gerald, who has three. Certainly, the reality is it’s disappointing that our defensive tackles have been hurt. It’s extremely disappointing and they’re frustrated and disappointed as well. I see Gerald outside and he’s working his tail off trying to get right. I see Brian Price doing everything he can. You know, I still have hope, but I agree with you, there’s only so much time left. I’ll be my harshest critic. I know we have a lot of them out there, but I’ll be my harshest critic to look at that class and see what they do. But I still have a lot of hope in that class.
“I still have a lot of belief in what they’ve done, in terms of what Arrelious was going to do. I know that (receiver) Mike Williams didn’t have the season he officially wanted to have last year, but I see him out here working really hard and getting there. I still have a lot of love for (safety) Cody Grimm, (linebacker) Dekoda Watson and (fullback) Eric Lorig, those seventh rounders. They’ve been good players for us and filling in on special teams or when they’ve had a chance to start and play like Lorig or Cody, they’ve been very good. And obviously, Dekoda has played. Time will tell, but the clock is certainly ticking, there’s no debate about that.’’
Dominik and the Bucs seemed to have righted the ship a bit in the 2012 draft. First-round pick Adrian Clayborn proved to be a high-motor pass rusher who led the team with 7.5 sacks. Second-round pick Da’Quan Bowers, a defensive end from Clemson who led the nation in sacks, fell to the second-round after undergoing knee surgery. He started the final six games but finished with only 1.5 sacks and 30 tackles. Third-round pick Mason Foster struggled at middle linebacker without the benefit of an off-season but still managed to lead the team with 126 tackles.
The 2012 class sort of fell apart after that. Fourth-round pick Luke Stocker was a backup tight end who produced 12 receptions. Fifth-rounder Ahmad Black, a safety from Florida, spent 12 weeks on the practice squad. Sixth-rounder Alan Bradford, a running back from Southern Cal, was released after five games and has hooked on as a linebacker with Seattle. Cornerback Anthony Gaitor (seventh round) was inactive for eight games and tight end Daniel Hardy (seventh round) was released, signing with the Minnesota Vikings.
So what has Dominik learned?
“I’ll let the new general managers figure that out on their own,’’ Dominik said. “But I truly feel like I’ve learned a lot from those selections that have not panned out for our team.’’