If Bucs draft defense, would be highest ever for Mike Smith
I totally forgot to sneak this in with our draft notes in today's paper, but remembered I did some research earlier this week -- if the Bucs do in fact choose a defensive player at No. 9 tonight, it would be the highest a defensive player has ever gone in defensive coordinator Mike Smith's 17 drafts as an NFL head coach and assistant.
To find a defensive player he's landed higher than 19th overall, you have to go back to his very first year as an NFL assistant in 1999, when the Ravens took corner Chris McAlister at No. 10. Since then, the teams he's coached for have had top-nine picks six times, and all six times, they've drafted on offense -- quite well in Atlanta, mind you, with Matt Ryan (3) and Julio Jones (6) in Atlanta (along with Jake Matthews at 6 in 2014). Less so earlier on in his career, with Baltimore taking Jamal Lewis at 5 in 2000, and the Jaguars taking Byron Leftwich at 7 in 2003 and Reggie Williams (!) at 9 in 2004.
So Mike Smith has never hooked up with defensive talent as he might be tonight, whether it's a corner or defensive lineman.
And to be clear, this is a Jason Licht draft, much more so than a Dirk Koetter or Mike Smith draft, but just out of curiosity, we charted the seven drafts that Mike Smith had as head coach in Atlanta (the last three with Koetter as OC). There's a really strong defensive lean overall -- 35 defensive picks against only 19 on offense. His last two years in Atlanta, when the defense was a real concern, the Falcons used 13 of their 17 picks on defense.
Smith's history with drafting defensive tackles high isn't a strong one -- Atlanta took Peria Jerry at No. 24 in 2009, and he finished with 5.5 total sacks in his five NFL seasons, starting just 15 games in his first four years in the league. In 2014, they took Ra'Shede Hagemen at No. 37, and he's had modest returns -- two sacks in 12 starts in two NFL seasons. His best success at DT was Corey Peters in 2010 -- a third-rounder who started 53 games in first four years, with 11 sacks in five seasons under Smith. So perhaps that's a position the Bucs could address later and still get production from ...
Could the Bucs take a safety at 39 in the second round? Two of the better defensive picks under Smith were safeties late in the first round -- Ed Reed went 24th in 2002 (and turned out pretty well) and Reggie Nelson went 21st in 2007 and is entering his 10th season now.
And as far as the three Koetter/Smith drafts in Atlanta -- read as much or as little as you want with different GMs and different teams with different needs -- it's interesting that the only positions addressed in the first three rounds in a combined seven picks were OL (3), DL (1) and secondary (3). Not one receiver in the three drafts, not one Day 3 offensive lineman. Again, just a curiosity ...