More draft hindsight ahead as Bucs lose WR Jackson
There's been no shortage of criticism of the Bucs' 2016 draft, mainly centered around GM Jason Licht's decision to trade up into the second round to grab FSU kicker Roberto Aguayo, who is 4-for-8 on field goals to start his NFL career, including the game-winning 38-yarder as time expired in last week's win over Carolina.
Aguayo's early struggles have only added to criticism from fans and national media that was already there the day he got drafted, and now as the Bucs face their final 11 games with limited receiver depth after Vincent Jackson was placed on injured reserve, there's another position the Bucs didn't address in their 2016 draft.
Receiver was certainly a position the Bucs could have gone after high in the draft, what with Jackson already 33, coming off injuries and in the last year of his contract. But after neglecting their defense in the two previous drafts, they used their top two picks on defense, getting cornerback Vernon Hargreaves at No. 11 and defensive end Noah Spence at No. 39, then Aguayo at No. 59.
Spence has had a quiet start to his NFL career, with just one tackle in his first five games, though he's been limited by a shoulder injury in the last two and used sparingly, primarily on passing downs. Fans have certainly noticed that the player drafted immediately after Spence was receiver Sterling Shepard, who's had a strong start for the Giants, with 26 catches for 302 yards and two touchdowns. It's a fair "this instead of that" criticism, exacerbated by Jackson's injury and the Bucs' options to replace him.
Fans have also suggested the Bucs should have taken a receiver instead of Aguayo, but the rookie receivers taken at No. 59 or later have had limited production in the first six weeks of the season. Of the next seven receivers taken, just one has so much as 100 yards this season -- it's way too early to evaluate a draft pick, but for six games, the results aren't like Shepard or other productive rookie receivers who went in the top 50 picks.
Braxton Miller, with the Texans, has five catches for 34 yards. Leonte Carroo, with the Dolphins, has two for 14. The Ravens' Chris Moore has four catches for 30 yards, the Patriots' Malcolm Mitchell has six for 82, and the best of the bunch drafted in the 3rd/4th round is Ricardo Louis, who has 13 catches for 146 with the Browns. The next two -- Los Angeles' Pharoh Cooper and Chicago's DeMarcus Robinson -- don't have a single catch yet. One exception is the Titans' Tajae Sharpe, who has 18 catches for 189 yards, but still, the next eight receivers drafted after Aguayo still combine for zero touchdowns.
Again, from a larger perspective, it's way too early to evaluate rookies as successes or failures based on their first six games. An excellent example of that? Vincent Jackson, who had a modest three catches for 59 yards as a rookie after the Chargers drafted him late in the second round in 2005. He wouldn't get to 1,000 yards in a season until his fourth year in the NFL, but would then do so in six of the next seven seasons.