Saturday, April 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Draft brings mixed results for Bucs' Dominik

TAMPA — Mark Dominik is aware of the Bucs' record since he took over as general manager in January 2009: 24-40. There are some other key figures worth noting: two coaches, six coordinators and no playoff appearances.

"My record is what it is," he said. "But I think our situation, in terms of where we started and where we're going, is completely different than when I took over. I'll like our team when we walk onto the field this year."

Quarterback Josh Freeman is the only player left on the roster from the Bucs' first draft under Dominik from a class of six. Because Freeman is in the final year of his contract and his future in Tampa Bay is as wobbly as a deflected pass, the entire class hinges on his success.

Dominik's draft history is checkered with a few other obvious failures. Defensive tackle Brian Price and receiver Arrelious Benn, second-rounders in 2010, no longer are with the team. Cornerback Myron Lewis, a third-round pick that year, has started only one game. With the exception of receiver Mike Williams, the Bucs have swung and missed in the fourth round.

But at worst, the record is mixed. Under Dominik, the Bucs also have netted two Pro Bowl players in defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and running back Doug Martin, an all-rookie defensive end in Adrian Clayborn, the leading tackler from the 2010 rookie class in linebacker Mason Foster, the club's leading tackler last season as a rookie in linebacker Lavonte David and a promising young safety in Mark Barron.

"I think Doug Martin was a rousing success and so is Mark Barron, and McCoy has been fine. And I like some of their other young players," said former Bills, Panthers and Colts general manager Bill Polian, an analyst for ESPN. "In the end, it all depends on Freeman and whether he can take the next step.

"If they have another good draft this time around and Freeman gets better, I think they're well on their way to being a contender."

To judge how Dominik and his staff have done evaluating talent, you have to consider the job he inherited.

After the 2008 season, the Bucs decided to gut the franchise of most veterans, including linebacker Derrick Brooks, and rebuild through the draft. Unlike many reclamation projects that come with a top-five pick in each round of the draft, Dominik selected 19th as a result of the team's 9-7 record.

Two days after being named general manager, Dominik boarded a commercial flight to Pensacola, rented a car and drove to Mobile, Ala., with new coach Raheem Morris to watch Senior Bowl workouts. Dominik had viewed no college tape, having been promoted from pro personnel director.

His attention was split between watching prospects and lining up interviews to fill Morris' staff. The interruptions were so frequent that Dominik and Morris decided to leave the workouts a day early and return to Tampa.

Fortunately for the Bucs, Morris knew Freeman from his one season as defensive coordinator at Kansas State. Defensive tackle Roy Miller, a third-round choice in 2009 from Texas, started four seasons before signing with the Jaguars during this offseason. Two sixth-round picks, receiver Sammie Stroughter and cornerback E.J. Biggers, also played through last season.

"I think the reality is we came out okay," Dominik said.

"At the end of the day, Josh Freeman holds basically every record in the books for us right now."

Freeman, 25, set team season records for passing yards (4,065) and touchdowns (27) last season and is the franchise leader in passing touchdowns (78).

To judge how the Bucs have done in the draft under Dominik, you have to weigh their performance against other teams.

The Bucs have taken 30 players, 21 before the seventh round. Those players have started 34.6 percent of all games. That's more than perennial contenders such as the Ravens (21.1 percent), Packers (27.7), Falcons (21.3), Patriots (24.3), 49ers (22.7) and Texans (27.6).

While the jury still is out on oft-injured players such as Clayborn and fellow defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, Dominik believes the team's draft process has evolved and is improving, continuing to emphasize production over potential.

"I think each draft class has gotten a little bit better," he said. "Have we been getting starts out of our fifth- and sixth-rounders? No. That's the one area … we've got to do a better job."

Coach Greg Schiano also has had a major influence on the evaluation of players.

"We just talked a lot about the passion the player has for football," Dominik said. "We want the passionate player, the guy who will put the time in and really lives the game."

Time will tell if the 2013 draft will help the Bucs end their playoff drought. A lot depends on Freeman, the first choice the team made under Dominik.

Rick Stroud can be reached at [email protected] and heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620.

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