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Bucs badly need draft picks to start turning into stars

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston practiced for the first time with the team Friday, May 8, 2015 at One Buc Place in Tampa.
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston practiced for the first time with the team Friday, May 8, 2015 at One Buc Place in Tampa.
Published May 17, 2015

TAMPA

The snap takers get snapped up pretty high. That's why the Bucs picked a good year to be awful, earning the No. 1 overall selection and QB Jameis Winston.

That's a good place to start if you are GM Jason Licht and you're attempting to restock a roster that has a glaring lack of talent.

There is no guarantee the players entering the NFL will have productive careers. There likely are as many busts as booms, and teams can sound a lot like snake oil salesmen pitching their picks.

But given the Bucs' historically poor drafts, it's important that Licht and player personnel director Jon Robinson continue to reverse the trend.

Sports Illustrated looked at which teams do the best and worst jobs of developing homegrown talent. PointAfter identified every Pro Bowl player drafted since 2003 and how many appearances they made for the team that drafted them, as well as any other club.

Only the Bills, Titans and Chargers retained a smaller percentage of their Pro Bowl players (75 percent) than the Bucs.

Even that is misleading, because since 2003, the Bucs have drafted only three players who were named to at least one Pro Bowl while wearing a Tampa Bay uniform — G Davin Joseph, DT Gerald McCoy and RB Doug Martin.

The only other player the Bucs drafted to reach a Pro Bowl was CB Aqib Talib, who went to the all-star game in '13 and '14 while playing for New England and Denver. In eight of the 12 seasons, the Bucs did not draft a single player who has made a Pro Bowl.

That's pathetic.

Since 2003, the year after the Bucs won the Super Bowl, 287 Pro Bowlers have been drafted, with a combined 650 appearances in the NFL's all-star game. A hefty 353 of those Pro Bowl honors were given to first-round picks.

Of course, the Pro Bowl isn't the end-all for evaluating success. Lavonte David has been the best outside linebacker in football the past two years and hasn't been named to a Pro Bowl but was All Pro. Even so, bad players aren't picked to go to the all-star game, so it's some barometer.

Licht and Robinson have scouting backgrounds and worked for the Patriots. Licht's first pick a year ago, Mike Evans, was among the top rookies and could become a star. It will take longer to evaluate TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins and RB Charles Sims. Typically, it takes at least three years to get a gauge on a player's value.

The key for Licht, Robinson and the Bucs is to hit on at least three players a year with the potential to be stars. By their third draft, the talent base should be considerably better.

Another huge advantage for the Bucs going 2-14 is that they will have the first waiver claim on any player released until Week 3 of the regular season, when the order is determined by 2015 record.

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Already, that's paying off as the Bucs last week claimed Texans S D.J. Swearinger, a second-round pick in '13, and Bears LB Khaseem Greene, taken in the fourth round the same year.

QUICK STUDY: Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter was impressed by how prepared Winston is to operate a pro-style offense. "I picked up (Florida State's) playbook and I started looking at it," Koetter said. "Heck, Florida State was probably installing more stuff per day than we do. I've known about Jimbo Fisher and his style of offense for a long time. They truly do run an NFL-style system. They ask a lot of their guys mentally. I think … Jameis is as well-prepared as most any guy could be right now."

UNNECESSARY ROUGHNESS: It's a shame former Lakewood High and Florida star Dante Fowler, the Jaguars' No. 3 overall pick, tore his ACL about 30 minutes into his rookie minicamp. It also should never have happened.

Fowler was doing a full-speed 11-on-11 drill, something that shouldn't be allowed after rookies have spent five months training to run the 40-yard dash and not playing football. Even veterans aren't allowed on the field for two weeks at the start of the offseason workout program.

"It's tough to go right into what is Phase III workouts for us, and guys are trying to make the team in one weekend," coach Lovie Smith said. "I think injuries are part of our game, too. I've watched it briefly. I saw the play. I notice things like that happen and you try to guard against them as much as possible. We try not to do a lot of team work. Seven-on-seven is about the most we'll do, not get as many bodies in there. But eventually, you'll get 11-on-11 and you just hope major injuries don't happen."