NFL draft: The Buccaneers and the value of a fourth-round pick

Bucs general manager Jason Licht [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Bucs general manager Jason Licht [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Published April 29, 2017

Fourth-round picks might seem like middling assets. There is more to their value, however, than meets the eye.

Every now and then, teams land a starter in the fourth round, as the Buccaneers did in 2015 when they drafted linebacker Kwon Alexander. Often, though, teams use the pick to move around the draft board.

Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht has done just that in each of the past three drafts. The one year he didn't — 2014 — he didn't have a fourth-round pick. That pick went to the Jets as part of the compensation for the Darrelle Revis trade that predecessor Mark Dominik executed. Late Friday night, Licht packaged the Bucs' 125th and 204th picks (fourth and sixth rounds) to move back into the third round to take LSU linebacker Kendell Beckwith.

Why trade a fourth-round pick? The draft is a lottery, but one in which a team stands a better chance of hitting the jackpot earlier rather than later. So not only should a team want to acquire picks, but it should be looking for cost-effective opportunities to move into early rounds.

Over the past decade, no team has made more top 100 selections than the Patriots and the Browns, who have made 38 picks each (the Bucs have made 31). Before you say that doesn't mean anything because Cleveland averaged five wins a season during that span, remember that it does things like draft Johnny Manziel.

Below, you'll find a breakdown of each of Licht's draft-day trades involving fourth-round picks. To assess the value gained and lost in each trade, we used the draft pick value chart developed by Chase Stuart of Football Perspective. Some teams — we see you, Bears — still consult the chart developed by Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson in the early 1990s. The key difference between the charts: Johnson's chart tends to overvalue early picks and undervalue later picks.

1. 2015: Bucs trade picks 65 (second round) and 109 (fourth) to the Colts for picks 61 (second) and 128 (fourth).

By both charts this is a fairly even trade. Football Perspective's chart says Tampa Bay got 95 cents on the dollar while Johnson's chart says it got 99 cents.

The move proved to be well worth (temporarily) sliding back 19 spots in the fourth round. The pick at No. 61: starting guard and soon-to-be center Ali Marpet.

2. 2015: Bucs trade picks 128 (fourth) and 218 (seventh) to the Raiders for pick 124 (fourth).

In terms of pick value, this trade also was a near-wash. Tampa Bay nabbed another starter here, too, in Alexander.

3. 2016: Bucs trade pick nine (first) to Giants for picks 11 (first) and 106 (fourth).

Licht got the player he wanted — cornerback Vernon Hargreaves — and picked up a fourth-rounder in the process. Football Perspective's chart says Tampa Bay gained $1.17 for its dollar.

This move looked savvy until we learned that it was the precursor to …

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4. 2016: Bucs trade picks 74 (third) and 106 (fourth) to the Chiefs for pick 59 (second).

There's a school of thought that if you like a player, you go get him. There's also a school of thought that teams should be wary of falling in love with a player because when they do, they tend to reach for him.

One year later, this trade stings. It appears Tampa Bay was overconfident in its assessment of kicker Roberto Aguayo, who Licht said was "the best kicker I've ever seen in college, my favorite kicker."

To jump 15 spots, the Bucs paid a premium, surrendering the fourth-round pick they acquired from the Giants in the Hargreaves deal. On pick value alone, the Chiefs came out on top, getting $1.41 in return for their dollar. They've gotten little production out of their selections, however. Cornerback KeiVarae Russell joined the Bengals after his September release, and safety Eric Murray played primarily on special teams.

Had Tampa Bay addressed another position, the price might have been easier to justify. Instead, the Bucs passed over defensive linemen and defensive backs to secure a kicker they believed had once-in-a-generation talent. The difference, though, between a run-of-the-mill kicker and a great one isn't significant, and Aguayo wasn't even ordinary last season. He'll have to beat out Nick Folk this summer to keep job.

5. Friday: Bucs trade picks 125 (fourth) and 204 (sixth) to the Jets for pick 107 (third).

Tampa Bay moved up 18 spots and didn't even pay a tax to do it. In fact, the Bucs came out a little ahead, getting $1.04 in return for their dollar.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at Follow @tometrics.