Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik admits to iffy drafts

GM Mark Dominik says he tries to learn from his mistakes.
GM Mark Dominik says he tries to learn from his mistakes.
Published April 20, 2012

TAMPA — If it's true it takes three seasons to properly evaluate an NFL draft class, Mark Dominik's first try at picking talent for the Bucs as general manager, 2009, didn't make the grade.

Only quarterback Josh Freeman, the first-round pick, has developed into a starter.

Two players — fourth-round pick Kyle Moore, a defensive tackle, and fifth-round pick Xavier Fulton, an offensive tackle — are no longer with the team. The other three players — cornerback E.J. Biggers, defensive tackle Roy Miller and receiver Sammie Stroughter — have limited roles as backups.

"You have to go back and look at your draft classes," Dominik said. "Our fourth-round pick was Kyle Moore. He's in the league (with the Bills) still. He was on a practice squad last year, so he's still playing. But you would want more.

"Xavier Fulton didn't make it for us. So you've got to step back and look at that. You go back, and you have to learn why are those two players not on our team anymore."

Dominik said he has spent a lot of time looking at the Bucs' past three drafts and tried to learn from his mistakes. This year's three-day draft begins Thursday in New York.

"And I do that for 2010," Dominik said. "And I've already done it for last year. If you don't look at your mistakes, you're bound to create them again. So you really try to dig deep and look and say, 'What was it about that that I missed on? What was it as an organization that we didn't make the right selection?' "

After the 2010 draft, when the Bucs used the No. 3 overall selection on defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (one pick ahead of Lions Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh) and the 35th pick on UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price, Dominik said he hoped it would be a "defining class," like 1974 for the Steelers.

From that draft, Pittsburgh got four future Hall of Famers: center Mike Webster, linebacker Jack Lambert, and receivers John Stallworth and Lynn Swann.

"You can always find that class with the great championship teams," Dominik said. "And I'm optimistic that 2010 is ours."

But McCoy has played in only 19 games over two seasons while producing only four sacks. Both seasons ended with McCoy on injured reserve with torn biceps (the left in 2010, the right in 2011). Price played in only five games as a rookie before pelvic surgery and procedures to reattach both hamstrings. He has 27 tackles and three sacks.

Taken in the second round that year, 39th overall, was Illinois receiver Arrelious Benn. He tore an ACL in his 15th game as a rookie and has 55 receptions for 836 yards and five touchdowns in two seasons.

Dominik said the sand is running out of the hourglass for players such as McCoy and Price.

"We don't have much more time and nor do the players," Dominik said. "They have two more years remaining on their contract, except for Gerald, who has three. Certainly, the reality is it's disappointing that our defensive tackles have been hurt. It's extremely disappointing, and they're frustrated and disappointed as well.

"I still have hope, but … there's only so much time left. I'll be my harshest critic. I know we have a lot of them out there, but I'll be my harshest critic to look at that class and see what they do. But I still have a lot of hope in that class. Time will tell, but the clock is certainly ticking."

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Dominik and the Bucs seemed to right the ship a bit in the 2012 draft. First-round pick Adrian Clayborn proved to be a high-motor pass rusher who led the team with 71/2 sacks. Second-round pick Da'Quan Bowers, a defensive end, started the final six games but finished with only 11/2 sacks and 30 tackles. Third-round pick Mason Foster struggled at middle linebacker (and its play-calling responsibilities) without the benefit of an offseason because of the lockout but still led the team with 126 tackles.

Fourth-round pick Luke Stocker, a backup tight end, produced 12 receptions. Fifth-rounder Ahmad Black, a safety from Florida, spent 12 weeks on the practice squad. Sixth-rounder Alan Bradford, a running back from Southern Cal, was released after five games and has hooked on as a linebacker with Seattle. Cornerback Anthony Gaitor (seventh round) was inactive for eight games, and tight end Daniel Hardy (seventh round) was released and has since signed with the Vikings.

So what has Dominik learned?

"I'll let the new general managers figure that out on their own," Dominik said. "But I truly feel like I've learned a lot from those selections that have not panned out for our team."