So here we are, Buc fans. Over a week since the 2018 NFL Draft ended and I’m still seeing comments, complaints and criticisms about the decision to take defensive tackle Vita Vea over defensive back Derwin James. My question is…
It’s done. It’s over. The pick is in. Vita Vea is a Buc. Why question it? Just go with it and appreciate the fact that the Buccaneers added a really good player to their roster. Well, I’ve decided to dive a little deeper into Jason Licht’s decision to shed some light on the reasoning for it and hopefully put to rest the negativity about this pick once and for all.
TRADING THE 7th PICK?
Jason Licht and his staff work extremely hard every year on the draft. It’s a year round process for them. It is for any NFL team’s front office. And part of that process every year is to be prepared for anything and everything that could happen in the draft. That is especially the case for the first round. In the last month or two before the draft, they run their own mocks, dozens of them, to try and play out every possible scenario that may take place. Well, it paid off this year as one of those “possible scenarios” unfolded and luckily the Bucs were prepared for it.
That “possible scenario” was that all three of the “Big 3”, meaning Barkley, Nelson and Chubb, were all off the board within the top six picks. It also included only two quarterbacks being taken in those first six picks with the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts staying out at their 5th and 6th picks instead of trading out. Once all of that happened, and the Buffalo Bills came calling with an offer, the Bucs had to make the tough decision.
That decision was to either stay put and take their guy OR take a bit of a gamble and trade back five spots to the 12th pick in hopes that their guy was still on the board. That’s where their pre-draft homework came in handy. While playing out their “possible scenarios” in the months leading up to the draft, they decided that should this particular scenario happen, there was a high likelihood that at least one or maybe even both of their top two players would still be available with that 12th pick. However, no matter how prepared they were for the situation it was still risky. They were basing their assumptions on educated guesses as to what the other five teams would do with their picks. It’s not an exact science. It’s simply playing the odds. And this time it worked out. The top two players left on their draft board were still available when the Bucs went on the clock for their 12th pick.
THE TRADE HAUL!
After Jason Licht completed the trade with the Buffalo Bills, I saw a number of fans complaining that the Bucs didn’t receive enough compensation for that 7th pick. That’s ridiculous. Jason Licht should’ve bought Buffalo dinner at least before conducting this trade. Allow me to break down the mathematics of it all according to the 2018 NFL Draft trade chart. The Bucs 7th pick was worth 1,500 points and their seventh round pick was only worth 1 point. The Bills 12th pick was worth 1,200 points. Technically, Buffalo only had to come up with another 300 points worth of picks to make an even trade. However, when a team trades up for a certain player like this, say a quarterback, they tend to “overpay” and Buffalo did just that. In addition to that 12th pick, they offered up BOTH of their second round picks as well. Their 53rd pick was worth 370 points which would’ve been enough to cover the actual point spread. But they also offered up their 56th pick which was worth another 340 points. The Bucs ended up receiving 1,910 points worth of picks for that 1,500 point 7th pick. If that wasn’t good enough already, Licht took the 56th pick (worth 340 points) and traded it to the Patriots for their 63rd pick (worth 276 points) in the second round and their 117th pick (worth 60 points) of the fourth round. Even though the Bucs only received 336 points worth of picks in return, that trade enabled them to conduct another trade later on where they made up for it. That second fourth round pick from the Patriots allowed the Bucs to trade their original 102nd pick (worth 92 points) of the fourth round and the 180th pick (worth 19 points), one of their two sixth round picks, to the Minnesota Vikings for the 94th pick (worth 124 points) of the third round in which the Bucs did not originally have a pick thanks to the Pierre-Paul trade with the Giants. With all their trades combined in this 2018 draft, the Bucs received 2,370 points worth of picks in exchange for 1,951 points worth of their picks. Just by moving back a mere five spots in the first round and giving up a fourth, sixth and seventh round pick they received two second rounders and a third rounder. Not only did they come out ahead 419 points, according to the trade chart, but they gained some valuable early round picks as well. It really was some brilliant maneuvering by Jason Licht and his staff.
VITA VEA OVER DERWIN JAMES?
Let’s be clear. If Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson or NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb had been on the board at the time the Bucs 7th pick came around, then we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. I’m sure they were the top 3 players on just about every team’s draft boards, except for the Browns and Jets apparently. I’m still baffled by Cleveland’s choices. They could’ve had Barkley AND Chubb, arguably the two best players in this draft, instead of Mayfield and Ward but hey, whatever floats your boat. Anyway, back to the Bucs. So the “Big 3” were already gone and the next best players on the Bucs draft board were Vita Vea and Derwin James. It was close according to Licht, but they felt that Vea was not only the better player but he would help the team the most which is why he was ranked higher.
I know what some of you are thinking. How was defensive tackle a higher priority than safety? Right? I don’t think the decision was based on position. Had it been solely based on position, then I do think that safety would’ve been a higher priority than d-line. That’s not the case. It was simply best player available. And while some of you may disagree with the fact that Vea was a better player than James, the Bucs felt different.
Besides, as bad as some of you think that safety Chris Conte is, the Bucs actually like him. A lot. They like that he’s a veteran. They like his size. They like his athleticism. They like his football IQ. They like him as a player. And they like him as a person. The Bucs know EVERYTHING about him and have watched every second of every snap he’s played as a Buccaneer countless times. They think he’s a solid safety. So I find it amusing when much less educated fans claim that “Conte sucks” or that he shouldn’t be the starter. Do I think that Derwin James would’ve been an upgrade to Conte at strong safety? Sure. Eventually. Do I think that Conte is so bad that the Bucs should’ve passed on a dominant interior defensive lineman like Vea to take a safety? No.
I will admit though, I was a tad bit surprised at the pick. Most mock drafts had the Bucs taking Derwin James with the 7th overall pick. And with the free agency overhaul of the d-line, I kind of thought that they were done up front and that adding to the back of the defense would make sense. Because of that reason, I never really took an in depth look at Vea during my pre-draft analysis. Obviously, I was looking at the draft a different way than the Bucs. I was looking at it the way that most of us amateurs were which was by “need” instead of best player available. I assumed wrong. We all did. So called “experts” included. The only mock draft I saw that had the Bucs taking Vita Vea in this draft was one that Pewter Report put out. As it turns out, they have more insight on the inner workings at One Buc than some give them credit for. Apparently, it pays to have connections on the inside. Kudos to Scott Reynolds and the guys over there.
The fact is that Vea adds depth, toughness, nastiness and versatility to the interior of the Bucs defensive line. At 6’4″/347lbs, a player should not be able to run a 4.98 forty yard dash AND put up 41 reps on the 225lb bench press. He did. His size, speed and strength allow him to play multiple positions across the d-line from the zero or one tech of a 3-4 front to the three or five tech in a 4-3 front. His scheme versatility was one of the more appealing traits the Bucs liked about him. And, in time, hopefully it’s what ALL Bucs fans will come to appreciate.
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!