Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2017 NFL Draft retrospective

NFL Draft Retrospective, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

How should the Buccaneers feel about their 2017 NFL Draft class after three years? We take a deep dive into it.

The 2017 NFL Draft was one that was chocked full of talented players from the top of the class to the bottom. Many potential superstars were peppered throughout the rounds and there were several very high-performing picks taken in rounds three through seven.

The Bucs were in need of new offensive targets such as a tight end and more depth at wide receiver.  In addition to this, Doug Martin had become far too inconsistent for the Buccaneers to overlook adding another running back.

As a whole, the 2017 Draft was meant to serve as a means to move the Bucs to the next level of competition. In 2016 the Buccaneers finished 9-7 and were not far off from a playoff spot.

In the end, the success that the Buccaneers experienced in 2016 may be part of the reason why the 2017 Draft class was so disappointing. Tampa Bay was able to find some success with this group of rookies individually, but as a whole the product was lackluster.

Original grade

FanSided: B+

Vea paired next to perennial Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy could be absolutely nasty. Defensive coordinator Mike Smith loves having big guys that can stuff the run in the trenches. There were better landing spots for Vea than Tampa Bay, but the Buccaneers should be happy to have landed him.

Draft class

Round 1 (No. 19)

O.J. Howard

Tight end, Crimson Tide

O.J. Howard was by far the best tight end in the 2017 class and was the most physically impressive. Standing at 6’6’’, 251 pounds, Howard’s size and 4.51 40 speed made him almost impossible for the Buccaneers to overlook.

Unfortunately for the Bucs, the woes that Howard experienced in college followed him to the NFL. While he is still one of the most physically talented tight ends in the league, Howard’s level of production doesn’t match.

Over the course of the last three seasons O.J. Howard is averaging 38.3 yards per game and has fallen short of draft peer Evan Engram. Howard has dealt with injuries playing in 36 out of 48 possible games. On the other hand, Engram has played in only 25 games and has still shown to be a better receiver than Howard.

While O.J. Howard does have the athleticism and is a good blocker in Bruce Arians’ scheme, he has simply not panned out as the team had hoped. Howard’s use plummeted in 2019 and makes many fans question what his future is with the team.

Round 2 (No. 50) 

Justin Evans

Safety, Aggies

Justin Evans looked like a steal in the second round after his monster sophomore season for Texas A&M. Evans finished 2016 with 87 tackles, four interceptions, and eight passes defended.

In his rookie year, Evans was the starter for nine games and was everything that was expected and more. Evans was able to finish the season with 66 tackles, three interceptions, and six passes defended.

While his level of play while in games has been impressive, Evans has struggled with injuries. Evans ended both the 2017 and 2018 seasons on injured reserve and started the 2019 season on IR, never making a return.  If Evans can ever make a full recovery he would be a welcomed addition to the secondary, but as of now, his injuries have been a detraction on his overall draft grade.

Round 3 (No. 84)

Chris Goodwin

Receiver, Nittany Lions

Chris Godwin has been the best player for the Bucs from the 2017 Draft Class by a mile. The Buccaneers were able to use a third-round pick to find All-Pro talent and this pick really helped salvage the class as a whole for Tampa.

In three years at Penn State Chris Godwin was able to showcase a very diverse skillset. During this time Godwin averaged 15.7 yards per catch and was able to pull in 11 touchdowns in his final year.

While he was used sparingly in his first two years in the NFL due to a deep wide receiver corps, Godwin was still able to match his efficiency levels from college and was able to post impressive numbers despite his low status on the depth chart.

Godwin then exploded onto the scene in 2019 when he became a true WR2 and saw his touches increase substantially. Godwin was able to catch 86 passes for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns en route to a Pro Bowl selection and a second-team All-Pro selection.

Round 3 (No. 107)

Kendell Beckwith

Linebacker, Tigers

The Buccaneers took a chance on Kendell Beckwith also in the third round of the draft after trading their 6th round pick away. The Bucs had high hopes for Beckwith, but unfortunately, it seems as though his NFL career, at least in Tampa, is coming to a close.

Beckwith had an impressive tape at LSU and showed versatility both against the pass and the run. Beckwith was questionable out of college due to an ACL injury, but the Buccaneers felt comfortable to take a chance on him anyways.

In yet another instance for this 2017 class, the injury bug bit again and Beckwith has only played in 16 games since 2017, all in his first year. Beckwith suffered a non-football injury in 2018 and has still failed to recover. The Buccaneers have also spent other resources on other linebackers and the chances of Beckwith returning are very slim.

Round 5 (No. 162)

Jeremy McNichols

Running back, Broncos

Jeremy McNichols was the Bucs’ fifth-round pick and was seen as a long shot to replace Doug Martin. The later rounds of the draft are seen as gambles anyway, but the pick on McNichols was essentially a wasted one due to the fact that he was cut before the 2017 season started.

McNichols was seen as a talented running back while at Boise State and put together a very impressive sophomore season. His draft stock wasn’t very high but the Buccaneers believed that they could still mold the young running back into something that rivaled the success they experienced with Doug Martin.

After being cut by the Buccaneers, McNichols bounced around the NFL, making it onto six different teams before making it onto the active roster for the Jaguars this past season.

Round 7 (No. 223)

Stevie Tu’ikolovatu

Defensive tackle, Trojans

Stevie Tu’ikolovatu was the final pick for the Buccaneers in 2017 and was a similar situation to that of McNichols. Tu’ikolovatu was unable to ever play a snap for the Buccaneers despite his size and the need that the Buccaneers possessed.

Seventh-round picks don’t always pan out, but the fact that this one didn’t hurt the Buccaneers when compared to the fact that so few players from this class were actually able to play.

Tu’ikolovatu was able to play well both for Utah and USC.  During this time he was able to amass 2.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss showing proficiency for getting penetration despite his size.

In the end, the size mattered little as Tu’ikolovatu was unable to stay on the roster for the Buccaneers. The team went back and forth on the defensive tackle, re-signing him and cutting him several times, but regardless Tu’ikolovatu was never able to make it onto the field.

In the end, the Buccaneers missed the mark on the 2017 Draft. A combination of injuries, players who couldn’t stay on the roster, and picks failing to turn out all combined to form a well-below average draft class for the Buccaneers.

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