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NFC South Preview 2016: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

In this series we take a look at the offseason moves made by the Saints' NFC South division rivals. Today we scout the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

NFL: 2016 NFL Draft Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

In 2015, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended the season with a 6-10 record and a 4th place finish in the NFC South. Tampa was 3-3 in division games including an 1-1 record vs. the New Orleans Saints. The Buccaneers had the 5th ranked offense and 10th ranked defense (both in yards) in 2015, both dramatic improvements from the previous year. Head Coach Dirk Koetter enters his first season and quarterback Jameis Winston enters his second season in Tampa.

Player acquisitions

DE - Robert Ayers Jr

CB - Brent Grimes

CB - Josh Robinson

G - JR Sweezy


Players lost / not re-signed

G - Logan Mankins

K - Connor Barth

CB - Mike Jenkins

CB - Sterling Moore


Draft selections

CB - Vernon Hargreaves III - Florida (Round 1)

DE - Noah Spence - Eastern Kentucky (Round 2)

K - Roberto Aguayo - Florida State (Round 2)

DB - Ryan Smith - North Carolina Central (Round 4)

OT - Caleb Benenoch - UCLA (Round 5)

LB - Devante Bond - Oklahoma (Round 6)

FB - Dan Vitale - Northwestern (Round 6)


Here's how graded Tampa's draft:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: C+ Grade

Goals Entering the 2016 NFL Draft: The Buccaneers seem almost set on offense, with tackle and receiver being just two of the needs they have on that side of the ball. Thus, they'll have to concentrate on defense in the 2016 NFL Draft. Upgrades are needed almost everywhere, save for linebacker. Tampa going pass rush then safety seems pretty likely.

2016 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Tampa's draft is like this delicious-looking apple pie that you take several bites out of, and you absolutely love it - until you discover that there's a single worm in there, and now your entire appetite is spoiled.

The worm, I'm referring to, of course, is the kicker the Buccaneers chose in the second round. And not only did Tampa select him there; the team dealt a fourth-round pick in order to move up for him! Look, Roberto Aguayo is a talented kicker, and the position is more prevalent now in the wake of the new PAT rule, but selecting one during the draft's second day - let alone moving up for one - is just ridiculous and completely irresponsible.

As you can infer from the apple pie analogy, the rest of Tampa's draft was great. It started well, when the Buccaneers moved down for Vernon Hargreaves, whom they easily could've chosen at No. 9. Noah Spence, picked in the second round, has great talent, but fell only because of character concerns. The rest of Tampa's selections seem solid as well, save for Devante Bond.

So, what do you give a yummy apple pie with a single worm? I couldn't imagine going higher than a C+, but I wouldn't want to drop any lower either.

Here's how Bucs Nation lead editor Sander Philipse viewed Tampa's draft:

Personally, I'd give the Buccaneers a B for the draft as a whole. I'm not a fan of drafting any kicker in the second round, no matter how good, let alone trading up for him. But getting the best edge rusher in the draft at number 39 is a coup, and Vernon Hargreaves should flourish under defensive coordinator Mike Smith. With Dan Vitale as another early contributor, and Ryan Smith as a potential eventual starter at safety as well, the Bucs got a lot out of their seven draft picks.


How this affects the Saints in 2016

The Buccaneers made tremendous strides on both sides of the ball last year, but despite turning their terrible offense and defense into top ten units, it only netted them four wins above their 2014 total. It would stand to reason that this, along with the fear of losing Dirk Koetter to another team, cost Lovie Smith his job.

Its a little hard to tell how the coaching change will effect the team, as the Bucs have gone through head coaches like the Saints have got through defensive coordinators over the last decade. The change of philosophy may invigorate the team, but the lack of continuity may keep them from making real progress.

Running Back Doug Martin will be the key to success for the Bucs offense, as his return to health and productivity took a tremendous amount of pressure off of rookie quarterback Jameis Winston a season ago. Now, this pairing along with a skilled and sizable receiving corps should continue to make Tampa a problem for the Saints and the rest of the NFC South in 2016.

Tampa will play the Saints tough, as always, and I would expect the Saints to see another season split with the Bucs as they did last season. If Tampa can continue to play up to the potential of their talent, and that’s a big if, they may just find themselves at 8-8 to finish the season and get themselves to a 3rd place finish in the NFC South.