NOT ADDRESSING THE RUNNING BACK POSITION EARLIER IN FREE AGENCY OR THE DRAFT
In 2016 the Buccaneers run game ranked twenty-fourth in the league averaging 101 yards/game with Jacquizz Rodgers leading the way with 560 yards followed by an injured/suspended Doug Martin, and obviously the running game needed a major upgrade. The free agent class of running backs was average at best and did not really have a lot of interest, but one in particular that was intriguing (that the Buccaneers passed on) was 25 year old Latavius Murray who ended up signing a 3 year $15 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings.
The Buccaneers appeared to have zero interest in any of the running backs in free agency even though most “experts” viewed it as a position of need and they only chose to resign Jacquizz Rodgers to a 1 year $1.7 million deal. Stating that Doug Martin looked great in off season work outs and that maybe he could return to his Pro Bowl form after his three game suspension.
The draft class of running backs was seen as very deep and that a quality running back could be found all the way through the fourth round, and according to reports at the time the Buccaneers most likely would have taken Dalvin Cook in the first round if OJ Howard had not fallen to them at nineteen. In the second round after Dalvin Cook was selected they chose a position of need taking safety Justin Evans. In the third round they took receiver Chris Godwin whom they had rated as a second rounder but in the process they passed on Kareem Hunt who was picked two spots later.
Then they chose to trade up eighteen spots from the fourth round back into the third round and selected linebacker Kendell Beckwith as running backs Samaje Perine, Joe Williams, Donnel Pumphrey, Jamaal Williams, and Marlon Mack were all picked in the fourth round between picks 114 and 143 (Buccaneers pick was 125). Instead the Buccaneers waiting until the fifth round to take a running back (in what some people called a reach) taking Jeremy McNichols at pick 162 who was cut at the end of training camp and chose not to rejoin the team on the practice squad.
Beckwith ended up being a good selection starting as the weak side linebacker and filling in for Kwon and Lavonte who missed four and three games each, but clearing any of those running backs taken in the fourth round could have added a spark to the run game and taken some pressure off of the offense. Obviously it was a “Mistake” to not get a running back earlier in the draft or free agency last season as the Buccaneers ranked 27th in rushing in 2017 averaging just 90.6 yards per game, and Doug Martin who struggled again this season will most likely be cut.
Obviously this free agency period and during the draft the Buccaneers will be targeting the running back position and hope to find help for a more balanced offense.