The Tampa Bay Buccaneers choosing to draft punter Jake Camarda in the fourth round has been a controversial decision amongst fans and media alike. Mostly met with negative feedback, it’s now time for someone to defend the draft-day decision.
In the NFL, general managers and staffs eventually develop patterns with drafting and other acquisitions, and Jason Licht is no different. One thing Licht has a history of when it comes to the draft is drafting special teams players. He’s done so as high as the SECOND ROUND in 2016 (Roberto Aguayo) and even drafted two in four years with Matt Gay being a fifth-round pick in 2019.
So while this strategy may come off as, shall we say, “unconventional”, at the end of the day special teams is a third of the game. As the cliché goes, offense wins games/sells tickets while defense wins championships. However, that doesn’t mean special teams should be forgotten.
While Bill Belichick and his defense get the bulk of the credit for the New England Patriots Super Bowl LIII victory over the Los Angeles Rams, a huge part of that had to do with the fact that the Rams started from inside their own 10-yard line seemingly every possession. Patriots’ Punter Ryan Allen very well could have been Super Bowl MVP, but then the Earth as we know it very well may have stopped turning had that happened, so they settled on Julian Edelman.
The Buccaneers, while a solid squad, have not had the opportunity to enjoy such extravagance.
The Bucs have an absolutely loaded roster from top to bottom, one of the best in football even. However, their special teams have left much to be desired, and Michael Spurlock is not walking through that door to save the day any time soon. The most glaring deficiency of the unit has been in punt coverage, and a lot of that can fall on the punter.
With the selection of Camarda, it’s safe to assume that Bradley Pinion’s days are numbered, but you never know with training camp. The potential new punter could help solve the special teams woes as the young man has a bit of a bazooka attached to his hip, and the hangtime could allow for the coverage to get downfield and limit returns to win the battle of field position.
Could the Bucs have tried signing one in free agency instead of “wasting” a draft pick? Sure they could have. With a team so low on needs and holes though, save for special teams, using a fourth-round pick on a punter isn’t that big of a deal. It’s actually more of a luxury that this is towards the top of their list of problems. Also, the Baltimore Ravens drafted a punter in the same round and everyone has been applauding their draft for whatever that’s worth. Why? They have a solid roster already in place.
Of course, it’s not lost on anyone that Licht’s track record with drafting kickers isn’t exactly stout, it’s a little different with punters. They do not have as much of a direct impact on winning and losing games, but they can certainly help, such as the aforementioned Patriots example.
No draft haul is going to be 100% satisfactory with 100% of the fanbase and/or media. It’s completely fair to criticize your team, that’s what being a fan is. That said, it’s just as fair to defend their decisions using logic and reason without it being through rose-colored glasses.
The Bucs had clear needs, albeit few, and were addressed swiftly and effectively. Time will tell how the on-field results turn out, but it’s safe to figure the drafting of Jake Camarda won’t keep the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of the playoffs. Assuming otherwise would be preposterous.
All that matters is there’s a DAWG in Tampa Bay and a champion at that.