The Buccaneers got an “A” from Mel Kiper in April, then backed it up from September through December.
Grading teams on their selections is a time-honored part of the NFL Draft scene, and ESPN.com’s Kiper is the most high-profile professor. However, even the most prepared draft expert understands that evaluating draft classes immediately after the seventh round ends is a tricky proposition involving a lot of educated guesswork.
For that reason, many draft evaluators eventually return to their grades after a season has been played – or in some cases, several seasons – and offer revised opinions. Kiper, in fact, did just that on Friday (the link is behind ESPN.com’s Insider subscription wall, so some readers may not be able to access it.) As he puts it: “[I]f I’m going to hand out grades then, something many could consider unfair, it’s only right that we all take a look back to see how I did and hand out some new grades now that we have some results to evaluate.”
In the reevaluation, Tampa Bay was one of the few teams that didn’t get a new grade from Kiper. He is just as high on the Mark Barron-led class as he was back in April, handing out an identical “A.” That puts the Bucs in a class of their own.
In April, Kiper gave solid As to only two teams, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia, with Cincinnati and Indianapolis getting A- grades. In his new evaluation, this one based much more on 2012 performance rather than his pre-draft grades and corresponding draft value, Kiper gives solid As to three teams: Tampa Bay, Indianapolis and Seattle. Minnesota also gets an A-. Tampa Bay is the only team to get and then keep a full “A” over the course of the two grading sessions.
Kiper’s strong grade for the Buccaneers in April was based largely on the team’s first three pick – Barron, RB Doug Martin and LB Lavonte David – and the maneuvering Mark Dominik did to get in position to get all three. That remains his justification in January for granting another A.
“[T]he Bucs got three impact starters with their first three picks, and worked the board well to land Martin,” says Kiper. “Can’t ask for much more in terms of immediate impact.”
The team that made the biggest jump, in Kiper’s estimation, is Seattle, which went from a C- in April to an A in January. The ESPN analyst still isn’t completely sold on the Seahawks’ first-round pick, Bruce Irvin, but has to give the team enormous credit for picking LB Bobby Wagner at #47 and QB Russell Wilson at #75.
There weren’t a lot of teams that did dramatically worse in Kiper’s re-grading. There were 12 teams that got lower marks in January, but none more than a single grade and most by fractional grades (e.g. Tennessee went from a C+ to a C). Kiper also changed his mark on San Francisco from C+ to “I” for incomplete, reasoning that the 49ers’ 2012 class didn’t lack talent, they just couldn’t crack the already talented roster for playing time yet.