Ellis Wyms (96) and Warren Sapp (99) represent Buccaneer selection success at opposite ends of the draft
In the weeks prior to the 2003 NFL Draft, Buccaneers.com will analyze each position on the team in regards to the draft, looking at depth, selection history and available players. Much of the focus will be on the Bucs' second and third-round history, as the team does not currently own a first-round pick. As usual, this look at the draft is not intended to reflect the intentions or strategies of the Buccaneers' personnel decision-makers. Today we focus on defensive linemen, a position that almost always seems to be a part of the Bucs' draft plans.
Three Aprils ago, late in the afternoon of the 16th, Rich McKay pushed back from the War Room table after his Tampa Bay Buccaneers had selected Georgia Tech QB Joe Hamilton with their final pick of the 2000 NFL Draft. One imagines he was pleased with the weekend's haul, a bit tired, probably, but still ready to focus on the night's efforts to bag a dozen or so undrafted free agents.
But was he aware that the Bucs had just done something quite rare? For just the third time in team history, Tampa Bay's decision-makers had gone an entire draft weekend without selecting a single defensive lineman. The same thing had happened only in 1977 and 1994, and it's worth noting that, in all three of those years, trades had cut deeply into the Bucs' store of draft picks.
Also worth noting is that later on the evening of the 16th the Bucs signed four undrafted free agents at the defensive end and defensive tackle positions. Plainly speaking, Tampa Bay virtually never goes an entire draft weekend without throwing a few darts at the DL dartboard. It's a position that seems to need constant replenishing, and one that can seemingly be addressed at any time in the draft.
The Bucs have spent more first-round draft picks on defensive linemen than any other position (seven), with results ranging from spectacular (Lee Roy Selmon, Warren Sapp) to spectacularly misguided (Eric Curry). They've also had some of their best second-day success on the defensive front – David Logan, Curt Jarvis, Reuben Davis, Santana Dotson, Chidi Ahanotu, James Cannida, to name a few. While Tampa Bay's early-round draft emphasis has shifted under McKay from 'potential' to 'production,' the later rounds are often used to take a reasoned guess on a player with one or two specific skills.
The most recent example is defensive end Ellis Wyms, a sixth-rounder in 2001 who has quickly developed into an invaluable sub, one that can play end or tackle equally well. Though he didn't start a single game and missed two weeks of play, Wyms had 5.5 sacks in 2002, more than Grant Wistrom, Daryl Gardener, Dana Stubblefield, Luther Elliss, Marco Coleman, Shaun Ellis and Courtney Brown, among others. Regardless of the Bucs' defensive line depth in the spring of 2001 – and, as usual, it was deep – spending a sixth-round pick on a relatively unknown end out of Mississippi State paid great dividends a year later.
In the last 10 drafts, the Bucs have used two fifth, four sixth and four seventh-round draft picks on defensive linemen. While the majority of those players failed to make the team, successful hits such as the one on Wyms made the strategy worthwhile. A look at the more recent linemen drafted by the Bucs in all rounds of the draft:
|**Defensive Linemen Drafted in the Last Five Years**|
|**Year**||**Round**||**Player**||**School**||**Still on Team?**|
|2002||6th||John Stamper||South Carolina||No|
|2001||6th||Ellis Wyms||Mississippi State||Yes|
|1997||7th||Anthony DeGrate||Stephen F. Austin||No|
Interestingly, despite all the early and late-round attention to the defensive line, the Bucs rarely look in that direction during the meaty middle rounds. It's as if they either rush to get one of the established blue-chippers or wait to take a flyer on a second-day prospect with potential.
In 27 previous drafts, Tampa Bay has spent only one second-round pick on a defensive lineman, and that player actually cost the Bucs a first-round pick in what was a disastrous chapter in franchise history. After taking Penn State G Sean Farrell in the first round in 1982, the Bucs traded their 1983 first-round pick to Chicago for a second-round selection in order to take Bethune-Cookman DE Booker Reese. Reese proved to be one of the more notable draft busts in team history (see below).
That's notable in 2003 because the Buccaneers do not currently own either a first or a seventh-round draft pick. Even third-round picks on D-linemen have been relatively rare, with the last one occurring in 1992.
Defensive Linemen Drafted by Tampa Bay in the Second and Third Rounds