Most of the top receivers in the NFL last season were originally first, second or third-round draft picks, like Keyshawn Johnson, the first overall selection in 1996
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 the wide receivers, where the Bucs have spent relatively few first-day picks.
Here's what not to expect on draft weekend: a new receiver who will immediately make a big contribution.
Only one rookie in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history has caught even 60 passes in a season, and that was a fullback. Mike Alstott hauled in 62 passes in 1996 at the beginning of a six-Pro Bowl (and counting) career. The only Buc rookie ever to lead his team in receptions was Lawrence Dawsey, who caught 55 passes in 1991 and 60 in 1992 but never hit 50 catches again.
Furthermore, the Bucs have seemingly been loathe to spend a pick on a receiver high enough in the draft to expect much in the early going. Reidel Anthony (1997) remains the only first-round receiver in team history, and of the five second-rounders, only one (Jacquez Green, 1998) has come in the last decade.
If the Bucs have made news in recent years in the receiver department, it has been via free agency or trade. After missing badly on high-profile free agents Alvin Harper and Bert Emanuel in 1995 and 1998, respectively, Tampa Bay has hit on three in a row with Keyshawn Johnson (trade, 2000), Joe Jurevicius (unrestricted free agent, 2002) and Keenan McCardell (free agent, 2002). Those three make up the heart of the Bucs' current receiving corps.
Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that the very first draft pick the team made under Head Coach Jon Gruden last year was a receiver, Michigan's Marquise Walker. Faced with a deep and veteran group in front of him, and later by a thumb injury, Walker had a forgettable first year but will fight for more playing time in 2003.
|**Wide Receivers Drafted in the Last Five Years**|
|**Year**||**Round**||**Player**||**School**||**Still on Team?**|
|2002||7th||Aaron Lockett||Kansas State||No|
|1999||7th||Darnell McDonald||Kansas State||No|
The Bucs made the Walker selection after signing Jurevicius, a move that wasn't too surprising after Gruden spent his first weeks in Tampa saying he wanted to add as much skill-position talent as possible. There's no reason to believe the head coach feels differently this spring.
Last April, the Bucs jumped on Walker after he slipped into the third round, where the Bucs were waiting with their first pick of the weekend. Tampa Bay did not have a first or second-round pick in 2002, having traded both to Oakland for the rights to sign Gruden, and they do not have a first-rounder this year for the same reason. However, they will choose at the end of the second, and they've had reasonable success in that round in limited tries in the past.
Wide Receivers Drafted by Tampa Bay in the Second and Third Rounds