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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Entire History of the Buccaneers' Fifth-Round Draft Picks

For the Buccaneers, the fifth round of the NFL Draft has been most notable for producing long-term starters on the offensive line, though defenders Santana Dotson, Jermaine Phillips and Jeff Davis were also strong picks


NOTE: This article was originally published in April of 2023 and has been updated to include last year's draft results.

In the 2009 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded up two spots in the first round in order to grab Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman with the 17th-overall pick. Just a year earlier, the Buccaneers had used a fifth-round selection on another quarterback by the same first name, this one the University of San Diego's Josh Johnson.

Johnson was inactive for every game in his rookie season but in 2009 both he and Freeman got a chance to start. After veteran Byron Leftwich opened the season under center during an 0-3 start, Johnson got a shot in the next four contests before the Bucs turned to their ostensible quarterback-of-the-future after falling to 0-7. Freeman finished out the season and then had a very promising sophomore campaign to help the Bucs go 10-6 in 2010.

Freeman's last game in the NFL came with the Indianapolis Colts in 2015. Meanwhile, Johnson was most recently seen in game action relieving an injured Brock Purdy for the San Francisco 49ers in last season's NFC Championship Game. San Francisco was the fifth team for which Johnson has thrown a regular-season pass and the 14th team that has had him on the roster, not counting stints in the UFL, the AAF and the XFL. Johnson also spent most of last season as a reserve in his second stint with the Baltimore Ravens, though he did not get into any games. He is currently an unrestricted free agent but it would be unwise to assume his career is over, even as he approaches his 38th birthday.

Johnson is undoubtedly one of the most interesting fifth-round picks the Buccaneers have ever made. They've certainly made others that have helped their own cause more, and some that never made it at all. Today we're going to look at all of the players the franchise has selected in the fifth round over the course of 48 drafts.

The Buccaneers are not currently scheduled to pick in the fifth round in this year's draft after trading that selection to Philadelphia a year ago to get a sixth-rounder that was used on wide receiver Trey Palmer. Here are the picks they do currently own in the 2024 NFL Draft:

  • Round One, 26th Overall
  • Round Two, 57th Overall
  • Round Three, 89th Overall
  • Round Three, 92nd Overall
  • Round Four, 125th Overall
  • Round Six, 220th Overall
  • Round Seven, 246th Overall

When the Buccaneers first joined the league, the draft was 17 rounds long, but it was cut to 12 the next year. It was then shortened to eight rounds in 1993 and then to its current seven-round format in 1994. Below, you will find the full list of every player the Buccaneers have taken in the fifth round in their drafts from 1976 through 2023, followed by some notes about that collection of players.

2023 | Pick No. 171 | Payne Durham | TE | Purdue

2023 | Pick No. 153 | SirVocea Dennis | LB | Pittsburgh

2022 | Pick No. 157 | Zyon McCollum | CB | Sam Houston State

2021 | Pick No. 176 | K.J. Britt | LB | Auburn

2020 | Pick No. 161 | Tyler Johnson | WR | Minnesota

2019 | Pick No. 145 | Matt Gay | K | Utah

2018 | Pick No. 144 | Justin Watson | WR | Pennsylvania

2017 | Pick No. 162 | Jeremy McNichols | RB | Boise State

2016 | Pick No. 148 | Caleb Benenoch | T | UCLA

2015 | Pick No. 162 | Kenny Bell | WR | Nebraska

2014 | Pick No. 149 | Kevin Pamphile | T | Purdue

2014 | Pick No. 143 | Kadeem Edwards | G | Tennessee State

2013 | Pick No. 147 | Steven Means | DE | Buffalo

2012 | Pick No. 140 | Najee Goode | LB | West Virginia

2011 | Pick No. 151 | Ahmad Black | S | Florida

2009 | Pick No. 155 | Xavier Fulton | T | Illinois

2008 | Pick No. 160 | Josh Johnson | QB | San Diego

2007 | Pick No. 141 | Greg Peterson | DE | North Carolina Central

2006 | Pick No. 156 | Julian Jenkins | DE | Stanford

2005 | Pick No. 155 | Larry Brackins | WR | Pearl River C.C.

2005 | Pick No. 141 | Donte Nicholson | S | Oklahoma

2004 | Pick No. 146 | Jeb Terry | G | North Carolina

2003 | Pick No. 168 | Sean Mahan | G | Notre Dame

2002 | Pick No. 157 | Jermaine Phillips | S | Georgia

2001 | Pick No. 151 | Russ Hochstein | G | Nebraska

2000 | Pick No. 157 | James Whalen | TE | Kentucky

1999 | Pick No. 150 | John McLaughlin | DE | California

1997 | Pick No. 137 | Patrick Hape | TE | Alabama

1996 | Pick No. 140 | Jason Maniecki | DT | Wisconsin

1995 | Pick No. 143 | Clifton Abraham | CB | Florida State

1994 | Pick No. 136 | Pete Pierson | T | Washington

1992 | Pick No. 132 | Santana Dotson | DE | Baylor

1992 | Pick No. 118 | Rogerick Green | CB | Kansas State

1991 | Pick No. 136 | Tim Ryan | G | Notre Dame

1991 | Pick No. 120 | Terry Bagsby | LB | East Texas State

1990 | Pick No. 114 | Ian Beckles | G | Indiana

1989 | Pick No. 117 | Jamie Lawson | FB | Nicholls State

1988 | Pick No. 113 | William Howard | FB | Tennessee

1987 | Pick No. 137 | Tony Mayes |S | Kentucky

1987 | Pick No. 135 | Henry Rolling | LB | Nevada

1986 | Pick No. 112 | J.D. Maarleveld | T | Maryland

1983 | Pick No. 131 | Tony Chickillo | DT | Miami (FL)

1982 | Pick No. 128 | Jeff Davis | LB | Clemson

1979 | Pick No. 133 | Chuck Fusina | QB | Penn State

1976 | Pick No. 154 | Steve Wilson | T | Georgia

1976 | Pick No. 125 | Mishael Kelson | CB | West Texas State


- Of the 46 players the Buccaneers have acquired with fifth-round picks, 37 went on to play at least one regular-season game with the team and 21 made at least one start, including tight end Payne Durham last season (SirVocea Dennis could make it 22 starters in 2024 or later). The Buccaneers' fifth-round selection in 2022, Sam Houston State cornerback Zyon McCollum, has started 12 games through his first two seasons and is the presumptive starter opposite Jamel Dean in 2024 after the trade of Carlton Davis to Detroit.

- Three of the Bucs' 46 fifth-round picks went on to play 100 or more games for the team, and all of them were offensive lineman. The first was Georgia's Steve Wilson, who was taken in the fifth round of Tampa Bay's very first college draft in 1976. Wilson was listed as a tackle when he was drafted and started five games at guard as a rookie, but he eventually settled in as the team's starting center for most of the 1978-84 seasons. He finished with 126 games played and 104 starts.

- The other two offensive lineman to top 100 games played for the Bucs after being selected in the fifth round were guard Ian Beckles (1990) and tackle Pete Pierson (1994). Beckles was the Bucs' right guard for the better part of a decade, and his 97 career starts for Tampa Bay are second only among fifth-rounders to Wilson's 104. Pierson was a reserve for a good portion of his career but played in 100 games with 21 starts. He took over for Ring of Honor member Paul Gruber at left tackle in the 1999 playoffs after Gruber suffered a broken leg in the regular-season finale in Chicago.

- Several other fifth-round offensive linemen had reasonably long runs as starters in Tampa Bay, including G Sean Mahan (2003 draft, 40 starts), T/G Kevin Pamphile (2014 draft, 33 starts) and G Caleb Benenoch (2016 draft, 22 starts).

- The Buccaneers made two fifth-round picks in that inaugural 1976 draft and they could hardly have diverged more sharply. While Wilson, as noted, started 104 games, West Texas State RB Mishael Kelson never played a single game in the NFL.

- Kelson is one of six players drafted by the Buccaneers in the fifth round who failed to notch a single game played in the NFL. The other five were WR Kenny Bell (2015), G Kadeem Edwards (2014), T Xavier Fulton (2009), WR Larry Brackins (2005) and LB Terry Bagsby (1991). Bell, Edwards and Fulton did make the roster in Tampa for one or more seasons but all encountered injuries in their rookie seasons.

- Among defensive players, the fifth-round pick who saw the most action for Tampa Bay so far is linebacker Jeff Davis, selected in the 1982 draft. Davis spent the bulk of five seasons starting at left inside linebacker in the Bucs' 3-4 front, opening 72 of the 83 games in which he played and recording 662 tackles, which ranks ninth in franchise history.

- Baylor DT Santana Dotson had the most impressive rookie season of any of the Bucs' 44 fifth-round picks (so far). He notched five sacks in his first three games and finished the season with 10.0 QB takedowns, still the most by a rookie in team history. Dotson played four seasons in Tampa an another six in Green Bay and finished with 49.0 career sacks, plus a Super Bowl ring earned with the Packers in 1996.

- Johnson is one of two quarterbacks the Bucs have landed with fifth-round picks, joining Penn State's Chuck Fusina, a 1979 draftee. Fusina played in seven games over three seasons in Tampa and another seven in Green Bay in the 1986 season, but he never started a contest in the NFL.

- The Buccaneers drafted eight players in the 2002 draft but none before the third round because they had traded their first and second-round picks (plus two other picks in later drafts) to the Oakland Raiders to acquire the rights to Head Coach Jon Gruden. Georgia safety Jermaine Phillips, a fifth-round pick, went on to play 96 games for the Buccaneers, starting 74 of them and contributing 425 tackles, 11 interceptions, 30 passes defensed and 10 forced fumbles. The Bucs' other seven selections in that draft combined to play in 18 regular-season games and make six starts, including 14 and six with the Buccaneers.

- The most common positions the Buccaneers have targeted in the fifth round over the last 47 years are guard and tackle , with a total of six selections each. Boise State's Jeremy McNichols (2017) is the only running back the Bucs have ever taken in the fifth round. He did not make Tampa Bay's roster as a rookie but went on to see action for the 49ers, Colts, Jaguars and Titans.

- Five colleges have produced a pair of fifth-round picks by the Buccaneers: Georgia, Kentucky, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Purdue.

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