Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Answer Man, Series 6, Volume 9

Working from a much thinner mailbag than usual, the Buc fans' inside source spends a lot of time on just a few topics, including the relationship between receiver draft status and a team's success, and a similar question involving quarterbacks

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Well, it looks like you all have discovered the Answer Man's version of Kryptonite. How do you render my powers impotent? Stop sending questions.

I came close to emptying out the mailbag before the last column, and it just didn't get much attention over the last two weeks. The good news is, the questions you'll find below got in-depth answers - heck, I even pulled out a few tables for added bulk. The bad news, there are really only three main questions here, followed by a handful of "quickies." On the other hand, this sucker still checks in at more than 4,000 words, so why am I apologizing.

I held out as long as I could, waiting for a few more questions to add to this column, but they just never materialized. But now the Answer Family and I are going on vacation, so we're going to have to run with what we've got. (Disclaimer: I submitted this to the editor on Wednesday, so if you sent something good on Thursday or Friday, you may be in line for some prime real estate in the next column.)

So without further ado (no long-winded intro this time either? Has the Answer Man turned over a new leaf?), let's get to your questions.

**

  1. Damian of Sacramento, California asks:

O Mighty Answer Man, it has been years since I have tested your statistical skills. I hope I can stump you with this one: Wide receiver is a position that is open to competition this season. The starting wide receivers could realistically be anything from a first-rounder (Clayton) to a seventh-rounder (Stroughter). Historically, what is the average draft round for the Buccaneers' starting two receivers? How about by year? Does the draft position of the starting wide receivers correlate to the Bucs' W-L record?

Answer Man: Now, c'mon Damian. You don't really want to stump me, do you? If so, you'd never get an answer to your question.

Anyway, it's going to take more than this to take me down. I have powers, dang blast it! First, I'll fly very fast around the globe from east to west in order to reverse the Earth's spin and send us backwards in time so I can personally watch each Buccaneers game...no, wait, that's some other guy's move. Maybe I'll just flip through a bunch of media guides instead.

Well, first of all, we don't always have two starting receivers in any one year. So I took the fully-updated all-time roster that I have converted into Excel for easy sorting (it includes columns listing every player's games played and starts for the team) and did a little sifting through the years. I sorted out all the receivers, then just the ones that have started any games at all for the Buccaneers, and I came up with 46 different players. That is admittedly fewer than I expected, but obviously some guys were starters for many years, so you're not going to have a total of 68 starters (34 years multiplied by two starters each). That total includes Don Smith, who started out as a running back but converted to receiver in 1988 and made two starts at that position. Yes, I am thorough.

I'll get to the analysis the way you wanted it done in a minute, but let me do a little work with this list first. I was a bit surprised to find out that only six of the 46 players on that list came into the league as undrafted free agents, and those six only accounted for 31 of the 1,010 receiver starts in team history. (Yes, the Bucs have played 532 regular-season games in their history, so you might expect 1,064 starts, but remember that teams don't always have exactly two receivers on the field when a play starts. Two-TE, one-WR sets, in particular, are very common for a first-down running play.)

Twenty-two of those 31 starts belong to Karl Williams, who you'd have to say is the most successful undrafted receiver in team history, particularly when you factor in his multitude of team-record return stats. None of the other five undrafted players on the list were signed right out of college by Tampa Bay, though the Bucs did pick up Leonard Harris (who went on to a pretty good career with the Houston Oilers) after he spent two years in the USFL.

Ten receivers have started 40 or more games for the Buccaneers, and all of them came into the league as draft picks. Seven of the 10 were drafted by the Buccaneers, five as picks in the first three rounds. By the way, I'd bet very few of you out there could guess which receiver has the third-most starts in team history. If you haven't already glanced at the chart below, hazard a prediction.

What the heck, I'll give you the entire list. This is every receiver that's started a game for the Buccaneers from 1976 through 2009, listed in order of number of starts:

Receiver

Years

w/Bucs

Starts

Draft

Round

Drafted

by Bucs?

House, Kevin

1980-86

81

2

Yes

Carrier, Mark

1987-92

80

3

Yes

Carter, Gerald

1980-87

61

9

Yes

Johnson, Keyshawn

2000-03

57

1

No

Clayton, Michael

2004-

56

1

Yes

Galloway, Joey

2004-08

56

1

No

Hill, Bruce

1987-91

50

4

Yes

Hawkins, Courtney

1992-96

48

2

Yes

Owens, Morris

1976-79

47

5

No

Dawsey, Lawrence

1991-95

41

3

Yes

Anthony, Reidel

1997-01

38

1

Yes

Green, Jacquez

1998-01

37

2

Yes

Hagins, Isaac

1976-80

32

9

No

McCardell, Keenan

2002-03

30

12

No

McKay, John

1976-78

30

16

No

Copeland, Horace

1993-98*

28

4

Yes

Bryant, Antonio

2008-09

26

2

No

Jones, Gordon

1979-82

26

2

Yes

Williams, Karl

1996-03

22

U

N/A

Emanuel, Bert

1998-99

21

2

No

Harper, Alvin

1995-96

19

1

No

Hilliard, Ike

2005-08

14

1

No

Bell, Theo

1981-85

13

4

No

Freeman, Phil

1985-87

11

8

Yes

Mucker, Larry

1977-80

11

9

Yes

Stovall, Maurice

2006-

10

3

Yes

Thomas, Robb

1996-98

9

6

No

Jurevicius, Joe

2002-04

8

2

No

Lee, Charles

2002-04

8

7

No

Wilson, Charles

1992-94

8

5

No

Brown, Tim

2004

4

1

No

Grant, Frank

1978

4

13

No

Heflin, Vince

1986

3

U

N/A

McGriff, Lee

1976

3

U

N/A

Drewrey, Willie

1989-92

3

11

No

Smith, Don

1987-89

2

2

Yes

Pillow, Frank

1988-90

2

11

Yes

Schroeder, Bill

2004

2

6

No

Thomas, Lamar

1993-95

2

3

Yes

Lucas, Chad

2007

1

U

N/A

Barlow, Reggie

2002-03

1

4

No

Douglas, Freddie

1976

1

U

N/A

Harris, Leonard

1986

1

U

N/A

Peebles, Danny

1989-90

1

2

Yes

Smith, Barry

1976

1

1

No

Thomas, George

1992

1

6

No

Did you guess Gerald Carter? My guess would have been Galloway, and I guess he was pretty close.

Anyway, if you sort that list out by what round the player was drafted in (whether or not by the Buccaneers), you get eight first-rounders, nine second-rounders, four third-rounders, four fourth-rounders, two fifth-rounders, three sixth-rounders, one seventh-rounder, one eight-rounder, three ninth-rounders, two 11th-rounders, one 12th-rounder, one 13th-rounder, one 16th-rounder and the aforementioned six undrafted players.

I like the idea of figuring out what the average draft round is of those 46 players, but the six undrafted players make it kind of complicated. If you do it without those six, you come up with an average of about halfway through the fourth round. That seems incomplete to me, though. The problem is deciding what numerical value to give the undrafted guys. Nowadays, for instance, you might choose to call them "eighth-rounders" since the draft last seven rounds. However, if you go back through 1972, the earliest any of these players entered the league, the draft lasted anywhere from seven to 17 rounds. So let's split the difference and call those players "12th-rounders" and give them a numerical value of 12. Now you get an average draft position of about midway through the fifth round.

There's an obvious flaw in that analysis, of course. It seems kind of silly to give the same weight to a guy like Harris, who started one game, that you give to a guy like Mark Carrier, who is the top receiver in franchise history. So let's do one more thing with this bit - we'll weight those draft positions according to how many starts the player made. So, in other words, we'll multiply House's 2nd-round value by his 81 starts, Carrier's 3rd-round value by his 80 starts, etc., and average those numbers through the full 1,010 starts.

Now you get an average draft position of Round 4.2, which is not as far removed as I expected from that first number up there. Therefore, my initial answer to one of your questions - albeit arrived at in a manner different than what you requested, is Round 4.2.

Now let's look at it your way. You want to know what the average draft round of the Bucs' two primary starters each year has been, and then if there is any correlation between that number and the Bucs' win-loss totals. What the heck, we've already thrown one huge table in here; let's do another. Last names only, because all those guys are already listed in the above table.

Season

Starter 1

Draft

Rd.

Starter 2

Draft

Rd.

W

L

T

Pct.

1976

McKay

16

Owens

5

0

14

0

.000

1977

McKay

16

Owens

5

2

12

0

.143

1978

McKay

16

Owens

5

5

11

0

.313

1979

Hagins

9

Owens

5

10

6

0

.625

1980

Jones

2

Hagins

9

5

10

1

.344

1981

Bell

4

House

2

9

7

0

.563

1982

Jones

2

House

2

5

4

0

.556

1983

Carter

9

House

2

2

14

0

.125

1984

House

2

Carter

9

6

10

0

.375

1985

House

2

Carter

9

2

14

0

.125

1986

House

2

Carter

9

2

14

0

.125

1987

Carrier

3

Carter

9

4

11

0

.267

1988

Carrier

3

Hill

4

5

11

0

.313

1989

Carrier

3

Hill

4

5

11

0

.313

1990

Carrier

3

Hill

4

6

10

0

.375

1991

Carrier

3

Dawsey

3

3

13

0

.188

1992

Carrier

3

Dawsey

3

5

11

0

.313

1993

Hawkins

2

Copeland

4

5

11

0

.313

1994

Hawkins

2

Wilson

5

6

10

0

.375

1995

Harper

1

Dawsey

3

7

9

0

.438

1996

R. Thomas

6

Hawkins

2

6

10

0

.375

1997

Anthony

1

Copeland

4

10

6

0

.625

1998

Anthony

1

Emanuel

2

8

8

0

.500

1999

Green

2

Emanuel

2

11

5

0

.688

2000

Green

2

Johnson

1

10

6

0

.625

2001

Green

2

Johnson

1

9

7

0

.563

2002

McCardell

12

Johnson

1

12

4

0

.750

2003

McCardell

12

Johnson

1

7

9

0

.438

2004

Clayton

1

Galloway

1

5

11

0

.313

2005

Clayton

1

Galloway

1

11

5

0

.688

2006

Clayton

1

Galloway

1

4

12

0

.250

2007

Hilliard

1

Galloway

1

9

7

0

.563

2008

Clayton

1

Bryant

2

9

7

0

.563

2009

Clayton

1

Bryant

2

3

13

0

.188

What we have listed here is the two primary starters for each season, as reported by the Buccaneers' media guide. They are presumably the players who made the most starts in each of those seasons. You'll see some players listed in one column for one year and the other for another season; I'm just charting them as they are listed in the media guide. Usually, a team puts the receiver it considers a split end in the first row of the depth chart, near the LT, while the one it considers a flanker will go lower, between the tight end and the quarterback. I don't think the Bucs stuck strictly to that rule in every season in the media guide listing, though. For instance, I think you would call Bryant the split end and Clayton the flanker the last two seasons.

Anyway, there's your data, and I'm not sure you're going to find much of a correlation between starting-receiver-draft-position and team success in Bucs history. For instance, the 1979 team won 10 games and made it to the NFC title game with ninth and fifth-rounders in the starting lineup. The 2004 team had a pair of first rounders but finished 5-11. I'll do the math, just for kicks.

The team with the best winning percentage in franchise history is, of course, the 2002 squad, which interestingly started both a first-rounder (Johnson) and a 12th-rounder (McCardell). That's an average draft-round position of 6.5. The next two seasons on the list are 1999 and 2005, the former of which fielded two second-rounders and the latter two first-rounders. So those are high averages of (duh) second and first-round draft position for '99 and '05.

You do find two of the three lowest draft-position combos in the bottom five of the Bucs' winning-percentage seasons (1976 and 1977), but that's mostly due to John McKay Jr. and his 16th-round draft value.

I'll also concede this: If you compare the 18 best seasons in team history as a group against the 16 worst (I split them that way rather than 17/17 because there were four teams tied right near the middle and I wanted to keep them together), you do find much better receiver draft position in the top group. The primary starting receivers in the top 18 seasons had an average draft position of just over the third round. The starters in the bottom group had an average draft position of close to the ninth round.

You may know this, but the Bucs never drafted a receiver in the first round until 1997, when they picked Reidel Anthony with one of two first-round selections they owned that year. They didn't even have a former first-round pick by another team start a game for them until 1995, with the exception of one start in 1976 by Barry Smith, the Packers' top pick in 1973. It's safe to say that receivers are valued more highly in the NFL now than they were in, say, 1978, and that certainly seems to be the case for the Buccaneers.

So, Damian, was your answer in there somewhere. Because that just took me about four hours!

**

  1. Mike of St. Petersburg, Florida asks:

OK Answer Man, here is one for you since everyone agrees Josh Freeman is our starter at QB: What is the longest tenure of a Bucs starting QB and what was his draft spot? Is Josh Freeman the highest-drafted starter in franchise history and if not who was and how long did they hold the position?

...and Logan Pounders of Lakeland, Florida asks:

I was wondering (a bad habit) how many times the Bucs picked a QB up in the first round of a draft? And how did they pan out statistically?

Answer Man: There certainly seems to be a theme to the questions today!

This one's a lot easier, though, simply because of the specific way Mike framed this question. Basically, Mike wants to know where the team's longest-running starters came from in the draft, and which quarterbacks were drafted the highest. Logan's question will get answered along the way.

Nothing about this answer is going to surprise you, Mike (or the rest of you dear readers along for the ride). I'm in a table-y mood today, so let me give you the 10 quarterbacks who have started the most games for the Buccaneers, along with their records in those starts.

Quarterback

Starts

W/L

Pct.

Trent Dilfer

76

38-38

.500

Vinny Testaverde

72

24-48

.333

Doug Williams

67

33-33-1

.500

Brad Johnson

49

26-23

.531

Steve DeBerg

37

8-29

.216

Craig Erickson

29

11-18

.379

Jeff Garcia

24

14-10

.583

Shaun King

22

14-8

.636

Brian Griese

21

12-9

.571

Steve Young

19

3-16

.158

The three quarterbacks who have started the most games for the Buccaneers, not coincidentally, are the only three the team had drafted in the first round before Freeman. Of those, Testaverde ranks as the "highest-drafted" player (I always think that term sounds awkward, but I admit that I use it too, and I think we all know what it means) because he was taken first overall in 1987. That's a record that won't be beaten!

Dilfer was the sixth overall pick in 1994 while Williams went 17th in 1978. That's the same spot at which the Bucs got Freeman in 2009, so as you can see he ties for the third highest-drafted quarterback in team history. Certainly, the idea is that he will have a starting tenure at least as long as Dilfer's, and hopefully much longer.

In terms of seasons as the starter, you'd give Williams five (all five he was with the team), 1978-82; Testaverde also gets five (1988-82), as does Dilfer (1995-99).

Brad Johnson is the first non-first-rounder on the list, and the first quarterback that was not drafted by Tampa Bay. He was originally a ninth-round pick by Minnesota in the 1992 draft. Similarly, DeBerg was a 10th-round pick by San Francisco in 1977. The Bucs drafted Erickson in the fourth round in 1992, while Garcia entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent after playing in the CFL. King was a second-round choice in 1999, Griese was originally a third-rounder by Denver in 1988 and Young played in the USFL before the Bucs nabbed him in a supplemental draft.

Freeman already has nine starts, which means he needs 68 more to pass Dilfer as the longest-tenured starting quarterback in team history. That's actually just four-and-one-quarter seasons, so the Answer Man would very much like to see that happen!

And actually, Logan's question does bring something else to the table due to his wording, whether it was intentional or not. Logan asked about all the quarterbacks the Bucs had taken in the first round of "a" draft, not "the" draft. As in, any draft. Therefore, I suppose I should also include Steve Young, whom the Buccaneers drafted with the first overall pick of an unusual draft in June of 1984. A total of 80 players were picked in that draft, most of them from the USFL and a handful from the CFL. The idea was to avoid a bidding war when and if the USFL no longer existed or players left the league and those players wanted to join the NFL.

Which, of course, is exactly what happened. The Bucs had the rights to Steve Young, and he joined the team in 1985. Young played two seasons with the Buccaneers - posting a 3-16 record as a starter for a team that admittedly had lots of problems (a record of 4-28 overall in that span) - before he was traded to San Francisco on April 24, 1987 for second and fourth-round picks in the '87 draft.

Young, of course, went on to earn enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

**

  1. Jake G. of Ishpeming, Michigan asks:

Hey Answer Man, glad to hear you're an eternal optimist when it comes to the Bucs. This upcoming season the new player I'm most excited about is Mike Williams. Everything I've heard and researched about the guy has been really positive and the clips I've seen of him lead me to believe he has the ability to be an excellent playmaker. So what I wanted to ask was this: Can you give me a rundown of the top 5 best statistical seasons by a rookie WR? If that's too extensive for you we can shorten it down to the Super Bowl era. Thanks Answer Man

Answer Man: Jake here has taken advantage of the thinner summer mailbag to get a question into two straight columns. He has really stepped up his game!

This shouldn't be hard, Jake. I'm not going to narrow it down to the Super Bowl era, but I think circumstances will do that for me. I haven't started looking it up yet, but I'd bet pretty heavily that the majority of big rookie receiving seasons have come in the last three decades. Shall we find out?

Okay, done. Hey, how about a couple tables? That would be something new!

I'll give you the all-time rookie single-season leaders in both receptions and receiving yards, and for the first table, I'm going to expand it from the top five to the top seven. You'll see why.

Rookie

Team

Year

Recs.

Anquan Boldin

Arizona

2003

101

Eddie Royal

Denver

2008

91

Terry Glenn

New England

1996

90

Reggie Bush

New Orleans

2006

88

Earl Cooper

San Francisco

1980

83

Keith Jackson

Philadelphia

1988

81

Michael Clayton

Tampa Bay

2004

80

These are the top rookie reception seasons of all-time, mind you. As you can see, the oldest season on the list is 1980 and four of the seven happened in the last decade. That includes Michael Clayton's rookie season, which at the time was fifth on the list. If you want to be a stickler, you could point out that Bush is a running back, Cooper was a tight end/fullback and Jackson was a tight end. Among players identified as receivers, Clayton's season is fourth all-time.

Rookie

Team

Year

Yards

Bill Groman

Houston

1960

1,473

Anquan Boldin

Arizona

2003

1,377

Randy Moss

Minnesota

1998

1,313

Bill Howton

Green Bay

1952

1,231

Michael Clayton

Tampa Bay

2004

1,193

A few things of note here. One, I didn't have to expand the list to seven to keep Clayton on the radar. His season was fifth on the list when it happened and it still is. Also, all of the players on this list are (or were) receivers, which is not surprising. Receivers generally have significantly better yards-per-catch averages than backs or tight ends and so they dominate the receiving yardage charts more than the receptions chart. Bush, for instance, had "only" 742 yards on those 88 receptions in 2006. And third, we do have some significantly older entries on this list.

Howton got his 1,231 yards on just 53 catches in 1952, averaging a ridiculous 1,231 yards per grab. He finished his career in 1963 as the NFL's all-time leading receiver, though he no longer even ranks in the top 50. Groman's career was shorter but it was spent entirely in the AFL in the 1960s, which was a more pass-happy league. That his record for receiving yards by a rookie still stands 50 years later is pretty impressive, particularly since the season was only 14 games long in 1960. He averaged 20.5 yards on 72 catches and 105.2 yards per game.

Clayton's rookie season was impressive, too, and it indeed would be great if Mike Williams could give chase to those marks. But I think that's getting ahead of ourselves a little bit. Williams has definitely looked good on the practice field since the Bucs drafted him in the fourth round in April, but the team actually has two rookie receivers it is very high on (also second-rounder Arrelious Benn) and an overall receiving corps that has a lot of shaking out to do between now and the regular season. I'm as high on Williams as you are, but since only four receivers in league history have managed to catch 80 passes in their debut seasons, that might be asking a bit much. (Let's hope, not ask.)

If Williams and/or Benn are able to mount a chase at the Bucs' rookie receiving marks, here are the top five such seasons in team history.

Rookie

Year

Recs.

Rookie

Year

Yards

Michael Clayton

2004

80

 

Michael Clayton

2004

1,193

Mike Alstott

1996

65

 

Lawrence Dawsey

1991

818

Lawrence Dawsey

1991

55

 

Horace Copeland

1993

633

James Wilder

1981

48

 

Mike Alstott

1996

557

Warrick Dunn

1997

39

 

Kevin House

1980

531

Reggie Cobb

1990

39

       

Sammie Stroughter got kind of close to that first list last year, hauling in 31 receptions. He's another promising receiver who could see his numbers go up significantly. And, of course, there are only so many passes to go around. The year Clayton hit 80, the next player on the Bucs' list had 41.

**

Quickies:

  1. Jayson Phillips of Deltona, Florida asks:

I had a quick question. Will the black jerseys ever come into play? I know most of the games will be held early in the day this year but do you see any chance of them appearing?

Answer Man: I have a quick answer. There are no black jerseys. I think a number of Bucs fans believe we have an alternate black jersey because they see other fans wearing black replicas during games. The Bucs will be wearing their Florida Orange throwback uniforms this year against Atlanta on December 8, but will otherwise don either red or white jerseys, as always.

**

  1. Rik of Tampa asks:

I don't remember the Bucs wearing yellow jerseys. Did they? Thanx for your time.

Answer Man: Uh, no. Man, that was random. I don't remember my toaster launching into show tunes. Has it?

**

  1. Tommy of Atlanta, Georgia asks:

Will there be another throwback game this season?

Answer Man: Cool, I already answered that one above. I'm crazy efficient today.

**

  1. Andrew Newsham of Norfolk, Virginia asks:

What do you do when a player needs to wear glasses?

Answer Man: You get him glasses. As with any sport, a player with vision issues needs to correct them to be at his very best. And as with any sport, football players choose eyewear, such as goggle-type glasses, that are comfortable and can be held firmly in place during athletic activity.

**

  1. Tyler Colburn of Ontario, California asks:

Did a Reggie King ever play for the Bucs?

Answer Man: No.

For some reason, though, that name did sound familiar to me, so I searched around for awhile, beyond just looking at our all-time roster. That will tell you if a player has been on the team for at least one regular-season game (whether or not he actually got into th game and played) and Reggie is not one of the three Kings we've had. Austin, Joe and Shaun, but no Reggie. I also checked three other places - the NFL.com database of historical players, profootballreference.com and our own internal system - and found no mention of a Reggie King playing anywhere in the NFL at any time.

**

  1. Fred Zrenner of St Louis, Missouri asks:

Who was the USC tailback drafted by Tampa Bay who was traded and then passed away at an early age?

Answer Man: You speak, of course, of the late Ricky Bell. I'm not doing my usual elaboration thing with this one because we've discussed Ricky Bell's story quite a bit, including in my very last column. They made a movie about him and his struggle with a rare and fatal disease, as well as his befriending of a young fan. Check it out in my last column, if you so desire.

**

So there you have it: The Abridged Answer Man. Maybe this will become a trend.

Or maybe not. Hit me up with your questions and we'll see if we're back to form in the next column. See ya, and Go Bucs!

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