Auburn RB Carnell Williams scored 45 touchdowns during his career
Holding the fifth pick in the first round, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were shopping in the luxury showroom of the NFL Draft for the first time in 15 years.
Appropriately enough, a little over an hour into the draft, the Buccaneers drove a Caddy off the showroom floor.
With that fifth overall pick, the team's highest since 1990, Tampa Bay selected Auburn running back Carnell Williams. Williams, known as "Cadillac" since the nickname was hung on him in high school in Alabama, instantly gives the Buccaneers' backfield the home run threat it has needed. Though the nickname refers to how smoothly he runs, Williams also has top-notch speed and elusive moves.
The Bucs can expect an instant impact from their first-round pick, as rookie running backs generally contribute earlier than first-year man at other positions. Last season, for instance, Detroit rookie Kevin Jones racked up 1,133 rushing yards and Dallas rookie Julius Jones rushed for 819 yards despite missing a large portion of the season. The last running back Tampa Bay selected in the first round, Warrick Dunn, gained 1,440 combined yards and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
And, of the four main offensive and defensive categories – rushing and passing on both sides – the Buccaneers ranked lowest in rushing offense in 2004. Tampa Bay was 29th in the league in rushing, gaining just 93.1 yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry.
This marks the fourth time the Buccaneers have used a first-round pick on a running back, but the first time since Dunn was tabbed 12th overall in 1997. The Bucs have twice used the first overall pick on a back, taking Ricky Bell in 1977 and Bo Jackson, another Auburn back, in 1986. Dunn ranks third on the franchise's all-time rushing list, Bell fifth. Jackson never played for the Buccaneers.
Williams was actually the third back drafted on Saturday, following his Auburn teammate, Ronnie Brown. Despite splitting time with Brown, Williams rushed for 3,831 yards and 45 touchdowns in four seasons at Auburn, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. He also caught 45 passes for 342 yards and a touchdown, averaged 21.0 yards on 29 kickoff returns and picked up an average of 11.4 yards on 22 punt returns.
At 5-11 and 217 pounds, Williams wasn't one of the bigger backs in this year's draft, but he displays outstanding vision, balance and acceleration. With a quick burst to get through a quick hole and another gear once he hits the open field, he is the type of back who can provide long, game-changing plays.
The Buccaneers got a close-up look at Williams in late January, when the team's staff spent a week in Mobile, Alabama coaching the South Squad for the 2005 Senior Bowl. Though he played only a few snaps in the actual game, Williams impressed during a week of South Squad practices.
Of course, Buccaneer coaches and scouts were already impressed with Williams from his game tape. As a senior last fall, he helped the Tigers to an undefeated season by rushing 239 times for 1,165 yards (4.9 avg.) and 12 touchdowns, while also catching 21 passes for 152 yards. As a junior in 2003, Williams averaged 5.4 yards per tote, compiling 1,307 yards and 17 touchdowns on 241 carries.
Despite Brown's presence, Williams finished his Auburn career with 5,033 all-purpose yards, second in school history to the 5,596 posted by James Brooks (1977-80). He also scored 276 points, just breaking Jackson's school record of 274.
As a prep, Williams won Alabama Mr. Football honors and was the state's player of the year after his senior season at Etowah High School in Attala, Alabama. As a senior, he rushed for 1,729 yards and 23 touchdowns and added 73 tackles and six interceptions on defense. He turned 23 on Thursday.
Buccaneers.com will follow with more of the team's thoughts on their newest player following the press conference to announce the selection. That press conference will be carried live on the home page and in Draft Central.