A gallery of players drafted at pick number 109.
On Tuesday, Joe Kania looked at five standout NFL players who entered the league as the 65th overall picks in their respective drafts. That group included longtime San Francisco 49ers standout RB Frank Gore and a man with two Super Bowl rings, former New England Patriots WR Deion Branch.
Barring a trade, it is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who will be on the clock when that slot – the first pick in the third round – comes around on Friday night. In 39 previous drafts the Buccaneers have never picked at exactly #65, but they've made selections in that vicinity on many occasions, some to great lasting effect. In fact, one of the five or six greatest players in franchise history, cornerback Ronde Barber, came off the board at #66 in 1997. Barber would go on to play 14 seasons in the NFL, all with the Buccaneers, and earn five Pro Bowl berths and three Associated Press first-team all-pro designations. The leading interceptor (47) and second-leading tackler (1,428) in franchise history, Barber never missed a game due to injury, finishing with Buccaneer records for games played (241) and starts (231). He is the only player in the history of the NFL to have recorded at least 40 interceptions and at least 25 sacks. He was a member of the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000s, he was a Pro Bowl alternate as a safety the only season he played that position and he had a particular knack for finding the end zone. In fact, without even counting his unforgettable pick-six in the 2002 NFC Championship Game in Philadelphia, Barber ranks fourth all time with 14 non-offensive touchdowns in the regular season.
Believe it or not, we could go on for quite a while longer about Barber's exploits. Instead, we'll get back to the point, which is that the top of the third round has been fertile drafting ground for the Buccaneers in the past. We're focusing specifically on early third-round picks, which is why you won't see such standouts as John Lynch, Scot Brantley, John Cannon, Dwight Smith, Martin Gramatica or Jeremy Zuttah on this list.
Below are four more players who were selected in that part of the draft, a group that includes the leading receiver in team history and another one of the best cornerbacks ever to put on a Buccaneer uniform. (Note: Though #65 is the first pick in the third round this year, picks prior to #65 have been part of the third round in previous seasons before the league expanded to 32 teams.)
1. CB Donnie Abraham, #71 in 1996
The East Tennessee State cornerback was the 10th pick of the third round in '96 and an instant hit in Tampa. He started 12 games as a rookie and led the team in interceptions with five, establishing something of a pattern. Probably the most consistent interceptor in franchise history, Abraham had at least five picks in five of his six seasons with the team, finishing with 31, which was a team record before Barber eventually overwhelmed it. Abraham had seven picks each in 1999 and 2000 and another six in 2001, making him the only Buccaneer ever to have at least seven in consecutive seasons or at least six in three straight years. He made the Pro Bowl after his 2000 campaign and was probably deserving of several more trips to Hawaii. Abraham finished his career with three more seasons with the New York Jets and a career total of 38 interceptions.2. WR Mark Carrier, #57 in 1987
The Buccaneers had the first pick in the first and third rounds in '87, just as they do in 2015. History could repeat itself if Tampa Bay uses the top selection on a quarterback and then gives the new passer a target with the first pick of Round Three, as they did 28 years ago with Vinny Testaverde and Mark Carrier. Testaverde never quite turned into a "franchise quarterback" in Tampa, but Carrier certainly proved to be well worth his draft slot. In fact, Carrier stands as the franchise's all-time leader in receiving yards with 5,018, while his 321 receptions ranks second and his 27 TD grabs ranks fourth. In 1989, Carrier became the first Buccaneer wideout ever to be selected for the Pro Bowl on the heels of his 1,422-yard, nine-touchdown campaign. That yardage total remains the franchise's single-season record. Carrier played another six NFL seasons after leaving Tampa in 1993, finishing with 569 receptions for 8,763 yards and 48 scores.3. G Frank Middleton, #63 in 1997
The draft was "only" two days long back in 1997, and the first three rounds were all on the same day. If it had been arranged as it is today, with the second and third rounds occurring on the middle day of a three-day affair, then 1997 might have featured the best Second Day in team history. Between getting a starting offensive tackle in Jerry Wunsch in the second round and Ronde Barber in the third, the Buccaneers also found a very useful offensive lineman with their first third-round selection. That would be Arizona's Frank Middleton, who was the third pick of that round. Middleton waited one year before replacing Jim Pyne in the lineup, then started all 48 games from 1998-2000. He was big and strong and mean and a big part of the reason why the Buccaneers' running game was quite strong in that stretch (Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott had something to do with it, too). Middleton left after the 2000 campaign and actually ended up playing against the Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII. He played four seasons in Oakland and all told started 92 games in the NFL. Not bad for a third-rounder.4. DE/OT Charley Hannah, #57 in 1977
Only the third third-round pick in team history, this one worked out well, though not at the position originally intended. The first pick in the third round that year, Hannah came out of Alabama as a defensive end and stayed at that position for his first two NFL seasons, appearing in 25 games with 14 starts. Perhaps fitting of the younger brother of Hall of Fame offensive lineman John Hannah, Charley was bound for that side of the line of scrimmage, converting to offensive tackle before the 1979 campaign. The move led to a 12-year NFL career in which Hannah started 126 of the 148 games in which he played, including 47 of 52 for the Bucs from 1979-82. He was a starter at right tackle for the Bucs' first three playoff squads, and he went on to win a Super Bowl with the Raiders.