A gallery of players drafted at pick number 34.
On Wednesday, Joe Kania looked at five standout NFL players who entered the league as the 34th overall picks in their respective drafts. Former Pittsburgh linebacker Jack Ham may head the list of all-time #34s, but other top players in that group include guard Chris Snee and safety Tim McDonald.
This year, it is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who own the 34th overall pick; barring a trade, it will mark the fifth time that the team has selected in that exact slot over the course of four decades. As you'll see below, that spot has worked out for the team several times in the past, as have a handful of other picks in the same early-second-round vicinity. In fact, it was pick #35 that returned one of the most accomplished and popular players in franchise history, as that's where the Buccaneers netted fullback Mike Alstott in 1996.
Alstott made an instant impact as a rookie, leading the team that year with 65 receptions and recording the first few instances of the highlight-reel touchdown runs that made him such a fan favorite in Tampa. Alstott's role in the rushing game grew in the following years, as he teamed with tailback Warrick Dunn to form the famous "Thunder & Lightning" backfield that drove the Bucs' offense during the late '90s and early '00s. Alstott peaked in the rushing game in 1999 with 949 yards on 242 carries, but even as his share of the rushing attacked waxed and waned he never lost his nose for the end zone. His 71 career touchdowns are by far the most in team history, and he also ranks second on the team's all-time rushing yardage chart (5,088) and fourth on the career receptions list (305). Alstott was voted into six Pro Bowls during his illustrious career, the most by any offensive player in franchise history.
Alstott isn't even the most prolific rusher the Buccaneers have ever selected early in the second round, let alone the only star player from that range in the draft. Below are four more players (well, seven, actually) who were selected high in the second round by the Buccaneers, including the team's leading rusher and one of the best cornerbacks ever to put on a Tampa Bay uniform. We're focusing on the top of the round, which is why you won't find the likes of Lavonte David, Dewayne White, Cosey Coleman, Brian Kelly, Courtney Hawkins, Lars Tate, Winston Moss, Kevin House or Dewey Selmon on the list below. (Note: Though #34 is the second pick in the second round this year, picks prior to #33 have been part of the third round in previous seasons before the league expanded to 32 teams.)
1. RB James Wilder, #34 in 1981
The Buccaneers have had a significant amount of success drafting running backs high in the second round (more evidence below), but they really hit the jackpot in 1981. Ricky Bell, the first overall pick in 1977, had been the team's first standout back but his career and life were tragically cut short by illness. The Buccaneers found his eventual replacement in Wilder, who actually played fullback early in his NFL career but eventually became the team's primary ballcarrier. Though he led the team in rushing in 1982 and 1983, his breakout season was 1984, when he accounted for a massive percentage of the Bucs' overall offense. In addition to setting a then-NFL record with 407 carries, Wilder also led the team with 85 receptions. He rushed for 1,544 yards in '84, which remains the team's single-season record, then added another 1,300 in 1985. Though his rushing totals gradually declined from then through 1989, his final season in Tampa, Wilder was able to amass 5,957 rushing yards and 430 receptions, both of which remain Buccaneer career records.
2. RBs Jimmy DuBose, #30 in 1976; Johnny Davis, #30 in 1978; Reggie Cobb, #30 in 1990; and Errict Rhett, #34 in 1994
If either of this year's two top-rated running backs (Georgia's Todd Gurley and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon) falls to pick #34, will the Buccaneers be able to resist? In addition to the home runs hit in that vicinity on Alstott and Wilder, the Buccaneers have made a habit of hitting the running back position when sitting in the 30-35 pick range, and mostly with decent success. DuBose and Davis were mostly useful role players in the early years, starting just 35 games between them but contributing to what was at times a backfield committee. Cobb and Rhett, however, quickly became the team's featured backs from 1990-93 and 1994-96, respectively. Both backs cracked the 1,000-yard rushing mark (Rhett did it twice) and they currently rank sixth and eighth, respectively, on the team's all-time rushing yardage chart. This list does not even include Doug Martin, who was pick #31 in 2012, because Martin has the distinction of being a first-round pick.
3. LB David Lewis, #29 in 1977
The Buccaneers took future Hall of Fame DE Lee Roy Selmon first overall in their inaugural season of 1976, and a year later they added another important piece to a defense that would rapidly develop into one of the league's best. Head Coach John McKay was fond of grabbing his former standouts from USC, as he did with his first two picks in '77, following Ricky Bell with David Lewis. Lewis immediately took over as one of the two outside linebackers in the Bucs' 3-4 front, joining Richard Wood, Cecil Johnson and Dewey Selmon to form the heart of the defense. That was the team's LB foursome in 1979 when the defense ranked first in the NFL and led the team to its first playoff berth and one game from the Super Bowl. The first Buccaneer linebacker ever to play in the Pro Bowl (after the 1980 season), Lewis played in 75 games and made 64 starts from 1977-81 before being traded to San Diego.
4. CB Ricky Reynolds, #36 in 1987
The 1987 draft is most well-known for the Buccaneers' attempt to land a franchise quarterback with the first overall pick. Vinny Testaverde never quite grew into that role in Tampa, though he did go on to have a very long and prolific pro career spread across a number of NFL homes. There was quite a bit more to that draft, though, as the team made a whopping 20 picks and landed such productive players as Mark Carrier, Winston Moss, Ron Hall, Bruce Hill, Curt Jarvis and Harry Swayne. Before all of those, however, and after only Testaverde, was Washington State cornerback Ricky Reynolds, and that pick was a big success. Reynolds started immediately and for most of his seven years with the Bucs appearing in 105 games and opening 103 of them. A bright spot in the Bucs' secondary in the late '80s and early '90s, Reynolds had a total of nine interceptions during the 1988-89 seasons combined.