WR J.R. Russell produced big numbers in Louisville's high-powered offense
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers reached all across the country for its 12-man draft class in 2005, from the state of Washington to a little community college in Mississippi. When it was time to make their final pick, however, the Bucs stayed very close to home.
The last of the dozen new Buccaneers is wide receiver Jeremiah "J.R." Russell, who will now return from Louisville to his home in Tampa. As a prep, Russell was a star in both football and basketball at nearby Gaither High School.
Russell was the second receiver taken by the Buccaneers in the seventh round, as they executed a quartet of picks in that final stanza. At pick number 225, Tampa Bay grabbed Utah wideout Paris Warren.
Warren and Russell bring similar resumes to Tampa in that they were both extremely productive receivers in two of the nation's most explosive offenses. Playing on an offense that scored just under 50 points per game in 2004, Russell was QB Stefan LeFors primary target, snaring 73 receptions for 968 yards and seven touchdowns.
"Jeremiah is a local product who was a big part of Louisville's uprising," said Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden. "He had two back-to-back very productive years. He's a big guy who's been on a good football team and has been well coached."
Russell was actually even more productive as a junior in 2003, when he caught 75 passes for 1,213 yards and eight scores, averaging 16.2 yards per reception. Overall in his four seasons with the Cardinals, he produced 186 receptions for 2,619 yards and 19 touchdowns, averaging 14.1 yards per catch.
The 6-3, 206-pound Russell played in 50 games on the collegiate level and finished his career with a streak of 34 straight games with at least one catch. He adjusts well to difficult throws, has outstanding hands and is a refined route-runner.
The Bucs actually drafted three receivers on the second day of the draft, picking up Pearl River Community College's Larry Brackins in the fifth round. All three are coming off very good senior seasons and will have a very good opportunity to compete for a roster spot in Tampa. Behind starters Joey Galloway and Michael Clayton, the Bucs' current roster has only two players who have seen any significant playing time in the NFL, Edell Shepherd and Scotty Anderson.
Head Coach Jon Gruden addressed the local media after the Buccaneers' final pick. Buccaneers.com will provide further coverage of the team's 2005 draft shortly.