When it comes to its decidedly under-the-radar Supplemental Draft, the NFL ended a couple of minor droughts last summer. When the New York Giants selected Western Michigan cornerback Sam Beal with a third-round pick and the Washington Redskins followed with a sixth-round selection of Virginia Tech cornerback Adonis Alexander, it marked the first time in eight years that multiple players had been chosen in this mini-draft. It was also the first time in three years that any players had been selected at all. The 2016 and 2017 drafts went by with nary a whimper.
There's a good chance one or two players will come off the board again when the NFL conducts its 2019 Supplemental Draft on Wednesday. Washington State safety Jalen Thompson and West Virginia wide receiver Marcus Simms – two of the five players available in the draft – are considered potential selections, perhaps in the middle to late rounds. If the Buccaneers happen to be one of the teams that makes a selection, however, that would end a much, much longer drought.
Tampa Bay has not made a pick in the Supplemental Draft since the summer of 1987, when they devoted a third-round pick to the acquisition of University of Miami defensive tackle Dan Sileo. That is also the only Supplemental pick the Bucs have ever made, and it wasn't a particularly memorable one. That particular draft is far more famous for the other two players selected, Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth (a first-round pick of the Seahawks) and Ohio State wide receiver (a fourth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles. Carter ended up in the Hall of Fame; Bosworth did not but was definitely a memorable character. Sileo, meanwhile, played a total of 10 NFL games, all for Tampa Bay in 1987, with zero starts and zero sacks.
The odds would seem to be against the Buccaneers ending that drought in 2019. If Thompson and Simms are indeed the most likely to be picked they wouldn't seem like obvious targets for Tampa Bay, which would likely prefer to keep its 2020 NFL Draft assets intact. When a team makes a selection in a Supplemental Draft it forfeits its pick in the same round in the following year's proper college draft.
Even if Thompson is an intriguing prospect, the Buccaneers have recently devoted quite a bit of draft capital to the safety position. Tampa Bay selected Kentucky's Mike Edwards in the third round this year, Pittsburgh's Jordan Whitehead in the fourth round last year and Texas A&M's Justin Evans in the second round in 2017, and all are serious candidates to win starting jobs. The Bucs also picked up former Packers safety Kentrell Brice in free agency this spring and another one of their newcomers is Deone Bucannon, a versatile defender who can line up at safety or linebacker. As for Simms, the Buccaneers seem to have good receiver depth already with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Breshad Perriman, Justin Watson, sixth-round pick Scotty Miller and some other interesting young prospects.
In addition to Thompson and Simms, the other three players available to be selected are Northland (MN) tight end Devonaire Clarington, Syracuse linebacker Shyheim Cullen and St. Francis (IL) cornerback Bryant Perry. Even if no players are selected, the Supplemental Draft still begins the process of these five players getting a chance in the NFL; once the draft is over, those not selected will then be eligible to sign with any team as a free agent.
Players typically end up in the Supplemental Draft because of a change in eligibility at their schools, perhaps due to academic reasons or off-field issues. Players in this position will sometimes choose to accelerate their path to the pros, rather than sitting out a year to enter the regular draft. Thompson, for instance, was still intending to play his senior season at Washington State as recently as late last month, but he lost his 2019 eligibility on June 29 due to a violation of NCAA rules. He could have sat out the upcoming season and played for the Cougars in 2020, but he understandably chose to accelerate his professional timetable instead. Thompson held a workout last week, at which representatives of 26 NFL teams were reportedly in attendance.
The draft "begins" at 1:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, but don't bother flipping through the channels in search of coverage. The Supplemental Draft is conducted quietly, via email after the order of selections is determined using a weighted lottery system based on last year's standings. Each team gets a chance to put in a bid or bids on players at the beginning of each round. If a player is not selected in the first round, the process repeats in the second round, and so on. So the Buccaneers could choose to put, say, a sixth-round pick on Simms if he is still available, and if no other team does so they would get their man. If multiple teams put in a bid in the same round, the player goes to the team with the highest pick.
Neither player selected in last year's Supplemental Draft made a particularly big impact in 2019, though that's hardly Beal's fault since he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury just two weeks after the Giants picked him. Alexander did make the roster in Washington, appearing in nine games and contributing four tackles.
The most famous Supplemental Draft was the one conducted in 1985, when University of Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar ended up with the Cleveland Browns, his preferred destination. Kosar's agent helped engineer a trade of the top Supplemental Draft pick from Buffalo to Cleveland, after which Kosar declared himself eligible. That turn of events angered several other teams and directly led to a change in the way the Supplemental Draft is conducted. (It also indirectly affected the Buccaneers, who ended up picking first in the 1986 draft because Cleveland's would-be first-overall pick was forfeited; the Bucs took Auburn running back Bo Jackson, who refused to come to Tampa and chose to play baseball instead.)
There have been eight players who entered the league as first-round picks in the Supplemental Draft, most of them quarterbacks and most during the 1980s. That list started with Wilson to New Orleans, as noted above, and then continued with Kosar in 1985. It also includes Bosworth, as noted above, in addition to Miami quarterback Steve Walsh (to Dallas) in 1989, Washington State quarterback Timm Rosenbach (to Phoenix) in 1989, Alabama running back Bobby Humphrey (to Denver) in 1989, Syracuse wide receiver Rob Moore (to the N.Y. Jets) in 1990 and Duke quarterback Dave Brown (to the N.Y. Giants) in 1992.
Kosar, Humphrey and Moore are among the supplemental picks that worked out well for their teams, as was Navy offensive lineman Mike Wahle to Green Bay in 1998. The most decorated player to come out of the Supplemental Draft, however, is probably Carter, who started out with the Eagles but became a star in Minnesota. Carter was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.