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Can Bucs Nail the 82nd Pick Again?

The Buccaneers are currently slated to pick 82nd overall in the third round of the upcoming NFL Draft, and their history at that spot is very brief but extremely bright

John Lynch 6

As it currently stands, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will head into draft weekend, just a little over two weeks from now, with nine picks in hand. Two of those are among the top 50 selections, and in our mock draft this week, which focused on the second round, we slotted North Dakota State tackle Cody Mauch to the Buccaneers at exactly pick number 50.

Tampa Bay has executed the 50th pick three times in the past, most recently on safety Justin Evans in the 2017 draft. After a promising start, Evans' time in Tampa was derailed by injuries; he made a comeback last season in New Orleans and most recently signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Buccaneers also selected quarterback Shaun King at number 50 in 1999, and he made an impressive run at the end of his rookie year, helping the Bucs get to the NFC Championship Game. In 1987, the Bucs grabbed linebacker Winston Moss 50th overall. Moss had a very productive 11-year NFL career, the first four in Tampa, followed by nearly two decades of coaching in the league.

But what about the third round? At the moment, the Buccaneers are slated to pick 82nd overall to wrap up their efforts on the second night of the draft. Tampa Bay has only executed the 82nd pick one time in franchise history, but it's hard to imagine they could have done any better with that opportunity. In fact, the Bucs can boast one of the best 82nd-overall selections in NFL history, even if that particular spot in the draft has produced an impressive success rate.

In 1993, the Buccaneers selected Stanford safety John Lynch with pick number 82, after the Miami Marlins farmhand convinced Tampa Bay Head Coach Sam Wyche that he would choose football over baseball. Of all the players ever selected 82nd overall in the NFL Draft, Lynch is the all-time leader in games played (224) and Pro Bowl selections (nine). He's also one of three players chosen 82nd overall who are now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

So why are we not calling Lynch the greatest number 82 in NFL Draft history, hands down, like the homers we are? Well, you see, the San Francisco 49ers used that very pick on a guy named Joe Montana in 1979. Montana is on the short list in the greatest-quarterback-ever debate, and his accomplishments include eight Pro Bowls, two league MVP trophies, a 4-0 record in Super Bowls, three Super Bowl MVP awards and, of course, his own bust in Canton. We are happy to argue for Lynch's supremacy here, but we expect most voters would go for the MVP and four-time champion at the game's most critical position. Pittsburgh Steeler fans, meanwhile, will be chiming in for wide receiver John Stallworth, the third 82nd-overall pick to make it into the Hall of Fame.

Of course, landing a player who would eventually be in the conversation with Montana at number 82 was a gigantic success for the Buccaneers. Lynch made five of his nine Pro Bowls during his 11 years as a Buccaneer, in addition to four selections to the Associated Press All-Pro team (two first-team, two second-team). He was and still is regarded as one of the hardest hitting defenders in NFL history. He ranks sixth in franchise annals with 164 games played, eighth with 132 starts, sixth with 973 tackles and sixth with 23 interceptions. Overall, counting his four seasons with the Denver Broncos, Lynch has the most tackles and passes defensed of any player ever selected 82nd overall and the second-most interceptions behind Ray Ramsey, a two-way player in the 1940s and '50s who picked off 35 passes.

Lynch, Montana and Stallworth may be the only 82nd-overall picks who made it all the way to the Hall of Fame, but they have some good company in that particular fraternity. Eleven different players in that group made at least one Pro Bowl, including wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (2010), running back Paul Robinson (1968), linebacker Chuck Drazenovich (1950 and defensive end George Andrie (1965). Some other notable names on the list include linebacker Reggie Williams, the 1986 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year; kicker Jeff Jaeger, who scored more than 1,000 points; and wide receiver Don Beebe, the long-time Buffalo Bill most famous for stripping the ball from Leon Lett in Super Bowl XXVII.

Lest you think we're cherry-picking here, getting three Hall of Famers at one mid-third round spot is not common. Not a single player drafted 81st overall or 83rd overall has ever made it into the Hall. The most promiment number 81 ever is probably Richie Incognito. The number 83 pick with the most Pro Bowls is Orlando Brown Jr.

So the Bucs have some impressive history to try to match on the evening of Friday, April 28 if they do not trade away from the 82nd pick. That includes their own history with that draft slot. The Buccaneers have only done this once before, but they did it very, very well. Can they do it again?

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