North Carolina State TE T.J. Williams led his team in receptions two of the last three years
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers used the sixth round to add a pair of offensive players, their fourth and fifth picks on that side of the ball during the weekend.
With the 194th overall pick, the Bucs selected Toledo quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. Then, eight picks later, they added a new target for Gradkowski and his fellow Tampa Bay passers in North Carolina State tight end T.J. Williams.
The Bucs dipped into the cradle of quarterbacks for the first of those two picks. Gradkowski, who starred at Seton-LaSalle High School in Pittsburgh, is a product of the famous Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League. The WPIAL also produced such legendary NFL figures as Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Joe Namath and George Blanda, not to mention Johnny Lujack and former Buc Terry Hanratty, and Gradkowski ended up with better statistics than all of them.
At Toledo, Gradkowski played in a spread offense that helped him pile up 9,225 passing yards and 85 touchdowns versus just 27 interceptions. Over 49 games with 36 starts, he completed 68.2% of his passes, breaking Tim Couch's NCAA record in that category, and averaged 236.5 yards per contest.
The 6-1, 222-pound Gradkowski, who ran a 4.59 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, frequently rolled out or bought time to throw with his quick feet, and was able to scramble for 1,108 yards during his career, averaging 4.1 yards per carry and scoring 14 times on the ground. Combining his rushing and passing totals, Gradkowski was good for 262.6 total yards of offense per game.
In addition to his speed, scouts liked Gradkowski's toughness and hard-nosed approach, and they saw a passer who could get the ball down the field. Over the course of his career, Gradkowski had an outstanding 8.21-yard average per pass attempt.
In 2003 and 2004, Gradkowski became the first quarterback in NCAA Division I-A history to complete over 70% of his passes in consecutive seasons. As a senior, he shared MAC MVP honors with Greg Jennings, a second-round pick of the Green Bay Packers, after throwing for 2,469 yards and 29 touchdowns.
With the 202nd overall selection, the Bucs added Williams, a 6-2, 253-pound tight end who was very consistently productive at NC State. A three-year starter and four-year letterman, he racked up 97 career receptions for 1,247 yards and five touchdowns. After moving into the starting lineup as a sophomore he produced at least 28 receptions and 371 yards in each of his last three seasons. In two of those seasons, he was the Wolfpack's leading receiver.
Williams has good speed for a tight end and runs sharp routes. He is capable of picking up extra yards after the catch and rarely drops the ball.
Williams is the second tight end the Bucs have drafted in the last two years. Last year's third-round selection, Stanford's Alex Smith, finished second among all rookies in 2005 with 41 receptions.
The draft is entering its final round. Having already added seven players, the Bucs will make three more picks in the seventh round.