Last April, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected nine players in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Eight of those nine players made the active roster (all but sixth-round punter Brent Bowden). Seven of the nine opened at least one game, and the Buccaneers' 2010 draft class combined to record 94 games played and 50 starts. Those numbers would have been significantly higher, too, if not for injuries suffered at various points of the season by Brian Price, Cody Grimm, Gerald McCoy and Arrelious Benn.
The Buccaneers' breakout 2010 season also had a lot to do with the contributions of such 2009 draftees as Josh Freeman, Roy Miller, E.J. Biggers and Sammie Stroughter. Given the team's enormous success the past two Aprils – following the promotions of Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris to general manager and head coach, respectively – expectations are high for that duo's third crack at the draft. Another impactful rookie class could be that last little push the franchise needs to get back into the postseason.
The 2011 NFL Draft, which opens with Round One on Thursday, April 28, is now less than two weeks away. In observance of this impending and critical event, here are a handful of notes regarding the Buccaneers' history in the draft, beginning with a look at some of the team's most immediate success stories.
In terms of contributing from Day One, it's hard to do much better than the Bucs' 2010 class, collectively. And the team has rarely restocked so effectively over a two-year period than it did in 2009 and 2010 together.
Individually, however, the most impactful rookie seasons by Buccaneer draftees are spread all throughout the team's 35-year history. In some cases, due to injury or some other circumstance, the player who fashioned the best career as a Buccaneer isn't necessarily the same one who made the biggest splash as a rookie. For a perfect example, compare the Buc tenures of defensive tackles Santana Dotson and Warren Sapp.
The Buccaneers drafted Dotson in the fifth round in 1992 and the Baylor product, motivated by what he considered a draft-day slight, exploded for a team-high 10 sacks. That remains the Bucs' all-time rookie record in that category. Dotson would play four years in Tampa before leaving via free agency, and in the last three he would just barely double his rookie-year sack total, finishing with 23 as a Buccaneer.
Warren Sapp was the 12th overall player selected in 1995. His rookie season was certainly no disappointment – eight starts, three sacks, one interception returned for a touchdown – but it was in his second season, Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin's first in Tampa, that he would really explode. He finished his nine-year Buc tenure with 77 sacks, second most in team history, and in the process helped redefine the three-technique defensive tackle position in the NFL.
All of which is to say, the following list is a compilation of some of the best rookie seasons by Buccaneer draftees, and nothing more. (As it turns out, we found room for both Dotson AND Sapp.) Here, position by position, are 25 such campaigns deserving of recognition:
Nine starts, rookie records of 10 TDs, 1,855 yards
1,440 combined yards, first Buc rookie in Pro Bowl
Then-rookie record 65 catches; team-high 6 TDs
Rookie recs. 80 catches, 1,193 yards; added 7 TDs
New team record (all players) 11 TD receptions
Second on tm. w/41 catches; made 10 starts
Fourth-overall pick started every game at left tackle
Started all 16 games at LT; later converted to RT
Started 16 games at RG, helped R. Bell break out
Started 16 games at LG for division champs
Started 10 games, last five at center
Started 14 games, tied for 2nd with 4.5 sacks
13 starts at end in 3-4, 3 sacks, huge run presence
Started all 16 games, rookie rec. 10 sacks
16 games, 8 starts, 3 sacks, 1 INT TD
Instant starter, 79 tackles, consensus all-rookie
13 starts, 97 tackles, 2 INT, 5 sacks, 2 FF
Started 16 games, 151 tackles, 2 INT, 3 sacks
Rookie record 5 INTs, started 12 games at RCB
Started all non-strike games, 70 tackles
Converted from CB to S, started 16 games, 2 INTs
Started 12 games, 84 tackles, team-high 3 INTs
Rookie rec. 106 pts., 27 of 32 FGs
84 punts, 39.4 gross, 32.1 net, 10 inside 20
30 PR, 15.1 avg., 1 TD…10 KR, 22.9 avg.
In his second season and first full year as a starter, Josh Freeman was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2010. The Buccaneers believe he has some trips to Hawaii in his future.
If so, Freeman could become the 16th player drafted by Tampa Bay who went on to earn at least one Pro Bowl berth while with the Buccaneers (unless one of his young teammates beats him to it). The most recent addition to the list was guard Davin Joseph, who was drafted by the Buccaneers in the first round in 2006 and was in his first Pro Bowl by 2008.
The first player drafted by the Buccaneers to represent the team in a Pro Bowl was defensive end Lee Roy Selmon, who was actually the first college player drafted by the Buccaneers, period. Tampa Bay took Selmon first overall in 1976 and the future Hall of Famer eventually went to six Pro Bowls from 1979-84.
Here is the complete list of Buccaneer draftees who went on to Pro Bowl glory for the team:
Pro Bowls as a Buc
DE Lee Roy Selmon
LB David Lewis
LB Hugh Green
RB James Wilder
WR Mark Carrier
C Tony Mayberry
S John Lynch
5 (1997, 1999-2002)
QB Trent Dilfer
DT Warren Sapp
LB Derrick Brooks
11 (1997-2006, 08)
FB Mike Alstott
CB Donnie Abraham
RB Warrick Dunn
2 (1997, 2000)
CB Ronde Barber
5 (2001, 04-06, 08)
K Martin Gramatica
G Davin Joseph
Many Ways to Deal
Last year, 11 of the 32 picks in the first round of the NFL Draft were traded at least once before they were exercised. In 2009, nine of the 32 picks changed hands. Some NFL analysts believe this year's first round could be even more active on the trade front, in part because there are several quarterback-hungry teams and a decent amount of mystery as to when the top six or seven passing prospects will come off the board.
The Buccaneers were not part of the trade flurry last year, sitting tight at #3 and taking their man, Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. This was expected, of course; trades of the top five picks in the draft have become exceedingly rare over the last decade.
In 2009, however, the Buccaneers were part of the first-round dealings, trading up two spots from #19 to #17 in order to feel secure in getting Freeman. It wasn't a big move, but it was important if, as Buc management believed was possible, there was at least one team contemplating a trade up to 17 or 18 to get Freeman before he got to Tampa Bay's original selection.
It was also a fairly rare move for the Buccaneers. Over their 35 seasons in the NFL, the Bucs have traded out of their original first-round draft spot on 13 occasions, and only two of those have been trades up.
Below you'll find all 13 of those draft occasions split into three sorts of trades: Down, Up or For a Player/Coach. In each case, the only pick in question is the one the Bucs would have originally had as their own that year. For instance, the Bucs traded up to get into the bottom of the first round in 1995 to take Derrick Brooks, but with their own high first-rounder they had traded down and taken Sapp. We are considering only the Sapp pick in this analysis.
In addition, we are classifying each trade or set of trades by its final direction. For instance, in 1997 the Buccaneers originally traded up two spots in the first round from #8 to #6, then traded back down to #12 before taking Warrick Dunn. Also, in many cases, the picks that were moved to acquire a player or coach were dealt a year or several years earlier. Finally, the trade of a pick in a later year (as with the 1983 first-round choice) in order to draft another player at that time are being classified as trades for players.
Trades Up (2):
- 2001: Bucs trade with Buffalo to move from 21 to 14 and take T Kenyatta Walker
- 2009: Bucs trade with Cleveland to move from 19 to 17 and take QB Josh Freeman
Trades Down (4):
- 1978: Bucs trade with Houston to move from 1 to 17 and take QB Doug Williams (also acquiring TE Jimmie Giles in the deal)
- 1995: Bucs trade with Philadelphia to move from 7 to 12 and take DT Warren Sapp
- 1997: Bucs trade from 8 to 6, then trade with Seattle from 6 to 12 and take RB Warrick Dunn
- 1998: Bucs trade from 23 down into the second round and take WR Jacquez Green
Trades for Player/Coach (7):
- 1979: In 1978, Bucs trade first-round pick to Chicago for DE Wally Chambers
- 1983: In 1982, Bucs trade first-round pick to Chicago for 1982 second-round pick in order to take DE Booker Reese
- 1984: In 1983, Bucs trade first-round pick to Cincinnati for QB Jack Thompson
- 1992: In 1990, Bucs trade first-round pick to Indianapolis for QB Chris Chandler
- 2000: Bucs trade first-round pick and other previously-acquired first-round pick to N.Y. Jets for WR Keyshawn Johnson
- 2002: Bucs trade first-round pick to Oakland as part of package for rights to sign Head Coach Jon Gruden
- 2003: See 2002 trade for Jon Gruden
It will surprise few local Buccaneer fans that the NCAA conference that has produced the most first-round draft choices for Tampa Bay is the SEC. Four different SEC schools, in fact, are among the eight that are tied for the most first-round Buc draft picks, at two: Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Louisiana State.
Which conference, past or present, comes in next behind the SEC when it comes to producing Buccaneer opening-round picks? The Big 12.
Here are the 10 conferences (or lack of conference, in the case of independent schools) that have seen at least one of their players drafted by Tampa Bay in the first round:
- SEC (9)…Bo Jackson and Cadillac Williams (Auburn); Keith McCants and Eric Curry (Alabama); Reidel Anthony and Kenyatta Walker (Florida); Anthony McFarland and Michael Clayton (LSU); Charles McRae (Tennessee)
- Big 12 (5)…Lee Roy Selmon and Davin Joseph (Oklahoma); Broderick Thomas (Nebraska); Aqib Talib (Kansas); Josh Freeman (Kansas State)
- ACC (4)…Derrick Brooks and Warrick Dunn (Florida State); Marcus Jones (North Carolina); Gaines Adams (Clemson)
4t. PAC 10 (3)…Ricky Bell (USC); Ron Holmes (Washington); Regan Upshaw (California)
4t. Independent (3)…Hugh Green (Pittsburgh); Sean Farrell (Penn State); Hugh Green (Miami*)
- Big Ten (2)…Ray Snell and Paul Gruber (Wisconsin)
7t. Big East (1)…Warren Sapp (Miami*)
7t. SWAC (1)…Doug Williams (Grambling State)
7t. SWC (1)…Rod Jones (SMU)
7t. WAC (1)…Trent Dilfer (Fresno State)
- Miami was independent in 1987 and a member of the Big East in 1995. Pittsburgh was independent in 1981. Penn State was independent in 1982.