DT Darnell Dockett went 29 picks after DE Igor Olshansky in the 2004 draft, but both the Cardinals and Chargers were pleased with their picks
In early February, before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns had made the draft order official with the flip of a coin, Buccaneers.com ran a comparison of the third and fourth overall picks over the last 20 years.
The verdict? Well, there wasn't much of one. Call us a hung jury, but we declined to make a definitive statement on which group of players had fared better overall. Each set had its share of big-time hits and painful busts. The third-pick crew could, for instance, boast Barry Sanders, Cortez Kennedy, Steve McNair, Simeon Rice and – more recently – Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Vince Young. But it also had to shoulder such burdens as Alonzo Highsmith, Bruce Pickens, Andre Wadsworth, Akili Smith and Joey Harrington.
The fours? They could claim Derrick Thomas, Paul Gruber, Willie McGinest, Jonathan Ogden, Edgerrin James and Philip Rivers but couldn't run from Brent Fullwood, Keith McCants, Peter Warrick and Mike Williams.
Our conclusion was that teams performed about as well at pick four as they did at pick three, and that does make sense. After all, most drafts are at least four deep in what are considered blue-chip prospects, and the difference between who goes three and who goes four often just comes down to team needs. If the Kansas City Chiefs had picked third instead of fourth in 1989, they might still have taken Derrick Thomas over Barry Sanders.
The Bucs, of course, ended up with the fourth pick after calling tails at the combine, slotting Cleveland into number three. If you want to see the full list of players who have gone fourth overall in the last 20 years, please review the aforementioned story. Here's a few additional third-overall picks from before 1987: Chris Doleman, Dan Hampton, Walter Payton, John Hannah, Mean Joe Greene, Bob Griese, Gale Sayers, Byron "Whizzer" White and the great Otto Graham. Oh, and Art Schlichter.
Now, however, we are here to talk about two more disparate picks: Numbers 35 and 64 overall. The Buccaneers own both of those selections this year, marking the first time since 1997 (barring any forthcoming trades) that the team will make three picks in the first two rounds. Tampa Bay brass is understandably energized by the opportunity to pluck four of the first 68 players off the board this year (the team also has pick 68, the fourth spot in the third round).
The Bucs acquired their extra second-rounder by trading Anthony McFarland to the Indianapolis Colts last October. The Colts subsequently did their best to move that pick down the list, winning Super Bowl XLI and thus slotting into the 32nd and last spot in the draft order. The end result: Tampa Bay will pick at the very beginning (third in the round, 35th overall) and the very end of the all-important second round.
Given that gap, one might be tempted to think of the Bucs' own second-round pick as far more valuable than the one acquired by Indy. But is it?
Quick test: Which of the following two groups of players would you rather have? Group 1: Olin Kreutz, Adrian Wilson, Dewayne White, Darnell Dockett and Travis Fisher. Group 2: Alge Crumpler, Charles Tillman, Igor Olshansky, Tony Parrish and Reggie Brown.
No matter which group you picked, if you even hesitated before making your choice the point is made. The first group of players are among the 10 men picked at #64 over the last decade. The second group is drawn from the 10 men picked at #35 in the same span. Gold can be panned out of the waters at either end of the second-round stream.
Let's look at the 35th and 64th overall picks over the last 20 years, beginning with that early second-round slot.
35th Overall Draft Picks, 1987-2006
|**Year**||**Player, Drafting Team**||**NFL Career Notes**|
|1987||RB Christian Okoye, KC||1989 rushing title, two Pro Bowls, Chiefs H.O.F.|
|1988||DB A. Newman, RAMS||12 years with 3 teams, 21 INTs|
|1989||FB Eric Ball, CIN||6 years with CIN, 576 rush yards, led team in KOR twice|
|1990||DT Dan Owens, DET||10 seasons for Lions, Falcons, 33 career sacks|
|1991||DT Esera Tuaolo, GB||10 seasons with 5 teams, 12 career sacks|
|1992||DB Rod Smith, ATL||3 seasons, 17 starts, 3 interceptions for Patriots|
|1993||DT Carl Simpson, CHI||5 seasons in CHI, 2 years as starter, 7 sacks|
|1994||WR Kevin Lee, NE||2 years, 7 games, 2 starts, 8 catches for NE|
|1995||DT Anthony Cook, HOU||4 years w/HOU, 2.5 as starter, led in sacks in '95 and '96|
|1996||FB Mike Alstott, TB||Bucs all-time TD leader, 2nd in rushing, 6 Pro Bowls|
|1997||G Juan Roque, DET||A Lion for 3 years, never won starting job|
|1998||S Tony Parrish, CHI||500 tackles, 30 INTs in career, 16 INTs in 2002-03|
|1999||LB Barry Gardner, PHI||Played for four teams, mostly a special-teamer|
|2000||DE John Engelberger, SF||Started 4 yrs. in SF, now a reserve in Den., 18.5 career sacks|
|2001||TE Alge Crumpler, ATL||3-time Pro Bowler, annually ATL's top receiver|
|2002||DE Kalimba Edwards, DET||On upswing with 7 sacks in '05, 10 starts in '06|
|2003||CB Charles Tillman, CHI||Fixture in top defense, 81 tackles, 5 INTs in 2006|
|2004||DE Igor Olshansky, SD||Instant starter, key to SD's strong run defense|
|2005||WR Reggie Brown, PHI||Led '05 rookies with 571 rec. yards, led PHI with 816 rec. yards in '06|
|2006||LB Rocky McIntosh, WAS||One start, 28 tackles as a rookie|
Overall, this is a fairly successful list of players. One would probably only list Roque and Lee as out-right busts, though Gardner, Smith and Simpson might be considered "semi-busts" in that more was expected of them. Crumpler and Alstott proved to be legitimate stars and Tillman, Olshansky and Okoye made/are making their drafting teams quite happy. Parrish, Brown, Edwards, Anthony Newman, Owens, Tuaolo and Cook were/are all quality NFL players.
Now on to the list from the end of the second round (or early in the third round in seasons before there were 32 NFL teams).
64th Overall Draft Picks, 1987-2006
|**Year**||**Player, Drafting Team**||**NFL Career Notes**|
|1987||QB Cody Carlson, HOU||Career backup, mostly to W. Moon, 21 TDs, 28 INTs|
|1988||T Matt Patchan, PHI||Never played in the NFL|
|1989||G Bob Kratch, NYG||8 years, 105 games with Giants, Patriots|
|1990||DT Jimmie Jones, DAL||7 seasons for Cowboys/Rams, 107 games, 29.5 sacks|
|1991||G James Richards, DAL||Never played in the NFL|
|1992||LB Todd Collins, NE||8 seasons with Patriots/Rams, started in two Super Bowls|
|1993||G Joe Cocozzo, SD||5 seasons, all with SD, 76 games, 48 starts|
|1994||LB Sam Rogers, BUF||10 seasons, 7 w/BUF, 133 games, 30 sacks|
|1995||LB Bryan Schwartz, JAX||5 seasons w/Jags, 3 as starter, 161 tackles as rookie, 487 in career|
|1996||TE Johnny McWilliams, AZ||4 seasons in AZ, 1 in MIN, 72 career receptions|
|1997||RB Jay Graham, BAL||4 NFL seasons, 2 w/BAL, 454 career rushing yards|
|1998||C Olin Kreutz, CHI||127 career games, 119 starts, six consecutive Pro Bowls|
|1999||G Doug Brzezinski, PHI||64 games, 22 starts in four seasons with PHI|
|2000||CB Lloyd Harrison, WAS||Just 1 season in WAS, no starts|
|2001||S Adrian Wilson, AZ||3-time Pro Bowler, 14 INTs, NFL DB-record 8 sacks in 2005|
|2002||CB Travis Fisher, STL||Immediate starter as rookie, 7 career INTs, now w/DET|
|2003||DE Dewayne White, TB||Though mostly reserve for 4 seasons, had 14 sacks, now w/DET|
|2004||DT Darnell Dockett, AZ||47 of 48 games started, 2004-06, 6 sacks|
|2005||T Adam Terry, BAL||23 games in 2 years, started last two games at RT|
|2006||QB Tarvaris Jackson, MIN||2 starts as rookie, starter heading into '07|
Again, a fairly good list overall. The most glaring difference between the 64th-pick group and the 35th-pick group is that the former includes two players, Patchan and Richards, who didn't make it in the league at all. Those are significant busts in the second or third round and an indication that the later of these two picks is a bit riskier.
Otherwise, one would probably only label Graham and Harrison as additional busts. Expected to carry the load in Baltimore, Graham never cracked 300 rushing yards in any of his four seasons, and Harrison played only one NFL season.
The 64 list has two legitimate NFL stars, however, in Kreutz and Wilson, both perennial Pro Bowlers. Rogers had a very productive NFL career for the Bills and Falcons. Most of the rest of the list is populated by players who proved to be (or are proving to be) dependable pros – e.g. Fisher, Kratch and Collins – without necessarily ascending into the star ranks.
A list of successes and failures at a particular draft pick is admittedly a touch arbitrary, in that the spot is occupied by different teams in different seasons, and applied to draft pools of varying depth. The 35th pick in 1997 may have been a bust, but the 34th (Jamie Sharper) and 36th (Tiki Barber) picks were home runs, so there was clearly value available when the Lions settled on Juan Roque.
However, presented together these two lists do offer some insight into the value of having an extra pick in the second round, even if it falls at the very end. There isn't an enormous difference between the collective success of the 20 men in the first group and the 20 in the second group above.
Now the onus is on the Buccaneers to use those two picks well. In other words, let's find another Mike Alstott and Adrian Wilson and avoid another Kevin Lee and Jay Graham.