The Bucs have done fine with their three offensive guard selections in the first round through the years, though Davin Joseph is on his way to being the most accomplished of the group
This week, a cadre of Tampa Bay Buccaneers scouts, coaches and personnel professionals will head to Indianapolis to watch 300 top prospects make their cases for the 2010 draft. Two months later, most of those 300 will find their first NFL homes.
The Buccaneers are set to make 10 picks in the draft (barring trades), including the third choice overall in the first round. The young man whose name they will call 30 or minutes or so into the proceedings will almost certainly be in Indy this week, at least for interviews and medical exams if not necessarily a workout on the field.
There's even a chance the Bucs decision-makers have already zeroed in on a very short list of possible picks for that #3 slot, though poker faces will be firmly in place between now and April 22. Until then, fans will have to content themselves with mock drafts, which are already alternately connecting Tampa Bay with players at the safety, defensive end, defensive tackle and offensive tackle positions.
Who are the Bucs actually targeting in the first round? Again, the only people who are truly in the know aren't telling. But with the Buccaneers about to exercise their highest overall pick since 1987 (barring trades), it might be instructive, or at least entertaining, to look at who Tampa Bay has taken in the opening round over the past 34 years.
Specifically, let's break it down by position to see where the Bucs have leaned with their highest picks and how well that has worked out. Below, we'll take a position-by-position look at the 30 previous first-round picks in franchise history.
First, a few notes. The Bucs' current management, with Mark Dominik as the general manager and Raheem Morris as the head coach, has made just one first-round pick since taking over at the helm in 2009 - Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman. It is probably too early to call how successful that pick has been, after just one year, though the early returns were certainly very promising. In fact, it's probably not fair yet to judge any of the last three or four picks too firmly.
Also, while this is just a quick scan of the Bucs' own first-rounders, it's fair to say that every team in the league has found the first round to be hit or miss at times. Go back just five years and you'll find even the highest reaches of the first round to be a mixed bag; here were the first 10 picks in 2005: QB Alex Smith, RB Ronnie Brown, WR Braylon Edwards, RB Cedric Benson, RB Cadillac Williams, CB Pacman Jones, WR Troy Williamson, CB Antrel Rolle, CB Carlos Rogers and WR Mike Williams. Judge for yourself.
You won't see any sections below for tight end, center, safety, kicker or punter. The Bucs have never spent a first-round pick on any of those positions.
And, finally, as with all of the draft coverage you will find on Buccaneers.com before the big event, this is not intended to reflect the opinions of the team's actual draft decision-makers. We may find that running back has been the most successful position-pick for the Buccaneers through the years; that doesn't mean the team is going to put more value on the running back column of the draft board.
- Doug Williams, 17th overall, 1978
- Vinny Testaverde, 1st overall, 1987
- Trent Dilfer, 6th overall, 1994
- Josh Freeman, 17th overall, 2009
Freeman was just the fourth quarterback the Buccaneers have drafted in the first round in their history, and while that list hasn't yet produced a perennial Pro Bowler, the efforts have not been as troubled as some might think.
Williams was the team's first attempt at a franchise quarterback, and the Bucs made this pick after trading down from the top overall spot and also acquiring future Pro Bowl tight end in the deal with Houston. Williams, who is know employed by the team as its coordinator of pro scouting, was an immediate starter, and by his second year he was the offensive leader of a team that advanced to the NFC Championship Game. More of a selfless steward of the offense in those first couple years, as the defense and the running game formed the heart of the team, Williams later had several more prolific years before leaving for the USFL after the 1982 season in a contract dispute. Had Williams' playing career with the Bucs been longer, this might have been even more of a successful pick, as he later went on to Super Bowl MVP heights with the Washington Redskins.
Testaverde has to be considered something of a miss, for the Buccaneers at least, even though he is the team's all-time leader in passing yards and touchdown passes. The Bucs obviously expected to get a franchise cornerstone with the first overall pick, but Testaverde threw 35 more picks than TDs over six years, finished with a passer rating of 64.4 in that span and never played in a postseason game. Again, this was not necessarily a scouting breakdown for the Buccaneers, as Testaverde went on to relative success in Cleveland, Baltimore, New York and several other stops before retiring after the 2007 season. As a matter of fact, Testaverde is seventh in NFL history in career passing yards.
Like Williams, Dilfer won a Super Bowl after leaving the Buccaneers, helping the Ravens and their incredible defense take the title in the 2001 season. He also has the most wins by a Buccaneer starting quarterback and the most starts, and he was the first Tampa Bay passer ever to earn a Pro Bowl berth. He was, however, not pursued after becoming a free agent following the 1999 season.
Again, Freeman has only just begun his journey, though his first nine NFL starts did nothing to disabuse the Buccaneers of their belief that he will develop into a true franchise quarterback. If that happens, Tampa Bay's success rate at drafting first-round quarterbacks will obviously improve significantly.
- Ricky Bell, 1st overall, 1977
- Bo Jackson, 1st overall, 1986
- Warrick Dunn, 12th overall, 1997
- Cadillac Williams, 5th overall, 2005
Again, the Bucs' scouting certainly doesn't seem to be in question when considering this group, though other circumstances have kept it from becoming an overwhelming success.
Those circumstances began sadly with Bell, who was a key part of the Bucs' emergence in 1979 but was robbed of much of his potential career - and life - by heart failure brought on by dermatomyositis. Bell is also forever tied with running back Tony Dorsett, who was taken with the next pick and went on to have a marvelous career with the Dallas Cowboys.
The circumstances surrounding the pick of Jackson weren't so tragic, but they certainly hurt the Buccaneers. With baseball as a reasonable fallback, Jackson refused to play for the Buccaneers and joined the Kansas City Royals instead. He later surfaced in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders and became a star before a hip injury ended his career.
Dunn is 15th in NFL history in yards from scrimmage, and he spent half of his pro career with the Buccaneers. He wasn't on the Bucs' Super Bowl team, but he helped Tampa Bay make the playoffs in four of the preceding five years and went to the Pro Bowl twice. That's a good pick.
In 2009, Williams made an impressive comeback from a second significant knee injury, and it's clear that his story is still being written. He was the NFL's Rookie of the Year in 2005 but missed a lot of time in the following three years due to those two fluky knee mishaps. Tampa Bay clearly found a talent with their high first-round pick in '05; how much they eventually get out of the selection, all told, is still uncertain.
- Reidel Anthony, 16th overall, 1997
- Michael Clayton, 15th overall, 2004
It's hard to believe that Anthony, in 1997, was the first receiver the Buccaneers had ever taken in the first round. The NFL as a whole has drafted an average of 3.3 receivers in the first round since the Bucs began participating in 1976. Of the 28 teams in the league in 1976, only the Bucs, Seahawks and Vikings failed to draft a wideout over the next two decades.
Thus, there isn't much to go on here. The Bucs picked up both Dunn and Anthony in 1997 after several maneuvers up and down the draft board, and it's safe to say that the former pick worked out better than the latter. Anthony was the Bucs' leading receiver in 1998, but never again, and he tops out at 20th in both receptions and receiving yards on the Bucs' all-time lists. He never had a 1,000-yard season and turned in only two 100-yard games from 1997-01.
As with Williams, Clayton could still add on to his Buccaneer story. That tale began very well when he had a stunning 80-1,193-7 season as a rookie in 2004; however, none of his seasons since have matched that one. Some of that has been due to injuries, and the Bucs certainly value Clayton's all-around play, including his tenacious blocking. Clayton is ninth on the Bucs' all-time receiving-yardage list.
- Paul Gruber, 4th overall, 1988
- Charles McRae, 7th overall, 1991
- Kenyatta Walker, 14th overall, 2001
Boom, bust or somewhere in between?
The Bucs have taken a shot at three first-round offensive tackles and pretty much hit every one of those draft-result strata.
Gruber was an unquestioned hit, widely considered the best offensive lineman in team history. He toiled in relative obscurity outside of Tampa because the Bucs were rarely a winning team during his tenure (1988-99), but he was certainly valued highly within the walls of team headquarters. Before being passed in recent years by Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber, Gruber was the Bucs' all-time leader in games played and started, and the fact that both numbers are the same (183) is an indication of how good the stoic lineman was, and for how long.
McRae, on the other hand, didn't work out well for the Buccaneers. He hung on the roster for five years but started only 38 games in that span and at one point was moved to guard. The Bucs had hoped to pair McRae with Gruber to form a long-running bookend pair of tackles, but that never materialized and the right tackle spot was mostly held down by Rob Taylor and Scott Dill in those years.
It would not be accurate to call Walker a bust, given that he opened 73 games and was the starting right tackle for the Super Bowl championship team in 2002. The Bucs originally tried Walker at left tackle in his rookie season but then switched him to the right side, where he had played in college, and he settled in at that spot somewhat.
Overall, it's clear that the Bucs have yet to match the draft success at tackle that they found with their first try in 1988.
- Ray Snell, 22nd overall, 1980
- Sean Farrell, 17th overall, 1982
- Davin Joseph, 23rd overall, 2006
As you can see, Tampa Bay actually spent a few picks on interior linemen before they ever tried to draft a first-round tackle. Then there was a space of 24 years before they did it again. All three men on that list were at least good players for the team, though Joseph is on his way to establishing himself as the best of the bunch.
Snell started 35 games over four Buc seasons but was then traded to Pittsburgh after the 1983 campaign. His career never really took off in either location, though he was considered a solid member of Tampa Bay's line.
Farrell proved to be a bit stronger of a choice, and he started 59 games over five seasons in Tampa. He might have settled in as one of the more memorable linemen in franchise history had he not asked for and been granted a trade after the arrival of new head coach Ray Perkins in 1987.
Joseph has already been to one Pro Bowl - the first homegrown Buccaneer guard to capture that honor - and he appears capable of adding multiple all-star seasons. Huge and athletic, he has proved to be a good fit in several different offensive schemes since joining the Buccaneers and is firmly entrenched on the starting line. Injuries stalled him in his first season for a short period but he has started 40 games over three campaigns.
- Warren Sapp, 12th overall, 1995
- Marcus Jones, 22nd overall, 1996
- Anthony McFarland, 15th overall, 1999
The rising opinion league-wide of the value of standout defensive tackles is reflected clearly in the Bucs' own draft history.
Tampa Bay had never drafted a player at that position in its first 19 seasons in the league, and then it did so three times in a five-year span. One of those three, Jones, eventually was moved to end during his Buc tenure, but he was clearly intended to play inside when the Bucs selected him in the same round they took Cal defensive end Regan Upshaw.
No lengthy write-up is needed for Sapp, who is one of the best draft picks the team has ever made and is likely ticketed for the Hall of Fame. Sapp played nine seasons before leaving the Buccaneers as a free agent, appearing in 140 games with 130 starts. He was the sort of interior pass-rushing threat that every team hungers for and few ever find, with a peak season of 16.5 sacks and a total of 77.0 as a Buccaneer.
The Bucs obviously wanted to fashion their team around the front line of defense when they drafted both Upshaw (more on him below) and Jones just one year after adding Sapp. It would have been a minor miracle if the Bucs had hit as well on Jones as they did on Sapp, and indeed this draft pick didn't quite return the same results. However, the former North Carolina star did make his mark over six seasons with the team, playing in 84 games and starting 39. Jones never did unseat Brad Culpepper or, later, McFarland, at defensive tackle, but he eventually moved to end and in 2000 had a 13.0-sack season from that position. Jones earned a large new contract with that campaign but was only with the team for one more year.
McFarland was another player who looked to be cut from the same cloth as Sapp - he was shorter and stouter like Sapp, unlike the tall and chiseled Jones - though he of course couldn't quite live up to that example. McFarland wrested the starting job away from Culpepper in just his second season and was able to start 84 games over eight seasons with the team. He did not develop the same pass-rush ability as Sapp but was a solid presence in the middle for a fairly long time.
Overall, then, the Bucs have hit fairly well on the defensive tackle position in the NFL.
- Lee Roy Selmon, 1st overall, 1976
- Ron Holmes, 8th overall, 1985
- Eric Curry, 6th overall, 1993
- Regan Upshaw, 12th overall, 1996
- Gaines Adams, 4th overall, 2007
It would be tough for the Buccaneers to ever match the success of their very first college draft pick - Selmon, after all, is in the Hall of Fame - but unfortunately the team hasn't come particularly close in four subsequent tries at D-end.
Selmon has long been considered the best player in team history, only recently getting competition in that argument from the likes of Derrick Brooks. He went to six Pro Bowls and is the franchise's all-time leader - still - with 78.5 sacks. His career was unfortunately cut short after a little less than a decade due to a back injury, but he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the summer of 1995.
Drafted in '85, Holmes was unfortunately (for him) seen as the replacement for Selmon. He certainly wasn't a bust, starting for most of four seasons before being traded to Denver in 1989, but he finished with just 19.0 sacks as a Buccaneer. Holmes did lead the team with eight sacks in 1987 (despite the interruption of the players' strike) but he then saw his season shortened by injury in 1988.
The Curry pick did not work out well for the Buccaneers, other than being one of the key exhibits in the franchise's purposeful shift in draft emphasis from potential to production in the mid-'90s. Curry played in 59 games and started 44 over five seasons with the team but never posted more than five sacks in a season. He had just two sacks despite starting all 16 games at right end in 1995.
Upshaw showed a bit more pass-rushing ability than Curry and in fact had back-to-back seasons of 7.5 and 7.0 sacks in 1997 and 1998. However, he was hurt for most of 1999, which coincided with Jones' big season at end, and was then traded to Jacksonville. Upshaw's career continued in Oakland, where he had several fine seasons for the Raiders.
Adams, of course, qualifies as one of the sadder stories on the list, as he suddenly and unexpectedly died this January, a victim of cardiac arrest brought on by an enlarged heart. That tragic occurrence came just a few months after he was traded by the Buccaneers to the Chicago Bears after a little over two seasons in Tampa. Hard-working and well-respected, Adams had 6.0 sacks as a rookie and a team-leading 6.5 sacks in 2008.
The Bucs had an obvious A after one try when it came to drafting defensive ends. Over the past 33 years, however, they have failed to maintain the same GPA.
- Hugh Green, 7th overall, 1981
- Broderick Thomas, 6th overall, 1989
- Keith McCants, 4th overall, 1990
- Derrick Brooks, 28th overall, 1995
It has now been almost a decade and a half since the Bucs last spent a first-round pick on a linebacker. Considering how well they did with that choice, perhaps it will be time to try again soon.
The Bucs started out well with their first-round linebacker search, too. Green, the Heisman Trophy runner-up at Pittsburgh, stepped immediately into a starting spot and was a star right form the beginning. He was a Pro Bowler by his second season, and went again the following year. Green played in 54 games and started 53 during five years with the team and had 449 tackles, five interceptions and 15 sacks in that span.
The Bucs had less luck with their back-to-back picks of Thomas and McCants in 1989 and 1990. In fact, the five-year run of Thomas, McCants, McRae and Curry collectively led to that production-over-potential sea change. Thomas actually had several strong years over his five seasons with the club, emerging as one of the better pass-rushing linebackers the franchise has had. In 1991, he combined 174 tackles with 11.0 sacks, and he finished his Buc career with 2.65 sacks. Thomas struggled in pass coverage, however, and was released in 1994.
McCants, on the other hand, was a 'tweener who never really settled in at any position for the Buccaneers. Taken one pick before Junior Seau, McCants proved unable to stay at linebacker in the NFL and was moved to the defensive line. Not much came of that idea either - he had back-to-back five-sack seasons - and McCants was released before his fourth Buc season.
Brooks restored the luster to the Bucs' linebacker drafting, even though he was taken near the very end of the first round. Like Sapp, he is likely destined for the Hall of Fame, and there's little need to rehash all the details. Brooks is the franchise's all-time leader in games, starts and tackles and he was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year during the Bucs' 2002 Super Bowl campaign.
Two really strong hits and one reasonably good pick-up make linebacker a position that has returned good first-round results for Tampa Bay.
- Rod Jones, 25th overall, 1986
- Aqib Talib, 20th overall, 2008
The Bucs have rarely tried to shore up their secondary with first-round picks, as evidenced by that short list above and the lack of any safeties in that stanza. It's hard to blame them, given the returns they have had with picks in the second (Brian Kelly, Rickey Reynolds), third (Ronde Barber, Donnie Abraham, John Lynch, Dwight Smith) and even fourth (Tanard Jackson, Dexter Jackson) rounds.
The first crack at it didn't pan out well, as that 1986 first round started out with Bo Jackson and didn't get much better. SMU's Rod Jones did start for most of three of his four seasons with the team but had only four picks during that span and didn't develop much of a reputation as a top-notch player. He was eventually traded to Cincinnati.
Talib, on the other hand, has opened his career with two very strong seasons, though as mentioned above it is probably not of much value to judge his career yet. Through two years, Talib has snared five interceptions, tying for the team lead in both campaigns. Impressively athletic, he had little trouble stepping into the starting LCB position last year and looks like he could be a fixture in the Bucs' secondary for years to come.
Given the lack of picks, including just one in the team's first 32 years, the Bucs can probably get only an incomplete for their first-round work in the secondary.