The Bucs' final pick of the weekend was Michigan TE Tim Massaquoi
Thirty years ago, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened the first draft in franchise history by selecting a high-effort, strong-character performer out of the University of Oklahoma. That man, defensive end Lee Roy Selmon, left an indelible mark on the franchise – in an unerringly positive way – and wound up with a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Bucs can only hope that history repeats itself as they wrap up their 31st and last draft from the team's original headquarters. The Buccaneers will move into a new, state-of-the-art facility following this year's training camp.
"The last draft from One Buc Place – I'm sorry to announce that," said Head Coach Jon Gruden, sounding anything but sorry. "We have had a long day, obviously. I am sure every coach in the league is standing up here today telling you how great their picks are. All I'll say is we drafted 10 men, guys we feel good about. We've got a lot of work to do, but this is a good day for Tampa Bay, I do believe that."
Of course, guard Davin Joseph, the first pick in Tampa Bay's 10-man draft class of 2006, doesn't have to end up in the Hall of Fame to make this a good weekend for the Buccaneers. If he can develop into the powerful drive-blocking force the Bucs believe he will be – and hopefully sooner than later – than the team will have hit a home run in the first round for the third straight year. After getting potential franchise players at the wide receiver (Michael Clayton) and running back (Cadillac Williams) positions in 2004 and 2005, the Bucs hope they added another long-term offensive cornerstone in Joseph on Saturday.
Of course, the selection of Joseph at number 23 overall was just the beginning of what could be another team-altering April weekend. The Bucs, who have added five starters and numerous other instant contributors during their last two drafts, have high hopes for the entire 2006 class from second-round tackle Jeremy Trueblood to seventh-round tight end Tim Massaquoi.
The Bucs have certainly added numbers to the team's ever more youthful core. After a run of lean draft years thanks to a series of trades and some misfired picks, the Bucs have drafted 30 players over the past three years. Of the 20 picked up in the springs of 2004 and 2005, 16 remain on the roster as the Bucs load up for their 2006 training camp.
The team drafted 10 players this weekend, preferring to sit tight with the exact compliment of picks with which they entered. Those picks became these 10 players:
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2006 Draft Class
|1||23||G||Davin Joseph||Oklahoma||Started at LT in 2005|
|2||59||T||Jeremy Trueblood||Boston College||Played LT at BC; projects to RT|
|3||90||WR||Maurice Stovall||Notre Dame||Great size (6-4, 229), will fight for ball|
|4||122||CB||Alan Zemaitis||Penn State||Bucs heavily considered him on Day 1|
|5||156||DE||Julian Jenkins||Stanford||Bucs may look at him at UT|
|6a||194||QB||Bruce Gradkowski||Toledo||Career 68% passer, good mobility|
|6b||202||TE||T.J. Williams||North Carolina State||Led NC State in rec. twice|
|7a||235||CB||Justin Phinisee||Oregon||Also a dangerous punt returner|
|7b||241||DE||Charles Bennett||Clemson||Speed rusher with 8.5 sacks in 04-05|
|7c||244||TE||Tim Massaquoi||Michigan||Two-time 1st-team All-Big Ten|
Head Coach Jon Gruden addressed the three players taken on the first day of the draft – Joseph, Trueblood and Stovall – late on Saturday evening. After the Bucs made their seven Sunday selections, including a rush of three in a 10-pick span in the seventh round, Gruden emerged from the Draft Room to assess Day Two. One need only look at the recent contributions from such players as Dan Buenning, Will Allen, Sean Mahan, Jermaine Phillips, Ellis Wyms and Jameel Cook to know that the second day of the draft is far from irrelevant.
The first pick of the second day was Zemaitis in the fourth round, and it was an easy choice considering the Bucs had strongly considered the Penn State corner before going with Stovall in Round Three. If any pick in the Bucs' 2006 draft is likely to be regarded as a "steal," that is a good player being available lower than most analysts projected, it is this one. Zemaitis appears to be a perfect fit for a Cover Two type of defense, given his zone-coverage skills, intelligence and tackling ability, and of course it is the Buccaneers who started the wash of the Cover Two across the league.
"We talked about Alan the previous day," said Gruden. "[He's] a very good football player, fits our scheme. He's got size. [He's] a guy we're really, really thrilled to have with us now. He's a leader of the Penn State football program, a big reason that they turned it around. He's a great kid. He's going to add a lot to our football team. I'm counting on him to come in here and be a player for us, hopefully, for a few years to come."
Zemaitis was the Bucs' first pick on the defensive side of the ball, but they didn't wait long to add another one, picking up Stanford defensive lineman Julian Jenkins in the next round. An end in the Cardinal's new 3-4 scheme last year, Jenkins is a strong and energetic player and another young man the Bucs had identified as a good fit for their defense.
"We think he suits our scheme," said Gruden. "[He's a] high-energy guy, a big guy with the potential to play three positions. He's got a great motor, a guy that we think can play inside and out. He has some pass rush and is a very hard-working player."
That sounds like the dossier of another PAC-10 linemen the Bucs drafted late in 1993, California's Chidi Ahanotu. Ahanotu started out at defensive tackle but eventually made starts at three positions as a rookie and had a productive career as a hustling end/tackle swingman. The Bucs won't decide exactly where to play Jenkins until they get a close look at his skills on the practice field.
"His value to us is versatility," said Gruden. "For Jenkins to be the player we need him to be, he's going to have to play at right end, he's going to have to go over there and take some snaps at left end. I'd like to see him as a three-technique [defensive tackle], honestly. I believe he's got some one-gap penetrating ability. He's got the size, he's got certainly the strength to hold up in there."
Gradkowski, taken with the first of two sixth-round picks, was obviously a very interesting second-day pick in a draft very deep in quarterback talent. The highly-productive Toledo passer has what Gruden calls "functional mobility" to go with huge numbers in the Rockets' spread attack. Gruden felt Gradkowski had become a bit overlooked with all of the attention given to first-round picks Vince Young, Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler. And, of course, Tom Brady has made the entire league aware that quarterbacks taken as late as the sixth round can still build good careers in the NFL.
"He fits our scheme and a guy who we think has some upside," said Gruden, who was impressed by Gradkowski's postseason workouts. "[He is] very similar to a couple of guys I've worked with in the past. His mobility is an asset. We clocked him as one of the faster pure quarterbacks in this draft. And his production…he's the all-time completion percentage leader in NCAA history. He knows how to run a huddle. Competition doesn't bother him. I believe he's going to come in here and make this thing very interesting. He's going to be a quick study."
The Bucs used their second sixth-round pick, as well as their third third-rounder, on tight ends. North Carolina State's T.J. Williams came eight picks after Gradkowski and Michigan's Tim Massaquoi arrived with pick number 244 overall. Williams had bigger receiving numbers than Massaquoi but the Wolverine was a first-team all-conference pick the last two years.
"[These are] two guys who have the size and versatility that fit what we like to do," said Gruden, whose attack already features a young and productive tight end in second-year man Alex Smith. "They can line up on the line of scrimmage as conventional tight ends, we think they can catch the ball. They can line up as the fullback, we can move them around and do the things that we like to do. They will create some competition and some depth, and hopefully, allow us to do some things with Alex Smith that we want to do during this offseason."
Before finishing the day with Massaquoi, the team went back to defense for its first two picks in the seventh round. Often the players taken in the final round are selected because they stand out in one aspect or another, display a particular talent that the team hopes it can develop. However, the Bucs were pretty excited about the overall package when it came to Phinisee, the Oregon corner, and Bennett, the Clemson speed rusher.
"A cornerback we are really excited about is Justin Phinisee from Oregon," said Gruden. "He is a great special teams player. He has a real knack for the football. He's got size, he's got quickness, he's tough. This is an interesting guy. He doesn't have the outright speed, I think, that some people are looking for. But this is one fine player who is very tough and who has some versatility that, once again, fits the way we like to play here on defense.
"The guy that we got from Clemson, Charles Bennett, he's just the best-looking guy in the draft. He's got speed. He really came on, I believe, as a senior. This guy can run to the ball. He has is size and speed, and he has flash play-making ability. To add another guy that has a potential rush and potential sideline-to-sideline speed like Charles Bennett, we felt it was a bargain for us in the seventh round."
Of course, as Gruden pointed out himself, every coach in the league is pleased with his picks at the end of the weekend. A player is only truly a bargain, or a good value in the first round, if he proves he can produce on the NFL level, and that sometimes takes several seasons. As always, a draft is best judged after several years have passed to offer perspective. The Bucs don't need Joseph, or any of their 10 newest players, to join Selmon in the Hall of Fame to make this draft a success, but they would like to look back at this weekend as two days that dramatically improved the core of the team.
Odds and Ends
A few additional notes on the 10 players drafted by the Buccaneers on Saturday and Sunday: