In 2005, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Auburn's Cadillac Williams with the fifth-overall pick, making him the third running back off the board already. You could say that was the end of an era.
Williams, who followed his college teammate Ronnie Brown (second) and Cedric Brown of Texas (fourth), was a quality pick for the Buccaneers, though his overall career impact was lessened by a pair of brutal knee injuries. He won the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year award and tallied more than 4,500 yards from scrimmage in six years as a Buccaneer.
In the years that followed the '05 run of tailbacks in the top five, the NFL as a whole began to regard the position as more and more fungible, and less and less worthy of high draft picks. That trend peaked in 2013 when, for the first time since the 1970 merger, the first round went by without the selection of a single running back. The same thing happened in 2014, but those two drafts still produced the likes of Le'Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman, Carlos Hyde, Latavius Murray, Rex Burkhead, Jeremy Hill, Jerrick McKinnon and James White.
There has been a bit of a pushback on that trend since 2013-14, with teams willing to use very high picks on backs they consider to be special – Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, Leonard Fournette, as examples. But the Buccaneers are the last time to have picked a running back specifically in the fifth spot. That definitely represents a changing trend, because from 1998-2001 the fifth pick was used on a running back four consecutive times (Curtis Enis, Ricky Williams, Jamal Lewis and LaDainian Tomlinson).
Where teams have found success at number five in the 13 years since the Bucs last picked there has been largely on defense. And in some cases those selections have been wildly successful. Eight of those 13 picks were defensive players and five have since gone to the Pro Bowl; a sixth, 2018 first-round, Bradley Chubb seems destined for the same honor after racking up 12 sacks as a rookie. Where there have been "busts" at pick number five in the last 13 years have mostly been on offense, though there's also a Pro Bowl offensive lineman in that mix.
The Buccaneers are back in the number-five seat for the first time since they drove their shiny new Cadillac off the lot, and they could be in a prime position to continue that trend of success in the spot. They have needs at multiple spots on defense and could also choose to firm up the offensive line, and this year's draft class is deep on both sides of the trenches. Our own Mock Draft 1.0 here on Buccaneers.com had 15 of the 32 picks going to either offensive linemen or defensive linemen/edge rushers. Pete Prisco of CBS Sports put 17 in his first round in the mock he posted on February 13, and the most recent addition to the collection of mocks on NFL.com also had 17.
Below are the positions that the number-five pick has yielded in the last 13 years, since the Buccaneers last had that chip, and the outcome of those selections.
Defensive Backs (3): Eric Berry, Patrick Peterson, Jalen Ramsey
Analysts often employ baseball terms to describe the success, or lack thereof, of draft picks. A reach that fails to pan out is a swing-and-a-miss, but a pick that turns into a star player is a home run for that team's general manager.
So what is this group of defensive backs? A three-for-three outing with three grand slams? It's hard to imagine a trio of selections working out any better than this. Eric Berry is a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team Associated Press All-Pro who has only been slowed down (but, notably, not stopped) by Hodgkin's lymphoma. Patrick Peterson has been in the league eight years and has gone to eight Pro Bowls, which is an awfully nice ratio, and he's also won three AP first-team All-Pro awards. Ramsey has only been in the league three years but is already considered one of the NFL's elite cornerbacks, with two Pro Bowls and a first-team All-Pro award for his mantle.
Defensive Linemen/Edge (4): Glenn Dorsey, Ezekiel Ansah, Khalil Mack, Bradley Chubb
If we're still using baseball terms, this is a very good outing for any hitter: a grand slam, a couple of solid doubles and a long at-bat that produced a ground ball to move a runner from second to third with one out. Man, that got really specific.
The grand slam is Mack, who has already been to four Pro Bowls and been named first-team All-Pro three times. Really, you could say he has four All-Pro designations from AP because in 2015 he amazingly and historically was named a first-team All-Pro at both linebacker and defensive end. Oh, and Mack was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year for the 2016 season. We could also put Mack into the linebackers category below, which would make that group look a lot better.
Ansah has been to one Pro Bowl and has 48 sacks in six seasons for the Lions, with two years of double-digit sacks. That's solid production and a good pick for Detroit. Chubb, as mentioned above, was exactly the impact pass-rusher the Broncos were hoping to get and pair with Von Miller. Chubb's 12 sacks did not result in a Pro Bowl berth but you could blame that on a loaded position that only had one of the three original selections pull out of the game. Chubb was a second alternate, so he would have gotten in had one more player decided not to attend.
Dorsey never really developed into a star and finished with just seven sacks but he did play in 104 NFL games with 92 starts.
Offensive Linemen (2): Levi Brown, Brandon Scherff
The first four years of this 13-year look were the shakiest, including the Arizona Cardinals' pick of tackle Levi Brown in 2007. Brown is widely considered a bust by Cardinals fans because he never really developed into the cornerstone left tackle they were expecting. He was a Pro Bowl alternate once but has no real accolades on his resume. He did start 79 games.
Scherff, on the other hand, is a star who has already been two Pro Bowls in four seasons for Washington. He was drafted extremely high for a guard, which led many to believe the Redskins projected him as a tackle. Instead, Washington has left Scherff on the inside and reaped the benefits on a very good offensive line.
Wide Receivers (2): Justin Blackmon, Corey Davis
Blackmon is easily the biggest bust on this list of 13 players, thanks to off-the-field issues. He played in a total of 20 games over two seasons with Jacksonville, catching 93 passes for 1,280 yards and six touchdowns. When he wason the field, Blackmon had stretches where it looked like he could indeed become a star in the NFL, but that was irrelevant in the long run in comparison to his personal issues.
Davis happens to have a line through his first two seasons that looks very much like what Blackmon did: 99 catches for 1,266 yards and four touchdowns. The difference, of course, is that Davis' career is just getting started. After being limited by injuries as a rookie, he had 891 yards and four scores last year. That's not star-quality production yet, but he has time to get there.
Linebackers (1): A.J. Hawk
Hawk is first on this list, chronologically, going to the Packers in 2006. He never made a Pro Bowl or won an All-Pro award, but he did start nearly every game for nine seasons in Green Bay, and he was a starter on the Packers' most recent Super Bowl-winning team (2010). Hawk played in 159 games over 11 NFL seasons, starting 147 of them, and had 950 tackles and 20 sacks.
Quarterback (1): Mark Sanchez
Sanchez was the second quarterback chosen in 2009, with the Jets trading up after Detroit took Matthew Stafford first overall. Sanchez was the starter for a New York team that advanced to the AFC Championship Game in each of his first two seasons, and he continued to start for two more years after that.
And that's probably the best that can be said for Sanchez's career to date. He has since played for Philadelphia, Dallas and Washington, starting one game last year for the Redskins. Sanchez has a career passer rating of 73.2 and a TD-INT ratio of 86-89. Quarterbacks taken that high in the draft are generally considered busts if they don't develop into franchise players.
In summary, the fifth-overall pick has been used quite well for the most part since the last time it was in the possession of the Buccaneers. (Technically, Tampa Bay also owned that spot heading into the 2012 draft but later traded down to number seven.) That is particularly true when it comes to defensive players and even more so if one considers only the last nine years. In that span, teams picking at number five have come away with players combining to make 22 Pro Bowls and earn 10 Associated Press first-team All-Pro honors, not to mention an Defensive Player of the Year award. While Justin Blackmon is out of the game, Corey Davis and Bradley Chubb still have the potential to join that Pro Bowl list. The Buccaneers would like to make it a solid decade of drafting success at pick number five.
Unless they trade down, that is.