Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Middle Men

Through the years, has Tampa Bay acquired enough talent in the middle rounds (3-5) to form a team that could compete with a collection of its first and second-rounders?

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Could the middle-round men pick up a running back by trading S Jermaine Phillips

Through the years, has Tampa Bay acquired enough talent in the middle rounds (3-5) to form a team that could compete with a collection of its first and second-rounders?

In a recent vote to determine the cornerbacks on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers All-Time Team, fan support was strong for Donnie Abraham and Ronde Barber (results won't be announced until the summer). Though he's recently switched to safety, Dwight Smith received a fair share of votes, as well. And when the All-Time Team voting gets around to safety, one would expect John Lynch to make a very good showing.

What do these four players have in common?

They were all drafted by the Buccaneers in the third round.

Lynch was a third-round pick in 1993, Abraham came on board in the third round of 1996, Barber followed in the same round in 1997 and Smith was a round-three pickup in 2001. With Smith's position change, those four alone would make up an outstanding secondary in the primes of their respective careers.

In fact, if one were to construct a team made up only of players drafted by the Buccaneers in rounds 3-5, the defensive backfield would be that squad's main strength, followed by wide receiver, center, linebacker and, to a lesser extent, defensive tackle.

How do we know this? Because we did construct that team. We also constructed a team made only of players drafted in rounds 1-2, and compared the two squads, in order to get a feel for the relative importance of those two phases of the draft in Buc history. Have the middle rounds, over the years, produced as many, or nearly as many, long-term contributors as the more publicized first two rounds?

We did give the 3-5 team an additional round to work with, but we did not consider any players drafted in the sixth round or lower. That robbed the second team of such talent as Chidi Ahanotu, Ellis Wyms, David Logan, Gerald Carter, Harry Swayne, Jim Pyne and Reuben Davis. But they'll get over it. We also did not include any players not drafted by the Bucs, even if they were acquired in a trade for a 1-5 draft pick. That's too bad, because the 3-5 team could have really used running back Gary Anderson, acquired from San Diego for a third-round pick in 1990.

So, which team would you want? Well, check them out below.

(Note: This was not approached scientifically nor determined by voting. It is not intended to rank players or influence the All-Time Team voting. Players were generally chosen based on where they stand on the Bucs' all-time statistical charts or, for offensive linemen, games-played list; e.g. Lawrence Dawsey ranked ahead of Bruce Hill on the career receptions list and thus was listed along with Mark Carrier at wide receiver. See below for further notes on these teams. We went with a 4-3 defense and didn't distinguish between middle and outside linebackers.)

**Rounds 1-2** **Rounds 3-5**
**Position****Player****Position****Player**
QBDoug WilliamsQBCraig Erickson
RBJames WilderRBJerry Eckwood
RBMike AlstottRBWilliam Howard
WRKevin HouseWRMark Carrier
WRCourtney HawkinsWRLawrence Dawsey
TENone*TERon Hall
TPaul GruberTRon Heller
TKenyatta WalkerTCharley Hannah
GSean FarrellGIan Beckles
GFrank MiddletonGJohn Bruhin
CRandy GrimesCTony Mayberry
DELee Roy SelmonDEJohn Cannon
DERegan UpshawDE Robert Goff**
DTWarren SappDTSantana Dotson
DTAnthony McFarlandDTMark Wheeler
LBDerrick BrooksLBJeff Davis
LBBroderick ThomasLBScot Brantley
LBDavid LewisLBErvin Randle
CBBrian KellyCBRonde Barber
CBRicky ReynoldsCBDonnie Abraham
SMelvin JohnsonSJohn Lynch
SNone***SDexter Jackson

The Bucs have never drafted a tight end in the first or second round. Goff was drafted as a DT and was considered more of an interior lineman but played DE in the Bucs' 3-4 alignment. * Melvin Johnson is the only safety the Bucs have drafted in the first or second round.*

The first thing we notice is these two teams need to initiate some trade talks. The 1-2 team has a wealth of running backs – not even listed behind Wilder and Alstott were Warrick Dunn, Ricky Bell, Errict Rhett, Reggie Cobb and Lars Tate – while the 3-5 squad had to go with Eckwood, who had a relatively brief career, and the largely unknown Howard. Dunn or Bell could easily net the 1-2 team a safety, such as Jermaine Phillips or Tony Covington.

The 3-5 team is also a bit thin at guard, and could really use a reserve from the other group, such as Ray Snell or Cosey Coleman. They could send one of their extra cornerbacks over – think Dwight Smith, John Holt or Jeremiah Castille – to net that lineman, because the 1-2 team needs a nickel back behind Kelly and Reynolds.

On the other hand, the 1-2 team should really make a move to pick up a tight end, a position it has completely ignored. Jerry Bell or Tyji Armstrong might be available.

Overall, the 1-2 team should be able to weather injuries better, as it sports more depth than the 3-5 team. At quarterback, for instance, the Bucs could spell Williams with Vinny Testaverde, Trent Dilfer or Shaun King. The 3-5 team would probably have to turn to the promising but unproven Chris Simms if Erickson went down. Defensive linemen who could work into the 1-2 team's rotation include Ron Holmes, Marcus Jones and Eric Curry; the 3-5 squad would have to rely on Jason Maniecki and John McLaughlin, who was basically just a special teams player.

On the other hand, the 3-5 squad rivals the 1-2 team in depth at receiver, where it can go four-wide by bringing on Bruce Hill and Horace Copeland. The 1-2 men could do the same with Gordon Jones, Jacquez Green and Reidel Anthony.

And both teams have a plethora of linebackers. Not mentioned above for the 1-2 team are Hugh Green, Dewey Selmon, Kevin Murphy, Keith Browner, Keith McCants and Demetrius DuBose. The 3-5 group could sub in contemporaries Jamie Duncan, Alshermond Singleton and Nate Webster.

So which team would you choose? Given the depth at quarterback, running back and defensive line, it would be hard to pass up the group of first and second-rounders. True, that team would have trouble at safety and might have difficulties in the running game without a tight end, but the other squad simply has more holes. The 3-5 team would probably be stingy in the secondary, but might be vulnerable up front on defense and would tire out its running backs quickly.

It's unlikely, then, that the 3-5 team would be able to defeat the 1-2 team. However, its strengths indicate that there is still much to be gained in the draft once the first two rounds are over.

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