The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are due to pick 19th in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, and barring a trade it will be the first time they've ever executed that exact pick. Mock drafts are all over the board on the Bucs' likely selection, but the team has commonly been matched with running backs, receivers, tight ends, cornerbacks and safeties.
However, history suggests the pick could be an offensive tackle.
Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, the 19th overall draft pick has produced more offensive tackles (10) than any other position. Throw in guards and centers and 14 of the 47 players taken at that spot have been offensive linemen. No other position has more than seven, and that's even true when lumping defensive ends and tackles together or putting all safeties and corners under the defensive back umbrella.
This is actually a relatively recent trend and may reflect the increased importance of offensive linemen in the eyes of team architects. That change can be seen throughout the first round. In the 1970s, an average of 2.7 offensive tackles per year were selected in the first round. Over the last 10 years (2007-16), that average shot up to 4.3 per year.
The #19 pick only produced four offensive linemen, two of which were tackles, in the first 20 years after the merger. However, three of the last four players taken at that spot and six of the last 13 have been offensive linemen. Six of those were tackles and the seventh, Florida State's Cam Irving two years ago, was considered a versatile blocker who could potentially play anywhere along the line.
So, could the Buccaneers continue this trend in 2017 and use the #19 pick on an offensive linemen. Three factors suggest this is unlikely.
- While teams have been using that pick to bolster their O-Lines a lot more frequently in recent years, they have not done so very successfully. None of the last seven offensive linemen drafted 19th overall – stretching back to tackle Luke Petitgout in 1999 – have made a single Pro Bowl or won a single Associated Press All-Pro first-team honor. Some of the names on that list of seven were notable busts, while others simply didn't do much of note: Jeff Otah, Alex Barron, Petitgout, etc.
That hasn't always been the case. The first seven offensive linemen taken 19th overall since the merger all made at least one Pro Bowl. The undisputed king of the list is guard Randall McDaniel, who went to 12 Pro Bowls, won seven AP first-team honors and is now in the Hall of Fame. McDaniel played 12 seasons for the team that wisely drafted him in 1988, the Minnesota Vikings, then finished his career with two seasons in Tampa.
- This is not considered a particularly good draft for offensive linemen. Overall, this year's group of prospects has NFL scouts very excited; it might be one of the deepest drafts in quite some time. Teams in search of running backs, tight ends, cornerbacks, safeties and pass-rushers are going to have a lot of options. However, the O-Line is widely considered the weakest position in this year's draft.
There are certainly no offensive linemen in discussion for the first overall pick. There are five separate mock drafts on NFL.com and not one of them has a single offensive lineman going among the top 10 picks. Only one draft in the last decade has gone 10 picks deep without the first O-Lineman showing up. None of those mocks has a lineman going before pick 15, and none has more than four of them going overall in the first round.
Now, mock drafts are not the real thing, and when the picks start flying on April 27 there's a decent chance that the position scarcity actually causes a couple of the better prospects to go higher than expected. Either way, the shallow O-Line pool makes it less likely the Buccaneers will dive in.
Pictures of the Buccaneers' offensive linemen.
- As mentioned, there are more obvious needs on the Buccaneers' depth chart. The team re-signed center Joe Hawley and lost only reserve tackle Gosder Cherilus to retirement. The Bucs entire starting five returns intact from 2016, as do its top reserves. In addition, guard J.R. Sweezy could figure prominently in the lineup after missing all of last season due to a back ailment. The Buccaneers signed Sweezy as an unrestricted free agent a year ago with the idea that he would take over for retiring left guard Logan Mankins. Instead, Kevin Pamphile stepped into that role and performed well. Pamphile, Evan Smith and Ali Marpet all offer the type of position flexibility that will allow the Buccaneers to get their best five blockers on the field. After a slow start, the Bucs' offensive line improved during the second half of the 2016 campaign, and the team seems to be confident in its group of blockers.
If the Buccaneers choose to add to the wide receiver position at #19, they'll have some pretty strong selections to challenge. The Eagles took Jeremy Maclin at that spot in 2009 and he has put up 474 receptions for 6,395 yards and 46 touchdowns so far in his seven-year career. Maclin doesn't take the receiver trophy at #19, though. That would belong to Marvin Harrison, taken by Indianapolis at that spot in 1996. Harrison, of course, was just inducted into the Hall of Fame last summer.
Tampa Bay has been linked with some of this year's top running backs, too. That position has been a mixed bag at #19. Seven different running backs have been taken 19th overall since the merger, though none since the year 2000. That most recent pick was Seattle's Shaun Alexander, who made three Pro Bowls and was the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 2005. James Stewart, the 19th pick in 1995, had a decent eight-year career, though his best seasons came after he left his drafting team, the Jaguars, for Detroit. The other five are largely forgotten names – Tony Smith, Darrell Thompson, Paul Palmer, George Adams and Steve Owens. Owens made one Pro Bowl; otherwise that's a list of several busts and no 1,000-yard rushers.
Other notably good NFL players selected 19th overall since the merger: cornerback Antonio Cromartie (2006, San Diego), defensive tackle Casey Hampton (2001, Pittsburgh), defensive end Vonnie Holliday (1998, Green Bay), defensive end Wayne Martin (1989, New Orleans), safety Joey Browner (1983, Minnesota), linebacker Otis Wilson (1980, Chicago), tackle Brian Holloway (1981, New England) and safety Jack Tatum (1971, Oakland).