Both Brad Johnson (14) and Ryan Leaf (16) will keep their old numbers with the Buccaneers
We've told you Brad Johnson is an accurate quarterback. Last year, before the Buccaneers played the Washington Redskins in October, Tampa Bay's scouting report glowed about Johnson's 'accuracy to all three levels of the field', pointing out that he could hit the quick short passes as well as the deep ball with regularity.
But just how accurate is Johnson, relative to his peers?
Statistically, one of the best ever. After the famous 49ers duo of Steve Young (64.28) and Joe Montana (63.24), Johnson is the third most accurate passer in NFL history. With Young's recent retirement, Johnson's mark of 61.83% makes him the most accurate passer currently active in the league.
(The NFL's cutoff for qualifying in this category is 1,500 passes, which means Kurt Warner – who has completed 65.8% of his 857 passes so far – could be giving Johnson stiff competition soon).
Actually, Johnson just moved into the top three in league history, passing Troy Aikman, whose accuracy has always been considered the best part of his excellent game. Aikman, who was recently released by the Dallas Cowboys, completed a very respectable 59.5% of his passes last season (156 of 262) but saw his career mark slip just slightly to 61.46%. Johnson, meanwhile, completed 62.5% of his throws last season and jumped ahead of Aikman overall.
Johnson, by the way, will continue to wear jersey number 14 in Tampa. He wore that number in both of his previous NFL stops, Minnesota and Washington. Second-year Buc hurler Joe Hamilton, who wore that number in 2000, has chosen 1 as his new jersey number.
Similarly, Ryan Leaf has been awarded jersey number 16 to coincide with his San Diego past. First-year wide receiver Chris Daniels, who spent last season on injured reserve and is now headed overseas to play for NFL Europe's Barcelona Dragons, wore 16 last year but has moved up one number on the chart to 17.
The Bucs helped set off a chain reaction of signings with the addition of Johnson, as quarterbacks have been the focus of the 10-day old free agent market this season.
The NFL currently reports 14 free agent players who have signed with different teams so far on its up-to-date list, and four of those have been quarterbacks. That doesn't include the Bucs' claiming of Ryan Leaf off waivers, the Seattle Seahawks trade for Matt Hasselbeck, the Miami Dolphins' signing of Ray Lucas to an offer sheet or the rumored deal between Kansas City and St. Louis for Trent Green.
The Chiefs are interested in Green after losing Elvis Grbac to the Baltimore Ravens, who were also said to be pursuing Johnson before he chose Tampa Bay. In addition, the Chiefs are reportedly interested in meeting with Aikman after Doug Flutie took away one of Aikman's options by signing with San Diego.
With the NFL Combine now over, Buccaneer scouts will be using the next couple of months to follow the various individual workouts being held at universities across the nation. If a quick check of the web's most visited sports sites offers any hints, they might need to spend extra time in Big Ten country.
Both Thesportingnews.com and CNNSI.com predict that the Bucs will use the 21st pick in the first round to select Michigan offensive tackle Jeff Backus, which is also a popular sentiment on less prominent football sites around the web. However, ESPN.com, which uses Pro Football Weekly analysis for its mock draft, has Tampa Bay taking Ohio State cornerback Nate Clements.
ESPN's Mel Kiper also calls Backus the 14th-best prospect in the draft.
The NFL's massive internet network, with NFL.com at the hub, has its own extensive draft section, but not a mock draft, for obvious reasons. Similarly, this article in no way is intended to reflect the thinking of the Bucs' player personnel department.
However, NFL.com does carry a short scouting reports on both Backus and Clements. They go something like this:
Backus is tall, but needs to get stronger to be successful in the NFL. He is also better as a run-blocker, but needs to improve his mobility. The big question is whether he can handle quick pass rushers in the NFL. That is going to be a major challenge for him.
"Proved at the Senior Bowl practices that he's a natural LT. When you combine that with his terrific performances as a starter in the Big Ten, it's easy to see why I've elevated his grade over the last month. " —Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN.com
"Is a finesse tackle with quick feet and balance. Is good at sending rushers wide. Holds his ground well against bull rushes." —Dan Pompei, The Sporting News
Ohio State cornerback Nate Clements could be the next in a long line of good Buckeye covermen in the NFL. Not only is Clements considered one of the top defensive back prospects but his speed and agility also makes him a candidate for a return man position. Scouts fell he may have the best cover skills of ant player in the draft outside of fellow Big 10 corner Jamar Fletcher.
"Ohio State junior corner Nate Clements is ... the most under-talked corner at this point in draft circles. But don't be surprised if Clements becomes a top 15 pick next spring. Clements has displayed excellent closing speed on the ball and looks to become a potential impact corner at the pro level." —Brian DeLucia of NFLDigest.com
Of the top juniors, scouts say players such as Wisconsin's Jamar Fletcher and Ohio State's Nate Clements could go ahead of all the seniors if their measurements and combine workouts measure up, but both would benefit from another year in school. Clements especially would benefit because one week he looks like another Shawn Springs and the next he looks like a very mediocre player (vs. Miami of Ohio and Minnesota)." —Pro Football Weekly