Each week during the offseason, Senior Writer/Editor Scott Smith will dip into the inbox to answer questions from Buccaneer fans. This week we talk about Buccaneer quarterbacks past and present, one of whom has an interesting draft history and one who is climbing the team's leaderboard. We're also taking a quick look at nicknames and the upcoming regular-season schedule.
Fans can submit questions for upcoming mailbags via Twitter to @ScottSBucs (#BucsMailbag), through a message on the Buccaneers Official Facebook Page or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The One Buc Mailbag runs every Thursday and is not necessarily meant to reflect the opinions of the team's management or coaching staff.
While looking at the piece about the Bucs' top ten quarterbacks, I came across an unfamiliar name: Craig Erickson. So I researched a little about him, and found that he was drafted twice. Please explain how that happened. I read that it's only happened twice, and the other time was Bo Jackson, also by the Buccaneers. Is this correct? Hope Jameis moves up a couple of spots on that list this season. Do you want to make prediction of what place he'll be on the list at the end of this year? And, as always, Go Bucs!
Rusti, Altamonte SpringsYou get partial credit, Rusti. Much of what you write is correct, but a player being drafted twice has happened more than two times.
The Buccaneers drafted former University of Miami quarterback Craig Erickson in the fourth round in 1992; a year earlier, Erickson had gone to the Philadelphia Eagles in the fifth round. How did this happen? Well, it's simple: Erickson never signed with the Eagles. If a player is selected in an NFL draft but remains unsigned a year later, the original drafting team loses his rights and he goes back into the next draft.
I do believe that is the last such instance of a player being taken in two different NFL drafts, which is unsurprising. Contract negotiations don't always go smoothly (and they were significantly more difficult before the new CBA in 2011 instituted a rookie salary cap), but it's exceedingly rare for a player not to sign at all. Given how relatively brief the average NFL playing career is, it just doesn't make sense to give away an entire year of earning potential.
So it has to be an unusual situation, and that was the case with both Erickson and Bo Jackson. It was an unfortunate situation for Erickson, actually, as he sustained a very serious knee injury while practicing for the Hula Bowl in January of 1991. That would have been the last game of his college career. The Eagles obviously took the former Hurricane knowing he wouldn't be a factor in his rookie season, and his injury almost certainly hurt his draft stock. That in turn probably affected contract negotiations, as I found an old article suggesting he was looking to get the type of deal one would expect for a third-round pick. Since he wasn't going to play in 1991 anyway (the same article estimated his knee was only 90% healed the following April, just before the 1992 draft), it was a little more plausible that he would hold out all season.
Pictures of the Buccaneers' running backs during OTAs and mini-camp.
Erickson and the Eagles negotiated right down to the wire before the 1992 draft but never got a deal done. Erickson thus became eligible again and the Bucs took a chance on him with a fourth-round pick
All in all, it was a good pick for Tampa Bay, as Erickson would start 30 games in 1993-94, throwing for almost exactly 3,000 yards in each of those seasons. As you noted, Rusti, he is the eighth-leading passer in team history, in terms of yards (6,094). He was seventh but Jameis Winston passed him last fall.
Even better, the Buccaneers eventually recouped a much better draft pick out of the whole thing. The team had selected Trent Dilfer with the sixth overall pick in the 1994 draft, and Dilfer was clearly the quarterback of the future. With Erickson set to become a free agent after the 1996 season, the Buccaneers worked out a deal with Indianapolis in April of 1995, getting the Colts' first-round pick in 1996 in exchange. That pick eventually became #22 overall and was used to draft defensive tackle Marcus Jones. Erickson only started three games in one season for the Colts, then finished his season with two more years back in Miami with the Dolphins.
If the Bucs got the best of that deal, it was a karmic balance for the 1990 Tampa Bay-Indy deal that saw quarterback Chris Chandler come to Florida for a 1992 first-round pick. Chandler eventually built a good NFL career that included a trip to the Super Bowl with Atlanta, but he wasn't good during too seasons of alternating with Vinny Testaverde and was reportedly divisive in the locker room.
While it was an injury that put Chandler in the unusual position of being willing to hold out an entire year, it was Jackson's otherworldly "Bo Knows" talent for multiple sports that gave him the option. During the scouting period before the 1986 draft, Jackson lost the remainder of his college baseball eligibility when he took a plane ride to Tampa supplied by the Buccaneers. Understandably upset by this development, Jackson made it clear that he would refuse to play for Tampa Bay if the team drafted him with the first-overall pick, as it was expected to do. The Buccaneers tried to call that bluff and did indeed draft him first, but Jackson held firm. He could do so largely because he had another great option: Major League Baseball. As you probably know, he became an all-star with the Kansas City Royals.
Because he went to baseball and never signed with the Buccaneers, Jackson was eligible again when the 1987 draft rolled around. However, unlike the situation with Erickson, it wasn't necessary clear that Jackson was interested in playing in the NFL, given his talent for and love of baseball. This was a young man who had been drafted by the Yankees right out of high school and later by the Angels, though he never signed with either.
That said, Jackson's contract with the Royals did include a buyout clause so that he could return to football (or, heck, maybe take up tennis or horse racing, given his athleticism) if he chose. Oakland took a very small gamble on him, drafting him in the seventh round in 1987, and it paid off in a big way because the Raiders were willing to be patient. They let Jackson finish the baseball season before reporting to the team about halfway through the season…and of course he was an instant star.
But enough about Bo. As I said at the top, he and Erickson are not the only two players ever drafted twice in the NFL. There are plenty of other examples, though few of them are particularly modern. One good one is Melvin Bratton, a running back who coincidentally also played at the University of Miami and also suffered a serious knee injury at the very end of his college career (in his case, the Orange Bowl). Considered a possible first-round pick, Bratton fell to the sixth round in 1988, where he was taken by the Dolphins. Much the same happened with Bratton and the Dolphins; the player wanted a salary befitting where his draft status would have been (or at least closer to it), the team felt otherwise and wasn't sure Bratton would return to his pre-injury form. Bratton went back into the draft in 1989 and was actually taken a round lower, by the Broncos. In the end, the Dolphins were probably right, as Bratton played only two seasons and ran for 190 yards, though he did catch 39 passes and score eight total touchdowns. I don't really remember Bratton's career, but apparently he was used in short-yardage and goal-line situations; in the 1989 playoffs he scored two touchdowns on just five carries for seven yards.
There are other examples, and I imagine if I researched them we'd find a lot of similar stories. But you probably get the point – it's possible to be drafted two (or more) years in a row, but it takes a very unusual and probably unfavorable situation to make it a reasonable option.
Now, you snuck another little question in there at the end, Rusti, and I'll answer it for extra credit. Where will Jameis Winston rank on the Bucs' all-time passing charts by the end of 2017? Let's take a look!
First, let's make the optimistic assumption that Winston is healthy and available for all 16 starts again in 2017, as he was the last two seasons. In his first year, he threw for 4,042 yards and 22 touchdowns. In his second year, he threw for 4,090 yards and 28 touchdowns. Given an expected natural progression and the way the Bucs loaded up on offensive weapons (DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard, Chris Godwin) in the offseason, it seems quite fair to expect those numbers to go up again. For the purposes of fantasy football, ESPN.com projects him to throw for about 4,244 yards and 28 touchdowns. That seems fair enough, but let's round off the yards to 4,250 and bump the TDs up to 30 (c'mon…DeSean Jackson!!).
Add those numbers to what Winston has already and he'd finish the 2017 campaign with career totals of 12,382 yards and 80 touchdowns. That yardage total would rank fourth in franchise history, as he would pass Steve DeBerg (9,439) and Brad Johnson (10,940) but still trail Doug Williams (12,648), Trent Dilfer (12,969), Josh Freeman (13,534) and Vinny Testaverde (14,820). A little bit more than those projections and Winston could be third by the end of the year, and if things go as most expect, he should pass Freeman and Testaverde in 2018.
As for the touchdowns, well, Winston may be holding the crown pretty soon. As I noted in a previous mailbag in mid-June, Winston is already within striking distance of the top. In fact, if he hits the projection above, he'll finish the year tied with Freeman for the Bucs' touchdown pass career record. Right now, Winston is at 50, which puts him seventh behind Freeman (80), Testaverde (77), Williams (73), Dilfer (70), Johnson (64) and DeBerg (61). I would say it would be a shock if Winston wasn't at least third by the end of the year.2. Nicknames Needed.
* *Hmm. MacDill is an Air Force base in South Tampa, the Buccaneers look like they might have a powerful aerial attack in 2017, they play in Raymond James Stadium (RayJay, as Jeff says)…I get it. I'd say I like the concept behind the nickname but I don't find it all that catchy or fun to say. I'm not sure that fans outside of Tampa would necessarily get the reference, either.
Photos of Former Bucs' DE Simeon Rice
So I didn't grab this tweet just to shoot it down (pun intended). I appreciate the effort and, like I said, the concept. No, I included it because, dangit, we need more nicknames, for the Buccaneers specifically and sports in general. Look at this Bucs roster right now; where are the nicknames? (I know they wouldn't be listed on the official roster, but at least a couple should come to mind.)
"Famous Jameis?" That one's alright and I believe he's good with it, but creatively speaking it's just rhyming. Doug Martin doesn't like the nickname that was hung on him in college and "Dougernaut" never caught any traction. Everybody calls Donteea Dye "D.D." so, yay, initials. "Quizz" is cool for Jacquizz Rodgers but also very obvious.
Where's our Batman (Richard Wood)? Our Bull (Brad Johnson)? Our Truth (Karl Williams)? Our Cadillac (Carnell Williams)? Heck, with Mike Alstott we had both the A-Train and Thunder & Lightning (in conjunction with Warrick Dunn). Now we have, what, VH1 (Vernon Hargreaves)?
As recently as 2010, former Buccaneers.com contributor The Answer Man wrote up some of the best nicknames in franchise history. If we were to update that list now, seven years later, there wouldn't be much to add. And as for the stadium, RayJay is really just an abbreviation. It's no Death Valley. It certainly doesn't inspire fear and I try not to use it. So what I'm saying is, if you think of any good nicknames for Buccaneer players or anything involved with the team, let me know. I promise not to shoot them all down.
3. Race to 10. Scott Thanks for all the great stats, facts, and figures you send to us. All of that stuff is interesting, appreciated, and fun to absorb. I am looking at this years schedule and trying to find some games we should win and it looks to me like the winnable games are fewer than even last year and the year before. I am with the masses that want to think we are ready for 10-6 or better and have a playoff team this year considering the obvious upgrade with the new players and some more experience from the vets. I have been here before with the optimism and have been disappointed. Please work your magic with this years schedule and tell me I full of it when I say the Bucs will not even get to last years 9-7 Thanks, Robert Smith
*Greeneville, Tn *Robert's email was obviously very kind so I'm putting it in this mailbag…even though I'm not going to answer the question.
That is, I'm willing to discuss this topic but I don't believe in breaking down a season schedule in terms of which games the Bucs will win and which they will lose. Every game is "winnable," but more to the point, it's nearly impossible to know right now which will end up being the toughest challenges on the schedule.
Okay, it's fair to say that three games against the two reigning Super Bowl teams (New England and Atlanta twice) have a very good chance of being tough challenges. But rewind just one year and we probably though the same thing about the Bucs' three games against the then-reigning Super Bowl teams, Denver and Carolina. Those teams combined to go 15-17 last year; the Bucs beat Carolina twice and, looking back, the Week Four loss to Denver looks like one of the season's missed opportunities.
Last year the Buccaneers started with a rousing win at Atlanta in Week One. That felt great at the time but looked even better by season's end. Given that the Bucs won at the Georgia Dome, the Week Nine rematch in Tampa should have been a "winnable" game, but Atlanta ran away with it. If you were predicting last year's outcomes before the season began, do you think you would have said the Bucs would lose to the Rams at home in Week Three or beat Kansas City at home in Week 11, snapping a long home winning streak for the Chiefs?
I know analysts do the whole predict-every-game-on-the-schedule thing, and I get it. It's a fun read. But to me it's about as useful as mock drafts, which are also great fun to read but usually about 10% accurate when it's all said and done.
If you're feeling generally optimistic about the Buccaneers – as it certainly appears you are, Robert – then I have a suggestion for you. Don't base your feelings on the schedule. Yes, teams can have harder or easier schedules based on rotating divisional matchups, but what we think is true in July isn't always what proves to be the case in October and November. Like you, I think the Buccaneers have upgraded their team from the one that finished 9-7 last year. That means I think there is enough talent (both playing and coaching) to win at least 10 games, and if you're good enough to win 10 games in the NFL, you're good enough to win 10 games against any given schedule.
Or, as soon-to-be-Ring-of-Honor member Jon Gruden was fond of saying, "We have to live in our hopes and not in our fears." I hope that helps, Robert. If not, well, at least I put a bunch of facts and figures into the first answer above, so this won't be a total waste of time!