Tampa Bay Buccaneers

One Buc Mailbag: Time Traveling

We're all over the Buccaneer timeline in this week's mailbag, looking back at historical franchise moments and ahead to next year's draft, with a stop at this year's rookies in between.

Throwback photos from the Bucs' training camps.

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Each week during the offseason, Senior Writer/Editor Scott Smith will dip into the inbox to answer questions from  Buccaneer fans. This week, we mix past, present and future, beginning with a look back at the top moments in franchise history (and one crazy grandma's leap into a dirty pool). After then looking ahead to next year's draft we return to the present day to discuss this year's impact rookies.

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 tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com.  The One Buc Mailbag runs every Thursday and is not necessarily meant to reflect the opinions of the team's management or coaching staff.1. Hello Scott and Casey, the recent favorite buccaneer moments on bucs.com reminded me that I remember every detail of the day the bucs won the NFC championship. I remember where I was , the alstott jersey I wore, and the Bruno's pizza I ate. When rondae took that pick to the house My 86 yr old grandma went crazy and jumped into a dirty green and brown leaf filled pool with an inflatable gator. I was 14 and this incredible moment has stayed with me forever. I can't even recall where I was when they won the super bowl. What was your favorite bucs moment and what do u remember most?You guys are awesome!!!All the way from Southern California ,Thanks again, Peter Laboy aka Plank Walkin Pete, via email totbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com

Well, this is definitely my favorite email in a while. You paint a vivid image of your grandma's reaction, and I can see why that memory has stuck. I don't think I would ever forget it if my grandma did that!

That said, you really don't remember where you were for the Super Bowl? I agree with you completely – and I believe I've stated the same opinion before here on the site – that Ronde's interception is my #1 Buccaneer moment. Winning the Super Bowl was the more important accomplishment for the franchise, so I can understand why the fans as a whole voted for Derrick Brooks' game-sealing pick-six in that game. And I remember that day just as vividly as the previous Sunday in Philadelphia. My personal favorite moment was in the third quarter, when Dwight Smith cut in front of Jerry Rice for the first of his two pick-sixes on the day (and he wasn't even the game MVP!). That made it 34-3 and I turned to a co-worker of mine named Charles Campisi in the Qualcomm Stadium press box and said, "We're actually going to win the Super Bowl. Can you believe it?"

I was probably a bit premature with that pronouncement, given that a blocked punt and a questionable back-of-the-end-zone-catch call allowed Oakland to cut the lead to a mildly scary 34-21. In that regard, Brooks' pick-six was indeed somewhat of a relief, and you could tell Voice of the Buccaneers Gene Deckerhoff felt the same way. His radio call of, "There it is, the dagger's in, we're going to win the Super Bowl!" is one of his most memorable as a Buc announcer, and that's saying a lot. Add to that the unforgettable image of a crying Brooks bringing the football over to the sideline and embracing Jon Gruden, and it's definitely a worthy choice as the top moment in team history.

I just personally have Ronde's play ranked higher (it came in second among the collected fans). The instant mood swing was far more dramatic (for me at least). I know we won that game in Philly 27-10, but it was a lot closer than that score would indicate. Before Ronde's pick-six, it was 20-10 with four minutes left, the Eagles were near Tampa Bay's goal line and Donovan McNabb was on fire, making big plays out of nothing. A touchdown there and every Buc fan in the galaxy would have been sweating profusely.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, came Ronde Barber. I say "seemingly" because that's what it looked like from where I was sitting. In fact, it was a very calculated move by one of the smartest Bucs ever. He had picked up on the fact that McNabb would audible to a certain route in the flat when Barber threatened to blitz (Barber ALSO had a sack and forced fumble in that game!). Barber faked the blitz before the snap, then dropped back two steps and cut two steps to his right just in time to get between McNabb and Antonio Freeman. The ensuing 92-yard return was just as memorable. The Eagles personnel on the sideline he was running by who refused to turn their heads and watch his progress. Then-General Manager Rich McKay yelling, "Run, Ronde, run!" in the press box when he thought Barber might be slowing down a little. Dwight Smith giving Barber an escort. Ronde pointing to his name on the back of his jersey as he crossed the goal line. All of it, just as clear as it was 12-plus years ago.

If you check out the Top 5 from that whole exercise here on the site, you'll see that Mike Alstott's pinballing run through half the population of Cleveland is the only one from a regular-season game. That's a fair choice, too, but I still find Alstott's third-effort TD run in Minnesota in 1997 to be personally a little more memorable. Probably my top one from a regular-season game was the Warrick Dunn/Shaun King improvisation that saved the day in the 2000 Monday Night Football shootout with the Rams.

And maybe my three or four least favorite Buccaneer moments all come from a certain Monday night game against the Colts in 2003 that I don't want to talk about. At all.

2. Looking Way Ahead.

I've never been a huge fan of those mock drafts people put out for the following year right after the current year's draft has ended. I just think there are too many variables that will change over the course of a year (and, most importantly, another college and NFL season), for me to find much useful information in such an exercise. You might as well just list the 30 or so players you think are going to be the best prospects in the upcoming season. I found ESPN's "Way-Too-Early" 2015 mock draft from April of 2014, and there were actually some pretty astute choices, with Leonard Williams going first overall and Amari Cooper going second. (Jameis Winston was #5 and Marcus Mariota was #8…to the Buccaneers.) But the #6 pick was Oregon CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who actually went #241 overall thanks largely to a knee injury. The #12 pick was Michigan State pass-rusher Shilique Calhoun, who ended up not declaring for the 2015 draft.

A gallery of 2015's top rookies, based on NFL.com's projections.

The biggest variable, of course, is the draft order, which obviously can be nothing  more than an educated guess in May. ESPN's Todd McShay doesn't just throw darts at this issue, of course; he uses Football Outsider projections to generate the draft order using early projected records for the upcoming season. Maybe Leonard Williams would have gone first overall if a team that didn't have a QB need picked first, and the 2014 projections had Oakland picking first after drafting QB Derek Carr in 2014. (Although, the more likely scenario would see some team that did need a QB trading up to #1).

But I'll concede that that's not what you're really asking me here, Doc. You just want to know, essentially, what position the Bucs will be targeting in next year's draft, and I guess we don't have to know exactly where we're picking to make that kind of prediction. Although it would be helpful. For instance, if the Bucs had a need at defensive end, they're more likely to find a way to address that need in the top 10 than if they're down at say, #25. (Let's all hope that's where we're picking, if not later!)

And that does seem like one of the best guesses for Tampa Bay in the 2016 draft, simply because it is one of the more unpredictable positions on the current roster. I think the team has high hopes for Jacquies Smith and George Johnson after their twin breakout seasons in 2014, but neither one is a guarantee. And, to be honest, even if both Smith and Johnson match or exceed their outputs from last year, there would probably still be room for even more help on the edge. McShay's Way-Too-Early 2016 mock draft has the Bucs' picking fifth and taking Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah.

A look at the Buccaneers' rookies.

Again, where the Bucs are picking likely makes a difference here. McShay's mock has DEs going at #3 and #5 but only one other end coming off the board in the rest of the first round. (There was one other unspecified defensive linemen, but I didn't skip over a bunch of pass-rushing LBs; there may be slim pickings for edge rushers next year.)

I certainly hope the Bucs are not in the market for a first-round offensive linemen next spring, after taking both Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet in the second round this year. If Smith and Marpet work out as starters, the Bucs can reasonably hope to take the same five starters from 2015 into 2016 on the O-Line. Fellow projected starters Demar Dotson, Logan Mankins and Evan Smith are all under contract through at least 2016.

How about safety, especially if it's a later-in-the-round selection? That's one of the more unsettled positions on the current depth chart (though there are certainly enough potential starters in Bradley McDougald, D.J. Swearinger, Chris Conte, Major Wright and Keith Tandy), and McShay's mock seems indicate good depth at the position. And if you want to look a little bit farther down the road, maybe the Buccaneers look for their eventual replacement for Vincent Jackson, though Jackson has shown no signs of slowing down and is also under contract through 2016. Or, at the risk of sounding like a broken record this offseason, you can never have enough quality cornerback depth.

Still, I've got to believe that defensive end is the best guess, and that's my final answer.

3. What rookie besides Jameis Winston do you think will make the biggest impact on this team?- Rob Del Gallo, via email totbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com

I want to say fifth-round wide receiver Kenny Bell, just because we saw last year how exciting a stud rookie pass-catcher can be (and also because I want to curry favor with the legions of Husker fans out there). Talk about exciting – how great would it be if sixth-round wide receiver Kaelin Clay really did emerge as one of the league's better return men in his rookie year?

But, really, the answer has to be one of the two rookie offensive linemen that hope to get a chance to protect Winston, doesn't it? Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet will have to earn their starting spots at left tackle and right guard, respectively, but that's the way the team would like to see it work out this season. And it's hard to imagine Winston having the season the Bucs hope he will, or the running game flourishing for that matter, if the offensive line isn't significantly better than it was a year ago.

That's why the impact of those two could be so much greater than that of Bell or Clay, or fourth-round linebacker Kwon Alexander, for that matter. Bell's ceiling in the offense this year, barring injuries, would seem to be as the third receiver, with Jackson and Mike Evans entrenched as the starters. The Bucs got decent production out of that position from Louis Murphy last year, and Murphy is still around to potentially win that job again. Tampa Bay's return game wasn't horrendous last year, in terms of average yardage, but it just lacked big plays. So Clay could take a decent spot and make it better.

No other spot on the team has the room to improve as much as the offensive line, so my answer has to be either Smith or Marpet. If I have to choose just one, I'll go with Smith, since the left tackle position is more important and since he seems like a slightly stronger bet to be starting on opening day. Remember that Marpet, as much as the Buccaneers' management loves him, is still in the midst of transitioning from Division III football to the NFL.

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