Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Points of Origin

Where in the draft has Tampa Bay found its all-time best performers in a variety of categories…We look at the franchise leaders and their Buccaneer beginnings


Among the top 10 rushers in Buc history, Michael Pittman is the only one who was not originally drafted in the first three rounds

Following the 2002 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sent seven players to the Pro Bowl. Of those seven, three originally came into the NFL as first-round draft choices – Derrick Brooks, Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp. One, Mike Alstott, was a second-round pick and another, John Lynch, was a third-rounder. The sixth man on the list, Brad Johnson, entered the league as a 10th-round pick and the seventh, Shelton Quarles, wasn't drafted at all.

The rather obvious point is that great players can be found at any point in the draft, or even among the men still available after the draft is over.

We're not breaking any new ground with that statement, of course. There are plenty of NFL stars who came from humble origins, in terms of the draft.

What we're in looking at today is not where the Bucs can get great players, but where they have found those players in the past. Have the Bucs' greatest stars mainly been first-rounders, or is there no draft trend at all? Are most of them homegrown, or have they come over from other teams? Do certain positions demand higher picks?

Rather than arbitrarily identify the franchise's best players, we've taken the team's all-time list in eight categories and culled out the top 10. Let's take a look at how those various players were acquired.

Top 10 Scorers in Buccaneer History

RankRankHow Acquired by BucsNotes
1.Martin Gramatica3rd-round pick
2.Michael HustedUndrafted free agent
3.Donald Igwebuike10th-round pick
4.Mike Alstott2nd-round pick
5.James Wilder2nd-round pick
6.Jimmie GilesTrade with HoustonTrade involved swap of 1st-rounders
7.Bill CapeceFree agentOriginally 12th-rounder by Houston
8.Kevin House2nd-round pick
9.Steve ChristieUndrafted free agent
10.Mark Carrier3rd-round pick

Since this list is largely populated by kickers, it is no surprise to see several low and no-round players in the group. The Bucs have found successful kickers in the third and 10th rounds, and among the undrafted ranks.

As for the non-kickers on the list, most are second and third-rounders. Giles was part of the trade that gave the first overall pick in 1978 to Houston, which selected Earl Campbell. The Bucs moved down to 17 and grabbed Doug Williams and also added Giles, the former Oiler.

Top 10 Rushers in Buccaneer History

RankRankHow Acquired by BucsNotes
1.James Wilder2nd-round pick
2.Mike Alstott2nd-round pick
3.Warrick Dunn1st-round pick
4.Reggie Cobb2nd-round pick
5.Ricky Bell1st-round pick
6.Errict Rhett2nd-round pick
7.Michael PittmanUnrestricted free agentOriginally 4th-rounder by Arizona
8.Jerry Eckwood3rd-round pick
9.Gary AndersonTrade with San DiegoBucs gave up 3rd-rounder
10.Lars Tate2nd-round pick

This is probably the most consistent list among all of these categories. Almost all of the top rushers in team history were drafted by the Buccaneers, and all but one of those, Eckwood, was either a second or third-rounder. Anderson, by the way, was originally a first-round pick by the Chargers, but he cost the Bucs a three.

So, all 10 players on the Bucs' all-time rushing list were drafted within the top four rounds, and all but two of them were within the top two rounds. However, the team has had as much success when waiting for the second round (Wilder, Alstott, Cobb, etc.) as when they've focused on that position in the first round. Including the unfortunate 1986 draft, in which the Bucs took Bo Jackson with the first overall pick and he refused to play for the team, the second round group might be considered more successful.

Top 10 Passers in Buccaneer History (Yards)

RankRankHow Acquired by BucsNotes
1.Vinny Testaverde1st-round pick
2.Trent Dilfer1st-round pick
3.Doug Williams1st-round pick
4.Brad JohnsonUnrestricted free agentOriginally 10th-rounder by Minn.
5.Steve DeBergTrade with DenverBucs gave up 2nd and 4th-rounders
6.Craig Erickson4th-round pick
7.Shaun King2nd-round pick
8.Jack ThompsonTrade with Cin.Bucs gave up 1st-rounder
9.Steve Young1st-round pick (USFL draft)
10.Brian GrieseUnrestricted free agentOriginally 3rd-rounder by Denver

The top-ranked passers in Buccaneer history generally fall into two groups: first-round picks by Tampa Bay and veterans who had already had some success elsewhere.

Ranking this category by passing yards, as it is recorded in the Bucs' record books, puts a trio of first-round picks at the top. That's fairly intuitive – first-round quarterbacks are likely to be given long-term contracts and several years to try to prove themselves, as long as they are at least somewhat successful. If one ranks this list instead by career passer rating as a Buccaneer, the list would be topped by two free agent signees (Griese and Johnson) and a second-round pick (King).

Johnson is also the lowest-drafted player on this list, going to Minnesota in the 10th round in 1992. The Bucs have tried their hand at getting a quarterback low in the draft (Joe Hamilton, Mike Shula, Pat O'Hara, Randy Hedberg) but never really hit.

Top 10 Receivers in Buccaneer History (Receptions)

RankRankHow Acquired by BucsNotes
1.James Wilder2nd-round pick
2.Mark Carrier3rd-round pick
3.Keyshawn JohnsonTrade with N.Y. JetsBucs gave up two 1st-rounders
4.Kevin House2nd-round pick
5.Jimmie GilesTrade with HoustonTrade involved swap of 1st-rounders
6.Warrick Dunn1st-round pick
7.Mike Alstott2nd-round pick
8.Gerald Carter9th-round pick
9.Ron Hall4th-round pick (USFL draft)
10.Lawrence Dawsey3rd-round pick

This list is a little difficult to judge because it includes receivers, running backs and tight ends. The Bucs have rarely used high picks on tight ends (no first-rounders) but, as seen above, has found many running backs in the second round. The same is true for receivers, and the success has extended into the third round.

If one removes the backs and tight ends, the next five spots on the list would belong to Courtney Hawkins, Bruce Hill, Jacquez Green, Keenan McCardell and Reidel Anthony. Anthony was a first-round pick, Hawkins and Green went in the second round and Hill was a fourth-rounder. McCardell came over as a free agent but was originally a 12th-round selection by Washington in 1991.

Thus, the top 10 list of receivers only includes five players who were drafted in either the second or third round. The leader – and the franchise's record-holder in receiving yards – would be Carrier, who was a third-round pick. Before Michael Clayton's arrival last year, Anthony was the only receiver ever taken in the first round by Tampa Bay, and he is well down the list. Of course, Johnson cost the Bucs two first-rounders in 2000, and he is second on the list among receivers.

Top 10 Punt Returners in Buccaneer History (Yards)

RankRankHow Acquired by BucsNotes
1.Karl WilliamsUndrafted free agent
2.Danny ReeceWaiver claimOriginally 3rd-rounder by Cin.
3.Willie DrewreyPlan B free agentOriginally 11th-rounder by Hou.
4.Jacquez Green2nd-round pick
5.Bobby FutrellFree agentSigned after playing in USFL
6.Leon BrightFree agentOriginally undrafted FA by NYG
7.Bobby Joe EdmondsFree AgentOriginally 5th-rounder by Sea.
8.Theo BellFree AgentOriginally 4th-rounder by Pitt.
9.Courtney Hawkins2nd-round pick
10.John Holt4th-round pick

Not surprisingly, the origins of these 10 players are all over the board, probably because most of these players were acquired to fill different primary jobs, such as receiver or cornerback. Still, it is clear that an effective punt returner can be found just about anywhere in the draft, or after it.

Williams, for instance, won a roster spot after coming in as an undrafted free agent because he was such a surprisingly polished receiver in his rookie training camp. He wasn't originally considered a top-notch punt returner, but he got the job late in that first season and just produced, year after year. Reece topped this list before Williams arrival mostly because he was fearless (seven fair catches in five seasons). Several highly-drafted receivers have also been given the job and performed well, such as Green and Hawkins.

Top 10 Kickoff Returners in Buccaneer History (Yards)

RankRankHow Acquired by BucsNotes
1.Aaron SteckerFree agentOriginally undrafted FA by Chi.
2.Reidel Anthony1st-round pick
3.Michael Morton12th-round pick
4.Phil Freeman8th-round pick
5.Gary AndersonTrade with San DiegoBucs gave up 3rd-rounder
6.Donnie ElderFree agentOriginally 3rd-rounder by NYJ
7.George Ragsdale12th-round pick
8.Karl WilliamsUndrafted free Agent
9.Bobby Joe EdmondsFree AgentOriginally 5th-rounder by Sea.
10.James OwensTrade with San FranciscoBucs gave up RB Johnny Davis

Here's a spot at which the Bucs have specifically tried to locate a performer late in the draft and succeeded in doing so. Morton and Ragsdale were both nominally undersized running backs from small schools, but they were drafted for their return potential. Those picks proved worthwhile.

There are other low or no-round players on this list because the kick return job is a role a young player can acquire in order to hold onto a roster spot and eventually get his shot at his primary position. That was the case, for instance for Stecker and Williams. Anthony, a first-round pick, is high on this list, but most of these players are from very modest draft spots.

Top 10 Interceptors in Buccaneer History

RankRankHow Acquired by BucsNotes
1.Donnie Abraham3rd-round pick
2.Cedric BrownFree agentOriginally 12th-rounder by Oak.
3.Mike WashingtonTrade with Bal.Bucs gave up 3rd-rounder
4.Ronde Barber3rd-round pick
5.John Lynch3rd-round pick
6.Derrick Brooks1st-round pick
7.Harry HamiltonFree agentOriginally 7th-rounder by NYJ
8.Mark Cotney1976 Veteran Allocation DraftOriginally 7th-rounder by Hou.
9.Ricky Reynolds2nd-round pick
10.Brian Kelly2nd-round pick

It's easy to spot a trend in this group. The Bucs, as mentioned several times on this site in recent days, have been very successful at picking defensive backs in the third round, and defensive backs obviously dominate the interception list. Abraham, Barber and Lynch are three of the top ballhawks in franchise history. Washington, while not drafted by the Buccaneers, was acquired in exchange for a third-round pick and was himself originally a third-round pick by Baltimore.

There are a few lower-round acquisitions on this list, such as Hamilton and Cotney, but they are players who had established themselves elsewhere before.

Top 10 Sackers in Buccaneer History

RankRankHow Acquired by BucsNotes
1.Lee Roy Selmon1st-round pick
2.Warren Sapp1st-round pick
3.Simeon RiceUnrestricted free agentOriginally 1st-rounder by Ari.
4.David Logan12th-round pick
5.Chidi Ahanotu6th-round pick
6.Brad CulpepperWaiver claimOriginally 10th-rounder by Min.
7.Broderick Thomas1st-round pick
8.Marcus Jones1st-round pick
9.Santana Dotson5th-round pick
10.John Cannon3rd-round pick

This might be the most intriguing list of all. The first thing you notice is all the first-rounders, and that seems to confirm conventional wisdom. Teams generally feel as if they must spend a very high pick in order to get a premier pass-rusher. There are exceptions here and there, such as John Randle, but the majority of the best players in this category – think Bruce Smith or Julius Peppers – were once first-rounders. Even some of the short-lived sack-men in team history, like Thomas and Jones, were first-rounders who, in the long run, failed to completely pan out.

Then, however, you see a smattering of low-round picks, and realize that it is possible to get helpful pass-rushers after the first round. Logan, of course, is probably the best 12th-round pick in Buccaneer history. Culpepper, Dotson and Ahanotu have or had enjoyed long careers, and while much of Dotson's was in Green Bay, he did win Defensive Rookie of the Year honors for the Bucs with 10 sacks in 1992.

Some of the lessons of this exercise were unsurprising – franchise quarterbacks are mostly found in the first round while return men can be gathered late – but some were instructive. The Bucs have had plenty of running back success in the second round and similar good fortune on defensive backs in the third round. Premier pass rushers are probably going to go early, but helpful ones can be had much later. Late flyers on passers haven't really worked for the Buccaneers, but the same is not true among kickoff returners.

Will the Bucs follow any of those patterns in this year's draft. We'll know in a matter of days.

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