Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Pre-Draft Analysis: Wide Receivers

With the draft less than two weeks away, Buccaneers.com turns its attention to the team’s passcatchers

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Jacquez Green, the team's receiving yardage leader in '99, was a second-round pick in 1998

Reidel Anthony is the answer to an interesting Buccaneer trivia question: Name the only wide receiver ever drafted in the first round by Tampa Bay. Anthony is also currently part of a talented, enigmatic Buccaneer receiving corps that, with the National Football League's 64th annual draft swiftly approaching, has received a significant amount of attention. Combine a 2000 draft class considered very deep at the wideout position with a 30th-ranked Tampa Bay passing attack that remains an offseason focus and you get quite a bit of speculation regarding the Buccaneers' intent in this area.

Buccaneers.com will not join in that speculation, but an analysis of what the team has at that position and a look at how it has historically approached the draft can lay the groundwork for that all-important weekend of April 15-16.

If Tampa Bay does choose to focus on the receiver position somewhere in the draft, it is comforting to know that there appears to be a long and varied lineup of talent waiting to join the league. Actually, that's nothing new. The NFL has seen a huge influx of talent at the position in the last five or six drafts. It was just four years ago, in the 1996 Pro Bowl, that Jerry Rice, Michael Irvin, Herman Moore and Cris Carter seemed to have a virtual stranglehold on the NFC's top wide receiver spots. This past February, Carter went back to Honolulu for his seventh consecutive Pro Bowl, but he was joined by Isaac Bruce (drafted in 1994), Muhsin Muhammad (1996) and Randy Moss (1998). Furthermore, none of those three joining Carter was drafted higher than 21st overall and Bruce and Muhammad were second rounders. Other second and third-rounders who have hit it big in the last five years include Germane Crowell (50th overall), Bobby Engram (52nd), Terrell Owens (89th) and Antonio Freeman (90th).

Some teams have succeeded with high first-round picks in recent years, however. Torry Holt had an outstanding rookie season last year with the Super Bowl Champion St. Louis Rams after having been selected sixth overall. Terry Glenn, though somewhat slowed by injuries, has been very productive for New England after going seventh overall in 1996 and Joey Galloway, eighth overall in '95, just cost the Dallas Cowboys two first-round picks to acquire.

The Buccaneers have contributed to both of those lists, taking Anthony with the 16th pick in 1997 and nabbing Jacquez Green in the second round (34th) the following year. Those two plus Bert Emanuel, who was signed as a free agent in the '98 offseason, have led to a complete overhaul of the position since Head Coach Tony Dungy took over in 1996. Whether that reworking will continue remains to be seen, but we can take a look at what it has wrought so far.

First, some numbers that we have applied to each position (contract situations as of 4/2):

Starting spots/Returning starters currently under contract: 2/2

Total players under contract: 7

Unrestricted/Restricted free agents: 0/0

Relevant 1999 NFL rankings: Tampa Bay ranked 30th in passing yards per game, 26th in yards per pass play and 28th in total offense

1999 Pro Bowlers/AP All Pros: 0/0

First-round draft picks spent on the position in team history: 1

Overall draft picks spent on the position in the last five years: 5

Obviously, the Buccaneers are strong at the position contractually, with none of their principals from 1999 needing a new deal. Since the season ended, the team has re-signed Yo Murphy, who spent a good portion of the '99 season with Tampa Bay before finishing the year in Minnesota. The other six are comprised of the team's 1999 wideout corps – Anthony, Emanuel, Green, Karl Williams and Darnell McDonald – and Drew O'Connor, who spent most of his rookie year on the Bucs' practice squad.

Anthony, Emanuel, Green and Williams have all started at least 10 games, with Emanuel and Green ending the 1999 season in those roles. Emanuel is the most experienced of the bunch, with 82 career starts and 323 receptions, figures that more than double those of any of the rest. However, 260 of those catches came with the Atlanta Falcons from 1994-97. Though he had missed only one game in four seasons with the Falcons, Emanuel has repeatedly battled ailments in two years with the Bucs. Anthony's top season came in 1998, when he led the team with 51 receptions for 708 yards and seven touchdowns and also averaged 24.3 yards on 46 kickoff returns. Green made a similar second-year progression, jumping from 14 catches as a rookie to 56 in 1999.

Even casual Buccaneer fans realize that Anthony and Green have similar backgrounds, as well. Both came to Tampa Bay after stellar careers at the University of Florida and both were considered speedy and polished coming out of college. The Buccaneers have not been shy about dipping into the deep state well for wide receiver talent, selecting Miami's Lamar Thomas and Horace Copeland in 1993 and Florida State's Lawrence Dawsey in 1991.

More talent is ready to spring from that well in 2000. Of the receivers commonly projected to go in the early rounds, at least four are Sunshine State products: Florida State's Peter Warrick, Laveranues Coles and Ron Dugans and Florida's Travis Taylor. Other names often mentioned include Michigan State's Plaxico Burress, Georgia Tech's Dez White, Jackson State's Sylvester Morris, UCLA's Danny Farmer, Southern Cal's R. Jay Soward and Windrell Hayes, Arizona's Dennis Northcutt, West Virginia's Jerry Porter and Southern Mississippi's Todd Pinkston. Draft pundits hoping to hit on every receiver that will be selected should go about 35 deep, as the draft has held very steady in the last five years. Thirty-two receivers were drafted last year, 31 in '98, 25 in '97, 33 in '96 and 31 in '95.

In addition to its recent affinity for in-state talent, the Bucs would be going back to a former source if they were to target Burress. Though Anthony is the only first-round receiver ever drafted by Tampa Bay, former Michigan State standout Courtney Hawkins is the only receiver ever to be the team's first pick in the draft. In 1997, the Bucs tabbed Anthony four picks after taking RB Warrick Dunn with their initial first-round pick. In 1992, however, the team didn't have a first-round pick and wound up starting off with Hawkins in the second round. In five seasons, Hawkins caught 206 passes, still eighth-best in team history.

Most NFL draft classes include wide receiver talent from small schools, an approach that reached its zenith with San Francisco's selection of Rice out of Mississippi Valley State in 1985. Recent examples include Owens from Tennessee-Chattanooga, Moss from Marshall and Troy Edwards from Louisiana Tech. The Bucs' all-time receiving yards leader and the only Tampa Bay receiver ever to be voted to the Pro Bowl is Mark Carrier, a third-round pick out of Nicholls State in 1987. Second on the team's yardage chart is Kevin House, a second-round choice out of Southern Illinois in 1980.

The most notable small-school name on this year's draft board is Jackson State's Morris, a name that many mock drafts have attempted to link to the Buccaneers. The difficulty with mock drafts is that they rarely know the true feelings of the people making the final decisions and thus, as studious as many of them are, they tend to fall apart early on draft day. Will the Bucs target Morris or another highly-regarded receiver? Will they focus on that position at all in the early going? Will they trade up or down to hunt the player they want?

The answers are less than two weeks away.

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