Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Pre-Draft Position Analysis: Wide Receivers

As we continue our look at the Bucs' roster prior to this month's NFL Draft, we turn our attention to the wideouts, where a group of young players is hoping to follow Antonio Bryant's lead from 2008 and have a breakout campaign

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Antonio Bryant was the most productive of all receivers who signed with new teams in 2008

As in previous years, Buccaneers.com will use the weeks leading up to the NFL draft to take stock of each position on the team. We will look at the team's draft history at that position, recent additions, current depth and potential starters and what players might be available to the Buccaneers through free agency and the draft. As usual, this analysis is not intended to reflect the intentions or strategies of the team's personnel decision-makers. Today we focus on the wide receiver position, where the Buccaneers have recently made several important investments.

Whereas the linebacker position is awash in new faces, new roles and newfound competition for starting jobs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' wide receiver corps should like quite familiar in 2009.

The Buccaneers have signed three free agents or potential free agents since the end of the 2008 season, but all are players they were eager to have back in the fold, not newcomers to One Buc Place. Antonio Bryant was obviously a top priority following his 83-catch breakout season, and thus he was given the franchise tag. Michael Clayton, who started nine games opposite Bryant in 2008, was re-upped in the early days of free agency, as was proven veteran Cortez Hankton, who spent last fall on injured reserve.

So far, the only new additions to the receiver meeting room at team headquarters have been Kelly Campbell and Anthony Mix, both signed as free agents in the early weeks of 2009. Campbell played last season in the Canadian Football League, averaging nearly 23 yards a catch for the Edmonton Eskimos. Mix played with the New York Giants and Washington Redskins in 2007 but was not on a team last season after suffering a broken rib during the preseason.

There are, however, many new stories to be written by this group of wideouts, just as Bryant's re-emergence in 2008 was one of the NFL's most interesting developments last fall. Clayton has impressed the team endlessly with his physical play and blocking skills, and he had his highest catch total in four years in '08 with 38; what's more intriguing, however, is whether or not Clayton can again approach his 80-catch campaign of 2004 under a new regime and in a new offense. Maurice Stovall, a third-round pick in 2006 who has shown flashes of big-play ability, could be the next breakout star of the group. He certainly works hard at his craft.

Paris Warren has battled injuries and roster yo-yoing, but memories of his eye-opening preseason in 2007 are still fresh. Dexter Jackson, last year's second-round pick out of Appalachian State, is looking for a new start after a rookie season in which he wasn't able to keep the kick-return job away from eventual Pro Bowler Clifton Smith. Brian Clark is versatile and valuable, a good special-teamer and a Tampa native trying to stick long-term with the home team. Hankton is a well-rounded pro with four solid seasons with the Jaguars under his belt. Campbell has speed to burn and was previously a big-play threat in Minnesota; Mix stands out on the practice field due to his enormous 6-5, 235-pound frame.

And who knows? Perhaps the position will still get a fresh infusion of talent. The draft is less than two weeks away and it is deep in potential difference-makers at wide receiver. The free agent market remains open through July and can sometimes bring late bargains, as it did with Keenan McCardell in 2002.

Before we break down the wide receiver position further and look at potential additions the team could make, here's a rundown of the receivers the Bucs will have returning in 2009:

**Wide Receivers Currently Under Contract**
**Player****Exp.****2008 (Rec.-Yds.-Avg.-TD)****Career (Rec.-Yds.-Avg.-TD)**
Antonio Bryant783-1,248-15.0-7333-5,085-15.3-26
Kelly Campbell*454-1,223-22.6-7*57-1,062-18.6-8*
Brian Clark31-12-12.0-05-35-7.0-0
Michael Clayton638-484-12.7-1205-2,706-13.2-9
Cortez Hankton^6N/A34-310-9.1-2
Dexter Jackson20-0-0.0-00-0-0.0-0
Anthony Mix+2N/A3-39-13.0-0
Maurice Stovall43-25-8.3-020-213-10.7-1
Paris Warren#4N/A5-63-12.6-0

* - Campbell's 2008 statistics were compiled with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League; his listed career statistics are NFL-only and were compiled with the Minnesota Vikings from 2002-04. ^ - Hankton spent the 2008 season on injured reserve; his career statistics were compiled with the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2003-06. + - Mix did not play in the NFL in 2008; his career statistics were compiled with the New York Giants in 2007. # - Warren did not play in the NFL in 2008; his career statistics were compiled with Tampa Bay in 2006.

When the 2008 season came to an end, the Buccaneers had 13 players who were due to become unrestricted free agents in March, three of whom were wide receivers: Bryant, Clayton and Cortez Hankton. All three re-signed with Tampa Bay, Bryant in February after receiving the team's franchise tag designation and Clayton and Hankton a few days into free agency.

However, Tampa Bay created two more free agent wide receivers in February when it released five veteran players, including pass-catchers Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard. Galloway and Hilliard became free to sign with any team, and the former has latched on with the New England Patriots.

**Free Agent Wide Receivers from the 2008 Buccaneers**
**Player****Exp.****2008 (Rec.-Yds.-Avg.-TD)****Career (Rec.-Yds.-Avg.-TD)**
Joey Galloway1513-138-10.6-0682-10,710-15.7-77
Ike Hilliard1347-424-9.0-4546-6,397-11.7-35

The baton was passed in the Bucs' passing game last year from Galloway, who struggled with injuries, to Bryant, who resurrected his career after sitting out in 2007. Galloway had become the first player in franchise history to post three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons (2005-07), but it was Bryant who surpassed that mark last fall, turning his 83 grabs into 1,248 yards, the eighth-highest total in the NFL.

Tampa Bay's passing attack was a little erratic in 2008, but Bryant had virtually no down games after his Week Three breakout (10 catches for 138 yards at Chicago) and the Bucs eventually finished 11th in the league in passing yards. There will be a new quarterback at the helm in 2009, but he should have a multitude of weapons to exploit.

Here are some other numbers relating to the wide receiver position:

Wide Receiver Position Numbers:

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