The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are sending three players to the 2013 Pro Bowl, including wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who already looks like one of the best free agency signings in franchise history. The other two are defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and running back Doug Martin, both Tampa Bay draft picks.
And as pleased as the Buccaneers are with the all-star returns they got from Jackson, it is the development of its own draftees into Pro Bowlers that really bodes well for the near future. The current regime under General Manager Mark Dominik and Head Coach Greg Schiano is determined to build the team's core through the draft, and the rapid ascensions of McCoy and Martin are providing immediate results unlike any the team has seen since its last run of sustained success.
McCoy was the Buccaneers' first-round pick in 2010, the third player chosen overall. Martin was the second of two first-round selections the Bucs made this past April (after trading up to get into position to double up), going 31st overall. This marks the first time since the 1990s that the Buccaneers have produced Pro Bowlers from two drafts in just three years.
Prior to Martin and McCoy's selections, the last Buccaneer draft pick to make the all-star game was guard Davin Joseph, who came in as a 2006 first-rounder and made the Pro Bowl in 2008 and 2011. Before that, you have to go back to the prior decade.
From 1993-99, the Buccaneers drafted nine players who would eventually make it into the Pro Bowl: safety John Lynch ('93), quarterback Trent Dilfer ('94), defensive tackle Warren Sapp ('95), linebacker Derrick Brooks ('95), fullback Mike Alstott ('96), cornerback Donnie Abraham ('96), running back Warrick Dunn ('97), cornerback Ronde Barber ('97) and kicker Martin Gramatica ('99). That remarkable run accounts for half of all the draft-to-Pro-Bowl players in franchise history.
Much of that came together from 1997-01, when Buccaneer players made a total of 27 Pro Bowl appearances in a four-year span, and 21 of them were by men the franchise had drafted. Those are the kind of results the current team is trying to duplicate, and with other potential budding stars from the last three drafts (Mark Barron, Lavonte David, Adrian Clayborn, Da'Quan Bowers, Mike Williams, etc.), it might just happen.
Already, the Buccaneers' draft-to-Pro-Bowl results from the last three years are among the best in the league. Studying this year's Pro Bowl roster (as of Monday, January 21), one sees only five teams that have multiple 2010-12 draftees in the game. They are:
- Cincinnati – DT Geno Atkins ('10), WR A.J. Green ('11) and TE Jermaine Gresham ('10)
- San Francisco – LB NaVarro Bowman ('10), G Mike Iupati ('10) and LB Aldon Smith ('11)
- Washington – QB Robert Griffin III ('12), LB Ryan Kerrigan ('11) and T Trent Williams ('10)
- Tampa Bay – RB Doug Martin ('12) and DT Gerald McCoy ('10)
- Seattle – T Russell Okung ('10) and S Earl Thomas ('10)
The Buccaneers are already deep into their preparations for the 2013 NFL Draft, which this week includes a trip to the very useful Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. If they can continue their recent success on draft weekend, the franchise will be well position for another long run of winning seasons.