See every first-round Draft pick ever selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first four picks in the 2015 draft produced players who combined to make 57 starts in their shared rookie season. Even Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter, who last year relied heavily on three of those rookies in his role as offensive coordinator, knows that is an unrealistic expectation from any particular draft.
In the long run, however, that is the goal of every draft, to find players who will eventually develop into starters, forming the core of your team. That's what "build through the draft" means. Tampa Bay's 1997 draft produced a combined 28 starts in that first season, almost all of them by first-round picks Warrick Dunn and Reidel Anthony. They got all of two starts from the three players they selected in the second and third rounds – Jerry Wunsch, Frank Middleton and Ronde Barber.
From a career perspective, that draft was definitely a roster-thickener. In all, Dunn, Anthony, Wunsch, Middleton, Barber, Alshermond Singleton and Patrick Hape combined to give the Buccaneers 460 regular-season starts. It's no coincidence that the '97 draft – combined with such selections as Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Mike Alstott and Donnie Abraham in the previous two drafts – was right at the beginning of an extended run of playoff campaigns.
One can't judge the success of a draft solely on the number of games-started it produces, of course. In some cases, players compile a significant number of starts simply because they were early-round picks at a position of great need. Rod Jones, a first-round pick in 1986, made 44 starts for the team, for instance, but was never considered a particularly effective player.
That said, particularly high or low totals of games-started do give us a quick idea of successful a particular draft was in helping the franchise build for the long haul. For that reason, we've gone back and tallied the games-started totals of each of the Buccaneers' 40 previous drafts, right as the team is making its final preparations for number 41. There are some glaring standouts among those 40 draft classes on both ends of the spectrum, and believe it or not that 1997 draft is not at the top of the list. Read one to find out which class is #1 as we present the 10 Buc drafts that produced the most starts and the 10 that produced the least.
Note #1: Those 57 starts produced by Jameis Winston, Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet and Kwon Alexander last year were impressive, but that's also the full career total for the 2015 draft at this point. That group may eventually work its way into the top 10, but its current total would be near the bottom of the list. That's obviously not fair, so we're not going to consider the last four drafts for this list. The 2012 class, for instance, is already at 155 starts but still should get quite a bit more from Lavonte David, Doug Martin and perhaps even Keith Tandy.
Note #2: The NFL draft has been seven rounds long since 1994, but the 1993 draft went eight rounds and from 1976-92 the Bucs and the rest of the league were slogging through 12 rounds. While it might seem unfair to compare seven-round drafts with 12-round drafts, the truth is those extra rounds very rarely produced starters and thus do not mess up the results much. Only the 1979 draft, which got 103 starts from 12th-round pick David Logan, comes in much higher on the list due to Rounds 8-12. For the drafts before 1994 we'll note both the full total of starts produced and, in parentheses, the number of starts produced by players picked in the first seven rounds.
1. 1987: 494 (489)
There were some good players in this class, but this was largely a case of volume, both in terms of the number of players picked and the number of holes on the depth chart. New Head Coach Ray Perkins inherited a team that had gone 4-28 in the previous two seasons, and then he quickly added draft capital by trading Steve Young and Sean Farrell. That and some additional movement during draft weekend allowed the Bucs to pick 20 players, including 13 in the first seven rounds. Second-round CB Ricky Reynolds and third-round WR Mark Carrier proved to be the best additions in the long run but the Bucs also got long-term starters in QB Vinny Testaverde, LB Winston Moss, TE Ron Hall, WR Bruce Hill and DT Curt Jarvis.
2. 1997: 460
We discussed this one in the intro, but it's fair to point out that the incredible Ronde Barber accounted for almost exactly half of those 460 starts. Warrick Dunn remains one of the best offensive players in team history and both Jerry Wunsch and Frank Middleton became starters on the offensive line. Still, only Barber and LB Alshermond Singleton were starters (or even still on the roster) five years later when the Bucs won the Super Bowl. This class would have easily been at the top of the list if the team had held on to sixth-round CB Al Harris, who went on to make 128 starts for four other teams and was still in the league as recently as 2011.
In preparation for the 2016 NFL Draft, lets take a look back at every 9th pick in NFL Draft History.
- 1995: 378**
Yes, this is undoubtedly the premier draft class in franchise history, but not because of anything that happened after the first couple hours of picks. The Buccaneers had one of the best opening rounds any franchise has ever put together, taking eventual Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks with the 12th and 28th picks, respectively. The team's other five picks combined to make 27 starts, most of them by short term starter S Melvin Johnson. Brooks made 221 starts in his all-Buccaneer career and never once missed a game due to injury or any other reason.
4. 1976: 347 (347)
Well, this makes sense. Prior to the draft, this expansion team had only a couple dozen castoff players from the mostly fruitless veteran allocation draft. Players drafted by the Buccaneers (and the Seahawks) in 1976 were likely going to have an easy path to the starting 22. Still, there were a lot of starts piled up on merit from this class, most notably by future Hall-of-Fame DE Lee Roy Selmon, his brother Dewey and offensive lineman Steve Wilson.
5. 1996: 342
Tony Dungy's first team had two first-round picks and unsurprisingly used them on defense, but the real value in this draft came in Rounds 2-4. That's where the team found FB Mike Alstott, CB Donnie Abraham and T Jason Odom. Those three combined for 256 starts for the Buccaneers, and it could have been quite a bit more if Odom's career wasn't cut short in its prime by a back injury. Those two first-rounders, D-Linemen Regan Upshaw and Marcus Jones, didn't prove to be long-term building blocks but they did log a combined 86 Buccaneer starts.
6. 1990: 328 (328)
The mid-round picks of linemen Tony Mayberry and Ian Beckles saved this draft from potentially becoming a candidate for the bottom-10 list below. The first-round pick of LB Keith McCants was a whiff and he got just 35 starts. The team had no third-rounder due to an earlier trade for RB Gary Anderson, and fourth-round TE Jesse Anderson only made four starts. RB Reggie Cobb was a good player for a relatively short period of time in Tampa, netting 47 starts, but Mayberry and Beckles anchored the Bucs line for the better part of a decade and combined for 242 starts.
7. 1988: 327 (270)
This one still would have ranked in the top 10 (though a few spots lower) without the 55 starts provided by ninth-round steal DT Reuben Davis. The thanks for that goes to first-round T Paul Gruber, who was eventually inducted into the franchise's Ring of Honor after making 183 starts. That's the most for any drafted offensive player in team history. Other than Davis, nobody in this 12-man class made more than 21 starts, but there were enough minor contributions from the likes of RBs Lars Tate and William Howard and DT Pig Goff to spike the overall total.
8. 1993: 322 (322)
This is another draft that was unsuccessful at the top but saved by two later picks. In this case, that would be third-round safety John Lynch and sixth-round defensive end Chidi Ahanotu, two long-term starting defenders who combined for 241 starts. First-round DE Eric Curry ended up as a bust but his draft status kept him in the lineup for 44 starts. Second and third-rounders Demetrius DuBose and Lamar Thomas combined for just seven starts but fourth-round WR Horace Copeland got 28 in an injury-shortened career.
9. 1980: 284 (196)
WR Gerald Carter and LB Andy Hawkins, picked in the ninth and 10th rounds, respectively, spiked this total with a combined 88 starts. First-round pick G Ray Snell ended up with just 35 starts but the meat of this draft was in second-round WR Kevin House (81) and third-round LB Scot Brantley (71). This would not make the top 10 without the two late-round picks.
- 1979: 244 (101)**
As mentioned above, the 12th-round selection of DT David Logan made this draft, as his 103 starts were more than double that of anybody else in this class. Second-round G Greg Roberts and third-round RB Jerry Eckwood contributed heavily to the team's first playoff run in 1979, but their Buccaneer careers were relatively brief, combining for 72 starts. If one includes only players taken in the top seven rounds, these last two entries would be replaced by the 1982 (240 starts) and 2010 (212) drafts. And, since 2010 first-round pick Gerald McCoy should remain in the Bucs' starting lineup for quite some more time, this one should work its way up the ranks anyway.
And now the bottom 10. Remember, we're not including the four most recent drafts, so this list ends at #36.
27. 2001: 142
The killing blow here was the Buccaneers' trade up in Round One, which meant that they essentially spent both of their top two picks on T Kenyatta Walker. Walker did start for the 2002 Super Bowl team and had a strong playoff run on the way to the title, but he never developed into the franchise left tackle that the team obviously expected. He did make 73 starts, though, while CB/S Dwight Smith made 34 and was a Super Bowl hero, too.
28. 2009: 126
This one was doomed to the lower ranks when Josh Freeman, who at one point looked like a franchise quarterback in the making, suddenly lost his job and then his roster spot in 2013. That caped his starts at 57 and there were no other major hits in this draft. DT Roy Miller was next with 34 and seventh-round CB E.J. Biggers surprisingly came up with 24 starts.
29. 1986: 123 (123)
This is the famous Bo Jackson draft, so the Buccaneers got a big, ugly zero starts from the first-overall pick in the whole proceedings. CB Rod Jones, as mentioned, also went in the first round but topped out at 44 starts. The leader form this class was second-round LB Kevin Murphy, who finished with 53 starts. Second-round TE Jackie Walker had just nine.
The MMQB's Peter King presents his 2016 Mock Draft, including potential first round trades.
- 1985: 103 (92)**
With these two drafts lining up back-to-back, it's even more clear why there was so many opportunities for that 1987 group at the top of the list. This was partially due to a dearth of early selections; the Bucs made only two picks in first three rounds and just four in the first seven. First-round DE Ron Holmes wasn't able to replace Lee Roy Selmon (a tall task, certainly) and finished with 44 starts, while second-round LB Ervin Randle had 48.
31. 1978: 89 (87)
The fledgling franchise could hardly avoid a draft strikeout at this point, but without first-round QB Doug Williams this would have been a nearly total lost cause. Williams had 67 starts but left for the USFL after 1982 thanks to a contract dispute with the team's previous owner. Second-round RB Johnny Davis got 20 starts and that was about it, with the team making no picks in Rounds 3-5. To be fair, many of those picks were traded for veteran players, though the team didn't get much more from acquired players such as Dan Medlin, Jeff Winans, Jeris White, Rik Bonness, and Allan Leavitt.
32. 2004: 83
This one, like the next two on the list was affected by the 2002 trade for the rights to Head Coach Jon Gruden, which cost the team first and second-round picks in 2002, a first-round pick in 2003 and a second-round pick in 2004. The Bucs failure to reload during this stretch definitely helps explain its struggles during the second half of the decade. First-round pick Michael Clayton looked like a long-term starter after his outstanding rookie season but declined form there and finished with 56 starts. Fourth-round S Will Allen had most of the rest with 26 starts.
33. 2002: 80
In a way, it's impressive that this draft isn't at the very bottom, since the first and second-round picks were gone and the third and fourth-rounders were completely wasted on WR Marquis Walker and RB Travis Stephens, respectively. It was saved, to some extent, by the 74 starts it eventually got from S Jermaine Phillips. Seventh-round CB Tim Wansley accounted for the other six.
- 2003: 72**
Again, there was no first-round pick to work with, and the Bucs were also picking last thanks to their Super Bowl championship the season before. So DE Dewayne White was the first player in this class at pick #64, and he ended up with just 13 starts. QB Chris Simms briefly rose to starter status but would end up opening just 15 games. More than half of the starts came from fifth-round G Sean Mahan, who had two different stints with the team.
35. 2000: 69
This draft probably wouldn't have ended up near the bottom if the team hadn't chosen to send both of its first-round picks to the New York Jets to acquire WR Keyshawn Johnson. Johnson helped the Bucs win a title two years later, but his starts don't count for this exercise. Second-round pick Cosey Coleman was a winner for the franchise, starting 63 games and helping the team to that Super Bowl win, but the only other six starts came from reserve LB Nate Webster, a third-round choice.
36. 1989: 66
An absolute disaster of a draft, and this one doesn't have the excusing of missing first or second-round picks. LB Broderick Thomas did get 55 starts, but that was about it other than a random 10 for eight-round guard Carl Bax. An ill-fated trade for WR Stephen Starring the year before robbed them of a third-round round pick, but it probably wouldn't have worked out anyway amid such choices as second-round WR Danny Peebles (one start), fourth-round CB Anthony Florence (zero) and fifth-round RB Jamie Lawson (zero).