Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The 'Key' to the Draft

Proven producer WR Keyshawn Johnson is the Bucs’ surrogate first-rounder


WR Keyshawn Johnson was worth two first-round picks

As surely every Buccaneer fan knows by now, Tampa Bay will not have much to do in the first round of this weekend's draft, barring a trade. Not that anyone's complaining.

On Wednesday, Tampa Bay validated a week's worth of rumors by trading its two first-round picks (numbers 13 and 27) to the New York Jets for Pro Bowl WR Keyshawn Johnson. It marked the first time since 1990 that the Bucs sent a first-round pick (in 1992) to another team in exchange for a player and the first time Tampa Bay has ever swapped a pair of first-rounders. It was a reasonable price, however, for the privilege of adding one of the league's elite receivers to a passing attack that ranked 30th in the NFL in 1999.

This is not the first time that Johnson has been one of the main stories of the draft. In 1996, the Jets tabbed Johnson with the first pick overall, making him the first receiver to lead off the draft since Irving Fryar with New England in 1994. Fryar, in turn, was the first passcatcher taken with the initial pick in the NFL draft since San Francisco started off with end Dave Parks in 1964 (Houston took end Lawrence Elkins with the first pick of the AFL draft in 1965).

Of course, Tampa Bay might not have been in position to make this remarkable acquisition if they had not possessed two first-round draft picks. That bonanza, in turn, was the product of several shrewd decisions on a previous draft-day.

In 1998, months after the team had made its first playoff appearance in 15 years, the Bucs entered the draft with the 23rd pick in both the first and second rounds and had their eyes on a relatively deep list of receivers and cornerbacks. By the time the second round had ended the Bucs' had drafted both WR Jacquez Green and CB Brian Kelly and somehow emerged with the San Diego Chargers' first-round pick in 2000.

Here's how it happened.

First, McKay and Dungy, realizing that the talent well at the positions they coveted remained deep, sent their first-round pick, the 23rd selection, to Oakland for a pair of second-rounders (numbers 34 and 59). The Bucs then used the 34th pick to snare Green, then traded up from their own slot at 53 to the 45th pick so they wouldn't miss out on Kelly. That left the team with Oakland's #59 choice, which it then traded to San Diego for the Chargers' 2000 first-rounder. San Diego used the pick obtained from Tampa Bay to draft WR Mikhael Ricks out of Stephen F. Austin.

This type of up-and-down maneuvering has become a McKay trademark and was on prime display in both 1995, when the team moved down once and up a little bit later to position itself for DT Warren Sapp and LB Derrick Brooks, and in 1997, when back-to-back trades moved the team briefly up then back down, where it ended up with first-rounders RB Warrick Dunn and WR Reidel Anthony.

On both of those occasions, the gains of this type of maneuvering were immediately obvious on draft day. In this instance, however, it took two years to realize the true windfall of the Bucs' clever 1998 decisions, and what a windfall it was.

Keyshawn Johnson a Buccaneer…now that's a good draft!

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