DE Corey Smith was the first player taken in Sunday's NFL Europe allocated players draft
Do the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have an intriguing defensive line prospect in second-year man Corey Smith?
The Berlin Thunder obviously thinks so.
On Sunday, the NFL Europe League conducted its annual allocated player draft, distributing the pool of available men to the six NFLEL teams. Of all the players allocated to the NFLEL in 2004 by all 32 NFL teams, Smith was the first player selected.
Each winter, NFL teams can allocate up to 15 players to NFL Europe for its upcoming season, and most send six to 10 players over in hopes of developing their raw talents. The Buccaneers allocated six players this year – Smith, G Kevin Breedlove, C Ben Claxton, CB Lynaris Elpheage, K Carlos Martinez and WR Frank Murphy. On Sunday, five of those six found out which uniforms they will be donning this spring; Martinez and the rest of the kickers and punters will be assigned to their teams later.
Smith didn't have to wait very long to learn of his European destination, as the Thunder, picking first after finishing last in 2003, snapped the 6-2, 250-pound speed rusher off the board to begin the draft. Defensive linemen are obviously the most coveted commodity in the NFLEL, as the first three picks and four of the top six all shared that position. After Smith, the Amsterdam Admirals selected Oakland DT Ron Moore and the Cologne Centurions (previously the Barcelona Dragons) went with Green Bay DE Eric Powell.
The next Buccaneer-allocated player to be selected was CB Lynaris Elpheage, the former New Orleans Saint signed by Tampa Bay on January 14. The first pick of the third round, Elpheage was the 13th player taken and he will be headed to Frankfurt to play for the defending champion Galaxy.
Elpheage (5-9, 179) was the third cornerback off the board, following New Orleans' Ahmad Brooks (also to Frankfurt) and Carolina's Marcus Floyd (to Cologne).
The six NFL Europe teams combined to draft 98 players out of the pool of allocated men, and the remaining players were then assigned to the six teams. That's how Breedlove, Claxton and Murphy found their European homes for this spring; Claxton and Murphy will be joining Smith on the Thunder while Breedlove will play for the Rhein Fire.
After the allocated player draft and the assignment of the undrafted players from that pool, the NFLEL teams completed their rosters with another draft, this one of free agents not associated with any NFL team. A total of 75 unattached players joined the league in this manner, many of whom have played in the NFL Europe League before. Buccaneer fans might find some of the names in that stage of the draft familiar, as a handful of the players were formerly with Tampa Bay – CB Corey Chamblin, WR Todd Elstrom, DT Josh McKibben, CB Earthwind Moreland and TE Daniel Wilcox.
Players in this last category may head over to Europe unattached, but they often come back with an NFL training camp spot if they excel during the spring season. Buccaneer defensive tackle Chartric Darby, who has proven to be a very solid NFL player, followed that path in 2001, for instance.
Though they'll be spending a little more than three months overseas, Smith and his Buc teammates have awhile to pack. The NFLEL will once again hold its joint training camp in the Tampa Bay area this year, with the first group of players due to arrive on February 27. The first weekend of the league's 10-game regular season is April 3-4.
Smith first joined the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent out of North Carolina State on April 22, 2002. He beat the odds to make the team's 53-man roster as a rookie and saw action in six-early season games before landing on injured reserve with a knee sprain. In his very first NFL game, at Baltimore on Sept. 15, 2002, Smith tallied two tackles and a sack. He did not make the Bucs' roster out of camp in 2003 but later rejoined the team in December as a free agent.