Highs and Lows Over 37 Years of Drafting

The Buccaneers had a very satisfying opening night in last year’s draft, using a series of maneuvers to get in position to select S Mark Barron and RB Doug Martin (and retaining enough ammunition to trade up for LB Lavonte David the next night).  After just one season, it’s too soon to declare all of those picks as home runs, but it’s safe to say the franchise has high hopes for the careers of Barron, Martin and David.

Those three will have to produce at Hall of Fame levels, however, to top the single greatest draft round in Buccaneers history.  In 1995 – coincidentally also after a series of trades – the Buccaneers selected DT Warren Sapp with the 12th overall pick and LB Derrick Brooks at #28.  Sapp was just elected to the Hall of Fame; Brooks could very well follow him to Canton next February.  It doesn’t get much better than two Hall-bound players in one round.

In fact, Dan Rachal at NFL.com calls the Sapp and Brooks duo two of the five best draft picks in Buccaneers history.  In a very entertaining series currently running on the league web site in the last few weeks leading up to the 2013 draft, a handful of site contributors are going through the five best and five worst picks each team has made in its drafting history.  On Thursday, the Buccaneers got their review.

It’s a good list, and Buc fans are going to both celebrate and cringe when reading it.  No team makes it through decades of drafting without some busts, so get ready to relive such decisions as Bo Jackson first overall in 1986 and Eric Curry sixth overall in 1993.  Similarly, when the Bucs’ downstate rivals, the Dolphins, got their best/worst treatment on Wednesday, Miami fans were reminded both of the amazing Dan Marino pick in 1983 and the more recent and less pleasing Ted Ginn selection in 2007.

We’ll let you follow the link to read Rachal’s analysis, but here were his picks for the Buccaneers:

BEST: Ronde Barber (3rd round, 1997), Derrick Brooks (1st, 1995), Warren Sapp (1st, 1995), John Lynch (3rd, 1993), Paul Gruber (1st, 1988)

WORST: Bo Jackson (1st, 1986), Eric Curry (1st, 1993), Regan Upshaw (1st, 1996), Reidel Anthony (1st, 1997), Vinny Testaverde (1st, 1987)

So, should we quibble?  Personally, I probably have a few more issues with the worst list than the best list.  Jackson and Curry are unassailable choices, and it’s worth noting that all of Rachal’s selections are first-round picks.  That does make sense – a miss in the first round is always a more significant bust than a miss in any other round.

Still, I’ve got a few other candidates I would have to consider, most notably Steve Maughan in the third round in 1976, Booker Reese in the second round in 1982, Rod Jones in the first round in 1986 (that round was the antithesis of the 1995 first round), Charles McRae in the first round in 1991, Demetrius DuBose in the second round in 1993, Harold Bishop in the third round in 1994, Marquise Walker in the third round in 2002, Gaines Adams in the first round in 2007 and Dexter Jackson in the second round in 2008.

From that group, the most egregious mistakes were Reese, McRae and Jackson.  I consider all of those more problematic than Upshaw, Anthony and Testaverde.  Those three at least all became multi-year starters for the Buccaneers and had some reasonably good moments/seasons.  I’m not saying they were good picks, but they were less disastrous than Reese, McRae or Jackson.  Reese cost the team a first-round pick in the next year’s draft and set off an infamous chain reaction of traded picks and desperation quarterback trades.  It wasn’t just that Reese was a total bust, but that selection hurt the franchise in a variety of ways for years to come.  McRae was supposed to join Gruber to anchor the Bucs’ line but was criticized for lacking passion for the game and only made 38 career starts, some of them at guard and none of them particularly good.  And far from being a dynamic playmaker, the diminutive and nonaggressive Jackson is probably the least successful second-round pick in franchise annals.

Rachal’s “Best” list for the Buccaneers is much harder to tweak.  One can think of a handful of other options that deserve consideration, starting with Lee Roy Selmon first overall in 1976.  That’s far and away the hardest one to exclude, but there is also Doug Williams in the first round in 1978, James Wilder in the second round in 1981, Ron Heller in the fourth round in 1984, Mark Carrier in the third round in 1987, Tony Mayberry in the fourth round in 1990, Santana Dotson in the fifth round in 1992, Chidi Ahanotu in the sixth round in 1993, Mike Alstott in the second round in 1996, Donnie Abraham in the third round in 1996 and Davin Joseph in the first round in 2006.  Time will tell if recent picks such as Josh Freeman, Gerald McCoy, Mike Williams and last year’s trio merit inclusion, but they can’t really be considered yet.

The problem is, which of Rachal’s five excellent picks do you bump off?  I want to include Selmon, but I really can’t remove Barber, Brooks, Sapp, Lynch or Gruber.  Any way I could call Gruber and Selmon 1a and 1b?  If not, and if pressed, I’d probably switch out Selmon for Gruber, just because of the long-lasting impact that Selmon has had on the franchise and the Bay area.  That was the very first college draft pick in franchise history, and the team couldn’t have gotten it any better.

If you have any quibbles of your own with Rachal’s list, discuss them below.

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