The following fact about the Buccaneers’ 2013 draft probably falls less under the “Did You Know?” category and more under, “You Probably Could Have Guessed.”
Yes, defensive end Steven Means is the first University of Buffalo player the Buccaneers have ever selected in the NFL Draft. Oh, and drafted or not, if Means makes the team he will be the first Buffalo Bull ever to suit up in a Bucs uniform.
Thanks to the pass-rushing/special teams potential that intrigued the Buccaneers, Means has pulled Buffalo into the one-draftee ranks in Buccaneer history, a group that also includes Lamar (Johnny Ray Smith), Middle Tennessee State (Marty Carter), Portland State (Adam Hayward), Santa Clara (Jim Leonard), Southern Illinois (Kevin House), Temple (Alshermond Singleton), Toledo (Bruce Gradkowski), Western Michigan (E.J. Biggers) and William & Mary (John Cannon).
Yes, I purposely chose one-draftee schools in which the player at least had a reasonably solid career with the Bucs, and in some cases better than that. There are, unsurprisingly, dozens of other smaller schools from which the Bucs took a draft flyer that never quite panned out, particularly dating back to the days when the draft lasted 12 rounds or longer. Some of those schools: Pearl River Community College, Washington and Lee, Azusa Pacific, Central State (OK), Kearney State, Lenoir-Rhyne and Northern Arizona. A few more schools that more surprisingly only show up once in Buc draft history: Arkansas (and not since Jerry Eckwood in 1979), Colorado (not since tackle-not-quarterback Steve Young in 1976), Iowa (Adrian Clayborn), Kansas (Aqib Talib), Oregon (Justin Phinisee…it’s okay to say, “Who?”), Tulane (Shaun King) and Wake Forest (Tony Mayberry).
Of course, the last time the Buccaneers took a player from a school that had never before produced a Tampa Bay draftee, it worked out really, really well. That was just last year: Boise State RB Doug Martin. You may have heard of him.
Of all the schools the Bucs visited in their draft efforts this weekend, the University of Miami was by far their most common (virtual) destination. RB Mike James, the team’s sixth and final selection, is the 13th Hurricane the Bucs have ever drafted, if one includes the unfortunate 1987 Supplemental Draft selection of DT Dan Sileo. The selection of James does mark the first time in 13 years that the Bucs have dipped into the Cane pool – the last one was LB Nate Webster in 2000.
The James selection also allowed Miami to reclaim a share of the lead in the coveted “Most Buc Draft Picks” category. Alabama had pulled into the top spot last year when S Mark Barron was the team’s first-round pick, and their 13th Crimson Tide player overall. Now it’s even again. The next team on the list is not Florida or Florida State or USC or LSU or Notre Dame. It’s Tennessee, with 12.
If you’re still reading this far into it, perhaps you enjoy obscure Buccaneer draft facts that really have no value beyond bar-stool trivia. Yes? Alright, here’s some more…
The school the Bucs have plumbed for draft picks the most often in the last five years? No, it’s not any of the state schools, or Virginia Tech (2), West Virginia (2) or USC (2). It’s Illinois, strangely. The Bucs took T Xavier Fulton in the fifth round in 2009, WR Arrelious Benn in the second in 2010 and now DT Akeem Spence in the fifth this year. Fulton didn’t work out, Benn had some good moments but some injury problems before being traded to Philly this offseason, and hopefully Spence proves to be the most impactful of the three.
By the way, this year’s draft was the first time since 2003 that the Buccaneers were done by Round Six. Since the draft was reduced to eight rounds in 1993 and then to seven in 1994, the only other time the Buccaneers have ever not had a seventh-round pick was in 2003. Tampa Bay’s last pick in the 2003 draft (Mike James) was #189 overall. That’s the earliest they have ever been done with their selections. If you think that means the Bucs’ player personnel staff left early on Saturday, think again. One of the most important parts of each draft weekend begins as soon as the last pick is made, as every team begins putting out dozens of calls to priority undrafted free agents. You can bet those negotiations lasted well into the night on Saturday.
Overall, Tampa Bay’s six-person draft class in 2013 matched the second-smallest in team history, matching the same number of selections in 2009, 2003 and 2004. The Bucs’ smallest draft class ever was in 2000; after the team traded a pair of first-round picks to the Jets to get Keyshawn Johnson, it made just five more selections on draft weekend. Of course, counting this draft class as a half-dozen ignores the fact that the team’s first-round pick brought in All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis.
The 2013 draft marks the third straight one in which the Bucs didn’t use a single pick on a wide receiver. Now, that’s not terribly surprising given that the 2010 draft (Mike Williams) and the 2012 free agency period (Vincent Jackson) produced the team’s two current starters, and this year’s free agency field has yielded third-receiver options in Kevin Ogletree and Steve Smith. Still, this is the first time in the Bucs’ 38-year drafting history that they have gone three straight years without picking a wideout.
If that wasn’t enough, as we pointed out on Friday, the Bucs’ selections of a cornerback in the second round and a quarterback in the third were quite rare in terms of the franchise’s drafting history. In the end, the Bucs and their fans care far more about what these newest players do in the future than the trivia of their past. Still, despite nearly four decades of drafting and developing players, it seems like the Bucs are always breaking new ground when it comes to draft weekend.