Tampa Bay Buccaneers Top 10 draft busts

Vinny Testaverde threw 77 TD passes and had 112 INTs in six seasons with the Bucs.

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TAMPA, Fla. — There are success stories, men like Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks who produce storied careers. Then there are the regrets, names called that coaches and general managers would prefer to erase from history and do over again.

The NFL draft is a two-faced monster. On one side, there are the right decisions — franchise-changing talents who lift average teams to good and good ones to great. On the other, there are the mistakes — the players who, for a host of reasons, don’t perform to their potential and fizzle before fading from most everyone’s mind.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, like all teams, have stories living both sides. The past two years, with Sapp and Brooks elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, have been reason to remember the good. Then there are bad (Booker Reese) and the ugly (Bo Jackson). No war room is perfect.

No one lives the NFL draft long enough without a few flops to go with the picks that cause confetti to fall from the sky.

Here’s a look at 10 picks the Bucs should want back …

10. DEXTER JACKSON, WR, APPALACHIAN STATE (2008, SECOND ROUND, 58TH OVERALL)

The Bucs could have had DeSean Jackson but instead settled for Dexter Jackson, who made little impact in his one season with them. They traded down with the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second round, only to see the Philadelphia Eagles swoop in and snatch DeSean. DeSean went on to earn three Pro Bowl appearances, and he was named an All-Pro after the 2009 season.

Dexter, meanwhile, did little. He had 20 punt returns for 97 yards his rookie year. He also had 14 kick returns for 327 yards. But he had no catches that season, and coaches criticized him for playing scared. He was cut in August 2009.

9. BRETT MORITZ, G, NEBRASKA (1978, SECOND ROUND, 44TH OVERALL)

Moritz was thought to bolster offensive line depth, but he never played more than six games for the Bucs his rookie season. He injured his back and was placed on injured reserve, never to play for Tampa Bay again.

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Some in Tampa Bay’s front office thought highly of Moritz coming out of college, but he never started a game for the Bucs. He struggled on special teams and, with little value as an offensive player, his Tampa Bay career was brief.

8. ARRELIOUS BENN, WR, ILLINOIS (2010, SECOND ROUND, 39TH OVERALL)

Benn was supposed to become a consistent producer at wide receiver, but it never turned out that way. He had a career-best 30 catches in 441 yards with three touchdowns in 2011, his second year in the league. But he only appeared in eight games the following season, when he had four catches for 26 yards in eight games.

Vincent Jackson’s decision to sign with the Bucs before the 2012 season bolstered their receiving corps. Quickly, Benn found himself pushed out of the picture. He was traded to the Eagles last March with a seventh-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft for a sixth-round choice in the 2013 draft and a conditional pick in 2014.

7. BOOKER REESE, DE, BETHUNE-COOKMAN (1982, SECOND ROUND, 32ND OVERALL)

The story of how Reese ended up with the Bucs almost is more amazing than anything that followed. First, Tampa Bay’s war room messed up the pick because of a bad phone connection, so guard Sean Farrell was taken 17th overall instead of Reese. The Bucs, in a panic move, ended up trading their first-round pick in 1983 to the Chicago Bears for the fourth pick in the second round to select Reese.

Once he arrived, Reese’s time in Tampa was a huge letdown. His football instinct that made him successful at Bethune-Cookman didn’t translate to the NFL’s nuances. Mostly, he was a reserve in his time with the Bucs. He had two sacks and two interceptions in the 1982 and 1983 seasons. He was traded to the Los Angeles Rams during the 1984 campaign for a 12th-round pick in the 1985 draft, and he was out of the NFL after the 1985 season. ”Mirage” would be the best way to describe him.

6. JOSH FREEMAN, QB, KANSAS STATE (2009, FIRST ROUND, 17TH OVERALL)

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Freeman’s a bust because of his dramatic fall. He gave the Bucs four productive years — including a 2012 season in which he threw for franchise records in passing yards (4,065) and touchdowns (27) — but a swift divorce in the 2013 campaign with then-coach Greg Schiano marred his memory with Tampa Bay. The situation was ugly, dramatic, unfortunate, and, above all, unnecessary.

The end result wasn’t too surprising. Freeman was drafted as former coach Raheem Morris’ choice at quarterback, but it became clear that Schiano wanted to explore other options behind center when he selected Mike Glennon in the third round of the 2013 draft. Freeman was benched before Week 4 after reports of a missed team photo and his tardiness for meetings, the team bus and a team meal. Eventually, he was released and signed by the Minnesota Vikings. Now, he’s projected as a backup for Eli Manning with the New York Giants — a far cry from the Bucs’ franchise face he had the potential to be.

5. CHARLES MCRAE, OT, TENNESSEE (1991, FIRST ROUND, SEVENTH OVERALL)

McRae was drafted to be a cornerstone at one of football’s most important positions. However, he was far from the player who earned a standout career at Tennessee. He was thought to have NFL-ready skills upon being the first offensive player taken in the 1991 draft, but that prediction proved wrong.

McRae was moved from left tackle to right tackle, which stunted his development. He looked uncomfortable and out of sorts, like someone who became a different player in the leap from college to the NFL. He played in 71 games for the Bucs from 1991 to 1995 (38 starts) before he joined the Oakland Raiders before the 1996 season. He played one year there before ending his NFL career.

4. GAINES ADAMS, DE, CLEMSON (2007, FIRST ROUND, FOURTH OVERALL)

Adams was supposed to make life miserable for quarterbacks but instead frustrated the Bucs with his lack of production. He totaled six sacks as a rookie, but he only combined for 7.5 the rest of his career, which ended after a short stint with the Chicago Bears in 2009. He died of cardiac arrest at age 26 in January 2010.

Adams’ Bucs career ended when they traded him to the Bears in October 2009. The move was made with hopes that all parties involved could enjoy fresh starts. He had the appearance of someone formidable — 6-foot-5, 258 pounds — but the physical tools didn’t translate to the field. The Bucs’ trade with the Bears, in which Tampa Bay received a 2010 draft pick, was made five games into the 2009 season.


   

3. KEITH MCCANTS, LB, ALABAMA (1990, FIRST ROUND, FOURTH OVERALL)

Thought to stabilize the Bucs’ linebacker corps, McCants was short-lived in that position with Tampa Bay. He only started four games as a rookie with two sacks, before he was converted to a defensive end for the 1991 and 1992 seasons.

McCants struggled to become the physical wrecking ball most thought he would be after a noteworthy college career. He finished with 156 tackles and 12 sacks in parts of three seasons with Tampa Bay. He went on to spend time with the Houston Oilers and Arizona Cardinals before his NFL career fizzled out after the 1995 campaign. This pick is made more painful when the man selected after him is considered: linebacker Junior Seau, to the San Diego Chargers, as the fifth overall pick.

Testaverde went on to have a long, notable career at a number of stops: Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers. But his start with the Bucs wasn’t anything special. From 1988 to 1992, all years in which he made at least 12 starts, Tampa Bay never won more than six games each season.

Testaverde finished with 77 touchdown passes and 112 interceptions in playing parts of six seasons with the Bucs. His worst years included 35 interceptions in 1988 and 22 in 1989. Credit him for showing the longevity to survive in an ever-changing landscape, as shown by his ability to stay in the league until 2007. The word ”bust” might be too harsh given his career’s length, but he never became the symbol of a Bucs turnaround some thought he would be.

1. BO JACKSON, RB, AUBURN (1986, FIRST ROUND, FIRST OVERALL)

The Bucs couldn’t have bungled this pick any worse. They made the Heisman Trophy winner choose between his two loves — football and baseball. Jackson chose baseball, and for good reason. Before the draft, Jackson flew to Tampa on owner Hugh Culverhouse’s airplane. The Bucs told Jackson they had checked with the NCAA that the move was OK. But later, Jackson learned he had been ruled ineligible for the rest of his baseball career at Auburn because of the trip.

Jackson told the Bucs they would waste a pick by drafting him. They selected him anyway. He remained true to his word and refused to sign. He waited to enter the NFL until the 1987 draft, where he was selected 183rd overall by the Los Angeles Raiders. He became a two-sport start in the NFL and Major League Baseball after overcoming the Bucs’ brazen incompetence.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.