Buccaneers All-Time Draft Team
TAMPA, Fla. -- Standout careers must start somewhere. That's one of the best things about the NFL draft. It's all potential and possibility. The next great thing could be an obvious find in the first round or it could be unearthed sometime after the third.
There's no one way to discover a difference-maker.
There's also no one connection that binds all great draft picks. Yes, they share a gift for the game, a certain instinct that makes them rise above the rest on the field. But their situations vary depending on the era lived.
Some like Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, John Lynch and Mike Alstott thrived within the rebuilt Tampa Bay Buccaneers that claimed the franchise's lone Super Bowl title in the 2002 season. Others like Paul Gruber carried themselves with class through a hard slog past some of the franchise's darkest Sundays.
All were notable. All left a legacy long after their last downs were played.
Later this week, new coach Lovie Smith and new general manager Jason Licht will select their first draft choices as the men leading Tampa Bay. Everyone will be judged. Everyone will be analyzed. Everyone will be held under a microscope as the potential becomes production, as the talk becomes results, as the dreams become real.
Is another all-time great waiting to be found?
That's another interesting thing about the NFL draft. The answer could be "Yes," and none of us would know it now. None of us would know it next week, next fall or this time next year. Time is the final judge.
All the work, all the tireless preparation of the most recent months, comes down to judgment calls and a little luck. Yes, luck never hurts.
Here's a review of the picks that went right for the Bucs over time ...
Doug Williams, Grambling State (1978, first round, 17th overall)
He went on to make history with the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXII by becoming the first black starting quarterback to win a title, but his start with the Bucs was notable. From 1978 to 1982, he passed for 12,648 yards with 73 touchdowns and 73 interceptions. The 73 touchdowns are third in franchise history, behind Josh Freeman's 78 and Vinny Testaverde's 77.
James Wilder, Missouri (1981, second round, 34th overall)
A Pro Bowl participant and All-Pro selection in 1984, Wilder is Tampa Bay's all-time leading rusher with 5,957 yards and 37 touchdowns from 1981 to 1989. He had 14 100-yard games, also a franchise-high, and Warrick Dunn is the only other player in team history with at least 10 by posting 11 from 1997 to 2001 and 2008. With 1,575 rush attempts, Wilder also is the most-used running back in team history. He leads the Bucs in receptions with 430.
Warrick Dunn, Florida State (1997, first round, 12th overall)
A three-time Pro Bowl player, twice with the Bucs, Dunn quickly asserted himself as a professional. He was named the 1997 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by rushing for 978 yards with four touchdowns on 224 carries. He produced two 1,000-yard rushing seasons with Tampa Bay, the first in 1998 (1,026 yards) and another in 2000 (1,133).
Mark Carrier, Nicholls State (1987, third round, 57th overall)
He's the Bucs' all-time leader in receiving yards with 5,018 after a stint with them from 1987 to 1992. He also had a franchise-best 15 games with at least 100 yards receiving, and he finished with 27 touchdowns in his time with Tampa Bay. His best season came in 1989, when he had 1,422 yards receiving and nine touchdowns.
Kevin House, Southern Illinois (1980, second round, 49th overall)
He had 4,928 yards receiving in his time with the Bucs from 1980 to 1986. He produced 14 games with at least 100 yards receiving, and he averaged a franchise-best 17.2 yards per catch among players with more than 200 receptions. He had two 1,000-yard receiving years with Tampa Bay, in 1981 (1,176) and 1984 (1,005).
Mike Alstott, Purdue (1996, second round, 35th overall)
A six-time Pro Bowl participant and a three-time first-team All-Pro, he became a face of the Bucs' bruising rushing game in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He's second on Tampa Bay's all-time rushing chart with 5,088 yards after spending his entire NFL career with the Bucs from 1996 to 2006. He had a career-high 949 yards rushing in 1999.
Paul Gruber, Wisconsin (1988, first round, fourth overall)
He became a stable force during some of Tampa Bay's most troubled years. He was named a two-time All-Pro selection during his career with the Bucs from 1988 to 1999, and he started all of the 183 games in which he played. In June 2012, he was enshrined in the Bucs' Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium.
Charley Hannah, Alabama (1977, third round, 56th overall)
He recovered from a knee injury that kept him out his rookie season, but he was moved to defensive end during the 1978 campaign and started 14 games there. From 1979 to 1982, he started 47 games at right tackle before moving to the Los Angeles Raiders.
Frank Middleton, Arizona (1997, third round, 63rd overall)
He became a consistent presence at one of football's most important positions. He started all 16 games each year from 1998 to 2000, and he ended his career with the Oakland Raiders from 2001 to 2004.
Ian Beckles, Indiana (1990, fifth round, 114th overall)
He became a trusted starter when healthy in his seasons with Tampa Bay from 1990 to 1996. He started 97 of 101 games played with the Bucs, before finishing his career with the Philadelphia Eagles from 1997 to 1998.
Tony Mayberry, Wake Forest (1990, fourth round, 108th overall)
He became the Bucs' anchor on the offensive line during their renaissance years. He appeared in 160 games with 145 starts from 1990 to 1999. He started each game every year from 1991 to 1999.
Lee Roy Selmon, Oklahoma (1976, first round, first overall)
He's the dean of Tampa Bay defensive stars for a reason. He earned a franchise-best 78.5 sacks in his career with the Bucs from 1976 to 1984. He was a six-time Pro Bowl selection, a three-time first-team All-Pro, and in 1995, he was the first Tampa Bay player to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He remained a revered figure in the Tampa Bay region until his death because of a stroke on Sept. 4, 2011.
Chidi Ahanotu, California (1993, sixth round, 145th overall)
He rose from a low-round draft selection to become one of the best Bucs' best discoveries in the NFL draft. He earned 34.5 sacks in his career with Tampa Bay from 1993 to 2000 and 2004. He earned a career-high 10 sacks in 1997.
Warren Sapp, Miami (1995, first round, 12th overall)
He joins Selmon and Derrick Brooks as three of the best defensive forces the Bucs have ever seen. He finished with 77 sacks in his career with Tampa Bay from 1995 to 2003, a figure that's second only to Selmon's total. He was a seven-time Pro Bowl participant and a four-time first-team All-Pro. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
David Logan, Pittsburgh (1979, 12th round, 307th overall)
He finished with 39 sacks in his career with the Bucs from 1979 to 1986. The figure ranks fourth in franchise history behind Selmon, Sapp and Simeon Rice. He was a two-time All-Pro selection. He finished his NFL career with the Green Bay Packers in 1987.
Derrick Brooks, Florida State (1995, first round, 28th overall)
Perhaps the franchise's greatest player, he leads the Bucs with 1,715 tackles in a career that spanned from 1995 to 2008. He also had 13.5 sacks and 25 interceptions. He was an 11-time Pro Bowl participant, a nine-time All-Pro and he became a face of the Bucs' turnaround under coaches Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden. He has been named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2014.
David Lewis, USC (1977, second round, 29th overall)
He finished with 10 interceptions in his Bucs career from 1977 to 1981. He played in 75 games for Tampa Bay with 64 starts and was named to one Pro Bowl.
Lavonte David, Nebraska (2012, second round, 58th overall)
This selection is based on a projection of how good he will become. In two NFL seasons, David has established himself as one of the Bucs' premier defensive talents. Already, he has grown into one of the league's best at his position, and he will only become more elite. He had a career-high 145 tackles last season with seven sacks. He also had a career-high five interceptions last year.
Ronde Barber, Virginia (1997, third round, 66th overall)
He became a symbol of longevity while maturing into one of the Bucs' greatest defensive players. He collected a franchise-best 47 interceptions with eight touchdowns in a career with Tampa Bay that spanned from 1997 to 2012. He was a five-time Pro Bowl participant and a three-time first-team All-Pro.
Brian Kelly, USC (1998, second round, 45th overall)
He ranks seventh in franchise history with 22 interceptions in a career with the Bucs that lasted from 1998 to 2007. He completed his NFL career with the Detroit Lions in 2008.
John Lynch, Stanford (1993, third round, 82nd overall)
He became known for his physical, relentless style of play in the secondary that lifted the Bucs' defense to a championship level. He ranks sixth in franchise history with 23 interceptions in a career with Tampa Bay that spanned from 1993 to 2003. He also had 541 tackles with the Bucs in 164 games (132 starts). He was a nine-time Pro Bowl participant and a four-time All-Pro.
Tony Covington, Virginia (1991, fourth round, 93rd overall)
He finished with four interceptions in a career with Tampa Bay that spanned from 1991 to 1994. He played in 31 games with 15 starts. He completed his NFL career with the Seattle Seahawks in 1995.