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The Bucs start here

Recent draft history prelude to greatness for Buccaneers?

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Posted: Tuesday May 16, 2000 11:17 AM

  Warren Sapp Warren Sapp and the Buccaneers don't figure to be pushovers in the race for the NFL title. Todd Halleran/Allsport

By B. Duane Cross, CNNSI.com

Don't hitch up to the Washington Redskins' Super Bowl bandwagon just yet.

While the Redskins were hailed as having one of the better drafts during April's annual meat sale, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have made out like bandits. And based on the Bucs' recent draft history, this year's crop will lend a hand in driving them toward a berth in Super Bowl XXXV.

Tampa Bay is loaded with homegrown talent, including six of its seven first-round choices since 1995. In '98, the Bucs did not have a first-round selection, but did have two second-round choices -- Jacquez Green and Brian Kelly, both of whom still are on the roster.

Toss in Keyshawn Johnson, the New York Jets' No. 1 pick in the '96 draft who was acquired prior to the 2000 draft, and Tampa Bay's numbers are even more gaudy.

In fact, of Tampa Bay's 43 draft choices since '95, 22 still are on the active roster. There are 12 of 16 selections still remaining from the 1998-99 drafts.

While 51 percent of the Bucs' choices still remain, 16 of 35 (46 percent) of the 'Skins' picks still suit up for Washington. Among those for Washington, only seven of 13 selections remain from the 1998-99 drafts.

The only blemishes on the Bucs' recent draft boards are 1995-96, where only five of 17 picks remain. However, included in those five are Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and Mike Alstott.

The Bucs' depth chart has 10 starters listed who have been drafted since '95:

  • 1999 draft -- quarterback Shaun King and place-kicker Martin Gramatica;
  • 1998 draft -- receiver Green and linebacker Jamie Duncan;
  • 1997 draft -- running back Warrick Dunn and guard Frank Middleton;
  • 1996 draft - running back Alstott and cornerback Donnie Abraham;
  • 1995 draft -- defensive tackle Sapp and linebacker Brooks.

    Washington's depth chart lists eight starters who were drafted between 1995-99. Only four players chosen during that time remain as backups -- including the 'Skins' first three choices of the '97 draft: defensive end Kenard Lang, linebacker Greg Jones and linebacker Derek Smith.

    Eight Tampa Bay players are listed as second-teamers: defensive tackle Anthony McFarland ('99), safety Dexter Jackson ('99), cornerback Kelly ('98), safety Shevin Smith ('98), receiver Reidel Anthony ('97), tackle Jerry Wunsch ('97), linebacker Alshermond Singleton ('97) and defensive tackle Marcus Jones ('96).

    All this adds up to the fact the Bucs are young, experienced and primed for a run at the throne.

    In April, Tampa Bay drafted five players: guard Cosey Coleman, linebacker Nate Webster, tight end James Whalen, safety David Gibson and quarterback Joe Hamilton. Coleman could see significant playing time this season, as could Whalen under the new offensive scheme to be implemented by coordinator Les Steckel.

    Buccaneers Director of Player Personnel Jerry Angelo recently spoke to online users as to just what went on in the Bucs' war room in April. It was clear the Bucs had a plan. For instance, if Hape does not return, Whalen takes the backup spot behind starter Dave Moore.

    Exactly how does Whalen fit in? "Well, we hope, just the way he fit into the [Kentucky] Wildcats' system," Angelo said. "We feel strongly that he has very good talent, great football character. We feel that, again, coach Steckel has a tight end-driven offense and we feel that [Whalen]'s going to find his niche here. He's more of an H-back than he is a true tight end. We saw that role with [Frank] Wycheck in Tennessee, so we hope James comes in and in a year or two time finds that same niche here."

    Proving late-round savvy akin to Green Bay's renowned general manager Ron Wolf, Angelo feels Tampa Bay may have landed the plumb of the late rounds.

    "We watched a lot of Joe Hamilton. I know all the media people throughout the draft, particularly on the second day, were talking about Joe and saying, 'Boy, this is the best player available.' They just kept going on and on," Angelo said. "I don't know if that influenced us. Maybe subconsciously it did, but we feel that Joe has got some magic to him, not unlike Doug Flutie when he came out of Boston College. A lot of things have to happen for Joe for him to play at that level for us, but we feel that he's going to be a fun guy to watch."

    It's hard to argue against the Bucs' recent draft history, something Angelo obviously takes a lot of pride in.

    "It's a culmination of a lot of things," he said. "It starts with a good team -- I'm talking about a good personnel team. We have excellent scouts, in my opinion. I know I'm a little biased, but I would say even if you ask our competitors they would echo the same things that I'm saying about [the Buc scouts].

    "We've worked together for a goodly amount of years," Angelo said. "I've been here 14 years, Tim Ruskell's been here 14 years. It's not that we think alike, but we understand how each other thinks and we're on the same page. What we try to do is not so much look for the great finds. I think we're all wanting to do that, but we want to be solid. We don't want to make the big misses. We've eliminated that. We have a formula that we use on each player that we all go through and we've had pretty good success, particularly in the last five or six years."


     
    Related information
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    CNNSI.com's Chat Reel with Joe Hamilton
    Key acquisition: Johnson signs $56M deal with Bucs
    CNNSI.com's Chat Reel with James Whalen
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    For Buccanners, Coleman worth the wait
    SI's Peter King: 2000 NFL Draft report card
    James Whalen's draft diary
    CNNSI.com's 2000 NFL Draft comprehensive coverage
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