IF BOBBY BEATHARD CALLS COLLECT ON DRAFT DAY, ACCEPT THE CHARGES
In two strong drafts since Dungy arrived, the Buccaneers have been both lucky and good. In 1996 they had four of the first 41 picks. They used their two first-rounders on Regan Upshaw, a defensive end from Cal who started 16 games last season and is off to a solid start in '97, and Marcus Jones, a defensive tackle from North Carolina on whom the jury remains out.
Back-to-back home runs followed. With their first selection in the second round the Bucs snatched Alstott, of whom Dolphins defensive end Trace Armstrong said after Sunday's game, "He's the best fullback in the league. The NFL hasn't seen a power runner like this kid in a long time." Since Riggins.
Tampa Bay was poised to select East Tennessee State cornerback Donnie Abraham with the 41st pick when the phone rang: It was Beathard, general manager of the San Diego Chargers. Would the Bucs be willing to trade that pick for the Chargers' first-rounder in 1997? This is what is known as a no-brainer. Tampa Bay agreed. San Diego used the second-round choice to take wide-out Bryan Still, who has caught 13 passes in his career. The Bucs used the first-round pick—this year's 16th selection—on Anthony, who, along with fellow rookie Warrick Dunn, has taken a lot of pressure off Dilfer.
What became of Abraham? To Tampa Bay's delight, he was still around in the third round of the 1996 draft. Dungy made him a starter five games into last season. In a recent poll of coaches and general managers conducted by SI, Abraham was projected as an All-Pro in 2000. "Yet when we took him in the third round," recalls McKay, "the conventional wisdom was that we took him too high." Tongue in cheek, he adds, "God help us if we'd taken him in the second."
You've got to love a general manager so willing to...
SCREW CONVENTIONAL WISDOM
Much tongue-clucking followed the Buccaneers' selection of Dunn with the 12th pick in this year's draft. At 5'8" and 178 pounds, Dunn, a star running back at Florida State, was projected by many observers as a third-down back who could return some kicks. "We thought he'd be better than that," says McKay. "And we decided, if that's all he is, we'll take him, because we desperately needed somebody to make big plays."
Dunn's specialty, it turns out, is demoralizing opponents with back-breaking long runs. Or, in Sunday's case, runs after the catch. While Miami gave him little on the ground (11 carries, 17 yards), Dunn caught six passes for 106 yards. With the Tampa Bay offense stuck in a third-and-29 hole with a little more than nine minutes to play, the Bucs' coaches powwowed. Offensive coordinator Mike Shula, who called a terrific game, wanted to throw deep. Tight ends coach Clyde Christensen lobbied for a screen pass. Christensen prevailed, and Dunn went 58 yards for the touchdown that iced the game.
Dunn stood in the dressing room afterward, poker-faced, devoid, like every other Buccaneer, of any trace of giddiness. Recalling the touchdown, he scowled, saying, "I was long overdue."