Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers filled their need for speed in the NFL draft. Now they have to hope the league's lowest-scoring offense can improve in a hurry.
Tampa Bay used its two first-round picks to select two of college football's whiz kids -- Florida State running back Warrick Dunn and Florida receiver Reidel Anthony.
At 5-8, 176-pounds, Dunn is considered small by NFL standards but could provide the Bucs with the firepower he displayed as a three-time, 1,000-yard rusher.
The explosive Anthony, who caught a school-record 18 touchdowns last season for the national champion Gators, gives the Bucs another explosive receiver to start opposite Horace Copeland.
"Speed. Great speed, really,'' said coach Tony Dungy of his first-round picks. "You've got Warrick, who might be one of the fastest college players in the country. You've got Anthony, who is probably the fastest player on Florida's team. But now all of a sudden, you've got scoring potential. You can score from anywhere on the field. That's what those two guys bring and that's what we needed.''
Dunn was a personal favorite of Dungy and the two hit it off at the NFL combine in February.
"I talked to Warrick Dunn at the combine and asked him, `What's the best thing you do?' said Dungy. "He said, `Score touchdowns.' That went a long way.
"I don't want it to sound like an emotional pick. Everybody in our front office likes Warrick Dunn.''
The selection of Dunn clouds the future of running back Errict Rhett.
He is under contract for another season for $398,500, but wants to renegotiate his deal. Even though Dunn is not an every-down back, the Bucs worry how he will react to having 10 or fewer carries per game and about his influence in the locker room.
"That situation is going to take more looking into,'' said general manager Rich McKay. "That's going to depend on some things, including Errict Rhett himself.''
In the second round and third rounds the Bucs were able to address their needs on the offensive line.
They were delighted Wisconsin tackle Jerry Wunsch was still available in the second round. And they filled a need at guard in the third round with Arizona tackle Frank Middleton.
The second day was less exciting but provided the Bucs with some valuable backups and special team players.
"We have a chance to be substantially better,'' said McKay. "Because I think we've upgraded our talent, which is what you have to do every year.
"As far as the draft in general, the first day from our perspective was a 10. We had two goals in mind going into the draft. No. 1 was to add speed. No. 2 was to add size on offense and those were accomplished.''
Round 1/12 -- Warrick Dunn, RB, Florida State
With Errict Rhett and Mike Alstott, the Bucs lack speed in the running back position and Dunn gives them, perhaps for the first time in club history, someone at that position who can go the distance. But at 5-8, 176 pounds, the Bucs admit they will have to be careful how to deploy him. Dunn rushed for 3,959 yards and 49 touchdowns in his career at Florida State. The Bucs think he can be used on third down and some on first down, as well as a kick returner. Most applaud the selection of Dunn, although the Bucs admit they reached a bit by making him the 12th overall selection when he likely would've been there at 16.
Round 1/16 -- Reidel Anthony, WR, Florida
The Bucs made sure they did not come out of the first round without a speed receiver who could start as a rookie opposite Horace Copeland. They were split between Florida's Ike Hilliard and Anthony, but liked Anthony's big-play making ability. Although he has a slight build at 5-11, 183 pounds, the Bucs think he will get bigger. Anthony was highly productive at Florida, catching 76 passes for 1,363 yards and 17 TDs and the Bucs preferred production over the potential of a receiver like Miami's Yatil Green. With speed on the outside, the Bucs hope defenses will stop ignoring the pass and quit putting eight men in the box. Anthony also was a dangerous kick returner at Florida. A good pick, unless Rae Carruth has a better career.
Round 2/37 -- Jerry Wunsch, OT, Wisconsin
The Bucs were in desperate need of a right tackle and offensive line help in general. They felt fortunate that Wunsch fell to the second round. He looks and sounds like a run-blocking version of Paul Gruber, whom he idolized growing up in Wisconsin. At 6-5, 327 pounds, he gives the Bucs a big lineman who won't be shoved around. Wunsch is expected to eventually win the starting right tackle job over Jason Odom, who will become the Bucs swing tackle and is more suited for the left side.
Round 3/63 -- Frank Middleton, OG, Arizona
The Bucs on Friday matched the one-year, $800,000 offer sheet from the Denver Broncos for guard Jim Pyne. But with Ian Beckles an unrestricted free agent, they needed to address this position. Having already nabbed a tackle in the second round, they picked Middleton, who began his career as a defensive lineman and has a serious case of the nasties. At 6-3, 324 pounds, he is bigger than any guard the Bucs have had in decades and should help their inside running game.
Round 3/66 -- Ronde Barber, CB, Virginia
Twin brother of Virginia RB Tiki Barber. The Bucs had a lot of success drafting Donnie Abraham in the third round last season out of East Tennessee State and he led all NFL rookies in INTs with five, emerging as a starter. Needing to replace veteran Martin Mayhew, who is an unrestricted free agent but might be re-signed, the Bucs hope the same for Barber. If there is a downside, he only ran a 4.66 in the 40-yard dash. But the Bucs prefer to look at instincts, rather than speed at this position.
Round 4/128 -- Alshermond Singleton, LB, Temple
Having lost strong side linebacker Lonnie Marts to free agency when he signed with the Houston Oilers, the Bucs needed to find some depth and an eventual starter at this position. Veteran Rufus Porter will get the first snaps, but Singleton could push him and will provide the Bucs with a solid special teams player as a rookie. At 6-2, 224-pounds, he will have to beef up a little but fits the Bucs' penchant for collecting smaller, quicker linebackers. Although from a weak football program, he was highly productive and finished third on Temple's career tackle list.
Round 5/137 -- Patrick Hape, TE, Alabama
The Bucs have just two solid tight ends on the roster in Jackie Harris and Dave Moore. Harris is in the final year of a four-year contract that pays him $1.9 per season and has been prone to injury. Hape provides the Bucs with another good run blocker, although he has limited pass-catching ability. He caught just 24 career passes in four seasons at Alabama.
Round 6/169 -- Al Harris, CB, Texas A&M-Kingsville
The Bucs have had quite a bit of success at plucking players out of this school. Receiver Karl Williams and Jorge Diaz saw extensive playing time as free-agent rookies last season. Harris played some safety in college, but the Bucs project him as a cornerback. At 6-0, 180 pounds, the Bucs like the idea of developing a bigger cornerback.
Round 6/197 -- Nigea Carter, WR, Michigan
The Bucs were pleased to see Carter fall to the 6th round. From the same city of Coconut Grove, Fla., as Harris. Already 6-1, 176 pounds and expected to get bigger, Carter also has decent speed at 4.55 in the 40-yard dash. Because of Carter, the Bucs say they are out of the market for a free-agent receiver like Qadry Ismail. With Alvin Harper likely to be cut and Courtney Hawkins not likely to be re-signed, Carter has a decent chance to make the club.
Round 7/209 -- Anthony DeGrate, DT, Stephen F. Austin
DeGrate did not play football from 1993-95 due to academic reasons, but returned to Stephen F. Austin to start only five of 11 games. Was 11th on the team in tackles with 28 and recorded one sack. At 6-1, 333 pounds, he's heavier than any current Bucs defensive lineman and could stuff the running game. Very strong man who has bench-pressed 500 pounds. A longshot to make the club, but worth the gamble.