Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Biggest Draft-Day Mistakes in Team History
Like every NFL team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had their share of draft-day disasters. Though they've hit home runs in the early rounds (Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks in 1995, Mike Alstott in 1996) and in the middle of the draft (Ronde Barber in 1997, John Lynch in 1993), the Bucs have made some memorable blunders that still bring a painful sigh to longtime fans.
There are plenty to choose from, but here are the eight worst mistakes that the Bucs have made on draft day, from the least nauseating to the downright rage-inducing.
2001: OT Kenyatta Walker (14th Overall)
When the Bucs traded up seven spots to take Walker with the 14th overall pick, they expected to get the franchise left tackle they had been missing since Paul Gruber. Tampa Bay's offensive line coach at the time, Chris Foerster, went so far as to call Walker one of the best linemen he'd evaluated in 10 years.
Instead, Walker struggled at left tackle and spent most of his Buccaneers career at right tackle. He did start 73 games over six seasons in Tampa Bay, but he never developed into an elite player for the team.
2008: WR Dexter Jackson (58th Overall)
It's not often that a late-second-round pick can be considered a huge draft mistake. But when that pick is a receiver who failed to catch a single pass with the team that drafted him, the term applies.
A speedster from Appalachian State, Jackson had a far lesser impact than the Bucs' Super Bowl XXXVII MVP of the same name, averaging an anemic 4.3 yards per punt return and seeing very few snaps on offense. The Bucs quickly admitted their mistake, cutting him during the preseason the following year.
He returned briefly to the NFL in 2011 with the New York Jets but failed to stick on the roster when the regular season began.
2005: RB Cadillac Williams (5th Overall)
After being the second Auburn running back who was chosen in the top five in 2005, Williams started strong out of the gate. He became the first rookie in NFL history to begin his career with three straight 100-yard games, and his 434 rushing yards were the most in league history over a player's first three games.
However, a string of unfortunate injuries derailed his career, and he never duplicated his 1,178-yard rookie season. Williams suffered separate tears of the patellar tendons in both knees a year apart and never rushed for more than 1,000 yards again in his seven-year NFL career.
1993: DE Eric Curry (6th Overall)
Curry was the first of multiple Crimson Tide pass-rushers who didn't pan out in Tampa Bay. He and his Alabama "bookend" counterpart John Copeland were taken back-to-back in the 1993 draft after being dominant forces in college. But both were huge disappointments at the next level.
Curry's five sacks as a rookie were the highest total he would post in any of his NFL seasons, and he finished his five years in Tampa Bay with a paltry 12 sacks over his 59 games played. Making matters worse, the Bucs passed on Willie Roaf and Jerome Bettis, who were taken just a few picks later.
2007: DE Gaines Adams (4th Overall)
There was much talk leading up to the 2007 draft about the Bucs possibly trading up for Calvin Johnson. Hindsight is 20/20, but Bucs fans sure wish that would have happened.
Instead, the Bucs remained at the fourth pick and addressed their need for a pass-rusher, a position that hadn't had a dominant presence since Simeon Rice. Adams came highly touted following a junior season that saw him put up 12.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss.
But he never became the feared edge-rusher that Tampa Bay had anticipated, managing just 13.5 sacks over 37 games in a Buccaneers uniform. As with many of the picks on this list, the disappointment was made greater by the number of eventual NFL stars that the Bucs passed on, including Adrian Peterson, Darrelle Revis, Patrick Willis and Marshawn Lynch.
The Bucs traded Adams to the Chicago Bears halfway through the 2009 season for a second-round draft pick (which they used on another defensive lineman whose career came to a sad end, Brian Price). Tragically, the 26-year-old Adams passed away in 2010 of cardiac arrest due to an enlarged heart.
1996: DEs Regan Upshaw (12th Overall) and Marcus Jones (22nd Overall)
Having a pair of first-round picks is a luxury every NFL team loves to have. But it makes it twice as painful if both picks disappoint.
The Bucs double-dipped at defensive end in the 1996 draft, grabbing Upshaw (California) and Jones (North Carolina) to turn a weak spot into a position of strength.
Upshaw, however, would manage just 18.5 sacks over four seasons with the Bucs, never becoming the top pass-rushing threat they envisioned. Jones racked up 13 sacks in 2000 but could only muster 11 more across his other five seasons with the Bucs.
As with many of the mistakes on this list, these picks were made worse by the players whom the Bucs could have had instead. Upshaw was taken seven picks before the Colts chose WR Marvin Harrison, and Jones was taken four slots before LB Ray Lewis was drafted by the Ravens.
1990: LB Keith McCants (4th Overall)
After a dominant career at Alabama, Keith McCants was expected to bring the same impact as a pass-rusher to Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, he never lived up to the hype.
He tallied just 12 sacks in 42 games as a Buccaneer and headed out of town after just three seasons in Tampa Bay. Adding salt to the wound, the San Diego Chargers also chose a linebacker with the very next pick: Junior Seau.
For McCants, things only got worse for after his football career. His on-field disappointments have paled in comparison to his struggles with drug addiction, memory loss and physical pain. He has been outspoken about making sure current players learn from his ordeals.
1986: RB Bo Jackson (1st Overall)
One of the greatest natural athletes in sports history, Vincent Edward "Bo" Jackson was a star at Auburn on both the gridiron and the diamond. But what the Bucs thought would be a golden opportunity in the 1986 draft turned out to be the worst draft-day gaffe in franchise history.
As Jackson outlined in ESPN's 30 for 30 special about his career, he faulted the Buccaneers' ownership for making him ineligible to continue playing collegiate sports. That being the case, he told Tampa Bay owner Hugh Culverhouse that if he was drafted by the Bucs with the top overall pick, he would refuse to sign.
The Bucs did indeed draft him, who kept his word and opted to play baseball instead. Jackson would later play in the NFL for the Raiders, but he never played a snap for the team that spent the No. 1 overall pick on him.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.