Those words will end up shaping our franchise probably more than we think currently. Taking any player in the first round comes with high expectations,
hold outs big money and hopefully lots of talent, but it also can come with the tag of franchise player, savior, or next big thing. Some players wilt under the pressure while others become fixtures in the Pro Bowl. Freeman is seen as the positive version to the Buccaneers organization; a young, strong, athletic quarterback that will be at the helm of the team for years to come. It is also the chance to do what Gruden and company never did; Establish a young quarterback and (hopefully) watch both him and team flourish.
The front office and fans alike hope Freeman doesn't become another tale of a first round draft pick that was wasted. Picks like that are widely panned and end up defining a coach, GM and even a team if they turn sour. (Ryan Leaf/San Diego, Alex Smith/San Francisco, Courtney Brown/Cleveland).
But how has the 17th pick been viewed in years past? It's high enough to get a superstar player, but low enough where you don't anticipate getting a game changer. One feature idea that several sites run over the years leading up to the draft is a historical look at how that number pick (in our case it was 19 going into the draft) has done in years past. What boom or bust players have gone with that pick? Well, seeing as how everyone looked at the 19th pick and analyzed that, I think it's fair game to take a look at where we actually picked, 17th in the round. Here's a look back at 10 years worth of #17 picks as well as QB's who have gone in a similar range.
2008 - Gosder Cherilus - T - Boston College (Detroit Lions). Aside from playing with the Lions, he had a solid year. With only a year under his belt (and playing for Detroit) it's hard to make any generalization about him at this point. (Joe Flacco went with the 18th pick)
2006 - Chad Greenway - LB - Iowa (Minnesota Vikings). Blew out his knee his rookie year, but has been a starter the last two years. To date, the Vikings seem to like what they see. Put up over 100 tackles in his first two full seasons and have 5.5 sacks last year.
2004 - D.J. Williams- LB - Miami (Denver Broncos). Became a starter for the Broncos and had a huge 2007 season, 2008 shortened by injury. Averaging 6.6 tackles a game over his career and 8.6 a game in his last two seasons. Bates was his Defensive coach in his big 2007 year (Losman went 22nd)
2003 - Bryant Johnson- WR - Penn State (Arizona Cardinals). Not worth the first rounder, but averages 40 catches and 500 yards a season. Currently seen as a 3rd WR. Taken anywhere else in the draft he is seen as a moderate success, but the first round expectations have left his name being run through the mud. (Boller went 19, Grossman 22)
2002 - Phillip Buchanon - DB - Miami (Oakland Raiders). We have first hand experience with Mr. Buchanon. Solid player, but not a shut down corner. Bounced around the league a bit, and opted for Detroit in 2009.
2001 - Steve Hutchinson - G - Michigan (Seattle Seahawks). A true anchor on an offensive line. Great guard, Pro-Bowler, and first guy to have the poison pill put in a contract offer (I think). Shaun Alexander can thank Hutch for his monster contract.
2000 - Sebastian Janikowski- K - Florida State (Oakland Raiders). Good kicker, but I've got to think the Raiders would like a re-do on this one. No kicker in today's game is worth a first rounder, even if he is a beloved 'Nole. (Pennington went 18th)
So where does that leave us? 10 players, with 4 do-overs (Janikowski, Johnson, Pollack, Moss), 1 too early to tell (Cherilus), 3 viable NFL starters (Buchanon, Williams, Greenway) and 2 players to build around (Hutchinson, Woody). Not a bad place to pick, but more players below their expectations than above.
Looking at the quarterbacks taken in the same range as Freeman, if we label Flacco as a "too early to tell", quarterbacks in that range haven't fared too well. Not exactly a glowing endorsement for fellow mid-first rounder Josh Freeman. The good news is that successful players, successful quarterbacks can come from any round, We've seen #1's succeed (Manning), 6th round picks (Brady) and un-drafted grocery store clerks (Warner) become the face of a franchise. Freeman's fate is up to him and the coaching staff to a lesser degree.
So what does this mean? To be honest, it doesn't mean a thing. In my opinion, there is no way you can directly extrapolate a player's future performance and worth based on where they are picked. If that were the case, all the number 1's would perform the same, there would be no busts. Historically, teams view first round picks as their chance to find a game changer, but just by looking at the 17th pick, it seems there's about a 50/50 shot. We have a few years before we can really assess Freeman, but let's hope that he and the staff take the right path with him and in a few years, that #17 pick turns into a player who leads our team into the playoffs every year.
Moving forward, it's up to Freeman. He'll undoubtedly get the full support of the coaching staff, as they've hitched their employment wagon to the young quarterback. If he succeeds, Morris and Dominik will be heralded for their keen insight and intelligent scouting. If he fails, it won't be long before Morris and Dominik are forced to go down with the ship. A few years from now, we'll either look back and call Freeman "The Franchise" or we'll be calling him a cab to get the heck out of town. But one thing is for sure, he'll always be the first pick made my the new regime.
Ladies and gentleman, let's start crossing our fingers for the 17th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Josh Freeman.