Decade of Drafts: 2001 - O-Line concerns

The Bucs opened the decade with a very poor draft in 2000. Having traded away their first round picks for Keyshawn Johnson, their best player from that draft was a mediocre guard who started just 4 seasons. For all intents and purposes, the 2000 draft was a failure. What's worse was that the 2000 Bucs couldn't replicate the success of 1999 and were embarrassed by the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. The offense still wasn't up to par and the defense couldn't carry the team by itself. Shaun King wasn't the answer at quarterback, and the offensive line was weak. The Bucs brought in free agent Brad Johnson at Quarterback, and he performed well immediately. But the offensive line was a mess, and no suitable replacement for long-time left tackle Paul Gruber, who retired after the 1999 season, had been found. The Bucs knew they had to do something about that. 

First (and Second) Round: Before the draft, Kenyatta Walker was seen as one of the top offensive tackles in the draft. Yet on draft day Leonard Davis was selected 2nd overall as the first tackle off the board, but Kenyatta Walker was skipped over again and again. When the 14th pick rolled around the Bucs had had enough, and decided to trade their first- and second-round picks to the Bills to move up and select the top prospect. Selecting a top offensive tackle prospect was a good move, but Kenyatta Walker turned out to be a disappointment.

The name Kenyatta Walker will elicit some frustrated screams from Buccaneers fans. At times he seemed like a penalty waiting to happen, and he was incapable of playing the lef tackle position well. After his rookie season he moved to right tackle, where he would play the rest his career. He would start for the Bucs for 6 seasons, and was eventually released after a season-ending knee injury in 2006. While he started at right tackle for a Super Bowl-winning team, Walker was never an above-average player and never came close to living up to his draft status. 

What were the other options: Jeff Backus was selected 4 spots behind Kenyatta Walker. And while Backus certainly isn't a solid player, he has started 10 seasons for the Lions at left tackle without missing a single game and is a better player than Walker ever was. Matt Light is the other main left iackle to come out of the draft. He was selected in the second round by the New England Patriots, and he's started for them at LT ever since. Light has gone to 3 Pro Bowls and has been a major part of one of the top offensive lines in football, winning 3 Super Bowls in the process. 

Interestingly, there weren't any great players for the Bucs to select who also would've filled a need at that position. Steve Hutchinson was selected 3 picks later and was at one point the best guard in football. Nate Clements was a good cornerback who crashed when he got his big payday for the 49ers, and Santana Moss has been a solid receiver for most of his career but not much more than that. While this draft was filled with talent and a lot of teams came away with some great players, not a lot of them were selected where the Bucs took Walker.

 

Third Round: Having traded their second-round pick to move up in the first round, the Bucs selected Dwight Smith in the third round. The safety played for the Bucs for 3 years and started 2 of those years. A career highlight came in Super Bowl XXXVII, when he picked off 2 passes and returned both for touchdowns. That's not a terrible result for a third-rounder, although it's not good either. Still, Dwight Smith was actually one of the best safeties selected in the draft and in fact one of the more productive players to be selected in the third or fourth round.

Fourth Round: In the fourth round the Bucs selected safety John Howell. While Howell stayed with the Bucs for 4 years, he was a career backup and never really contributed much for the Bucs. He was a serviceable backup, which is a decent return for a fourth-rounder. One interesting prospect who was selected just one pick after Howell was Ryan Diem, who started as a guard but moved over to right tackle after two seasons and has started at that position for the Colts ever since. 

Fifth Round: But instead of selecting Diem, the Bucs selected Russ Hochstein in the fifth round. Hochstein was a waste of a pick for the Buccaneers, as he was only active for one game in his career. The Patriots thought they could get more out of him, and he did well enough to remain a backup guard through the 2008 season. After that he moved to Denver, again as a backup. Staying in the league for 10 years, even as a backup, is a solid accomplishment for a fifth-round pick. Too bad it wasn't with the Bucs.

Sixth Round: Considering the average accomplishments of sixth-round picks, the Bucs actually did very well in the sixth round . They got 5 seasons of serviceable full-back play from Jameel Cook, which is fairly decent for a sixth-round pick. Ellis Wyms stayed with the Bucs for 6 years as a backup and actually had a some good years in 2002 and 2006 with 5.5 and 5 sacks respectively. Interestingly enough the only player selected later than Ellis Wyms to ever earn a Pro Bowl invitation was T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Overall, that's a pretty decent result for the Bucs. 

Seventh Round: Of course, the seventh round wasn't nearly as good for the Bucs. None of the three draft picks Dauntae' Finger, Than Merrill and Joe Tafoya made it to a regular season roster for the Bucs, and Dauntae' Finger hasn't even done enough to warrant a Wikipedia page. 

Overall, the 2001 draft wasn't kind to the Bucs, but it wasn't as bad as the 2000 draft either. The Bucs got some serviceable players from this draft who contributed in several ways, though it will always be tainted by the memory of Kenyatta Walker. 

Previous Installments:

2000 Draft

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