After a succesful 2005 season the Bucs had gone into 2006 with high hopes, but came out with only concerns. 2005 Rookie of the Year Cadillac Williams regressed in 2006, in part because of injuries. Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood started early in their careers, but the offensive line was still a mess, and left tackle was the biggest need there. And as always, the QB position was still the domain of journeymen and no franchise QB was anywhere in sight. On defense everyone was getting older. Ronde Barber and Derrick Brooks were starting to decline, Simeon Rice was released because he refused to take a pay cut and Chris Hovan was supposed to anchor the defensive line now. There were holes all over the once proud Bucs defense. The lone bright star for the Bucs was WR Joey Galloway, who despite his age was still playing well. Unfortunately young Buc Michael Clayton couldn't follow his lead.
First Round: Because of the terrible 2006 season, the Bucs had the honor of picking 4th in the draft. Jon Gruden desparately wanted to pick WR Calvin Johnson, but Bruce Allen wouldn't trade up for the star wide receiver. The rumored #2 player on the Bucs draft board was Joe Thomas, the standout tackle out of Wisconsin. Both Johnson and Thomas were gone by the time the Bucs picked, and they were left with DE Gaines Adams. While Adams is now mostly remembered because of his tragic death due to an enlarged heart, he never lived up to his draft status for the Bucs. Adams had only one move, and that was a speed rush around the tackle. Unfortunately, that one move wasn't enough to survive at the NFL level and he gathered 13.5 sacks and 2 interceptions for the Bucs in 2.5 years. That's not terrible for a second-round defensive end, but it's far, far below the level expected of a 4th overall pick. The Bucs wisely traded him to Chicago during the 2009 season for a 2nd-round pick, used to select Arrelious Benn in 2010.
What were the other options: The 2007 Draft had plenty of talent at the top of the draft. Adrian Peterson was selected just a few picks after the Bucs, although selecting a first-round running back with injury concerns just 2 years after selecting Cadillac would not have made a lot of sense. But Patrick Willis, Darrelle Revis and Jon Beason were all available at that time among others. All these players would have made tremendous additions to the Bucs defense, and they could've been the focal points for a rebuilding effort on that side of the ball. And there was some talent available later in the draft at DE as well: LaMarr Woodley, Anthony Spencer and Charles Johnson are some of the defensive ends that have made a significant impact in the NFL.
Second Round #1: The second round features another tragic story. This is where the Bucs selected G Arron Sears. The Tennessee product had a great start to his career starting 31 games and playing very well in all those games. He seemed to be the anchor of a young and promising offensive line, along with Davin Joseph. Unfortunately Sears started to change mentally during the 2009 offseason, and hasn't played in a game since then because of mental health issues. He's been arrested numerous times and has been in psychiatric care. He is currently in jail awaiting a court appearance on April 6 for a battery on a police officer. Hopefully Arron Sears will get some professional help and will be able to straighten out his mental problems, and his life.
Second Round #2: The Bucs had another pick in the second round, courtesy of Tony Dungy who thought Booger McFarland was worth that much. It's pretty safe to say he was wrong about that, but he did win the Super Bowl with McFarland on the roster. Of course, if you look at the player the Bucs ended up selecting they would've been better off keeping McFarland. Because that player's called Sabby Piscitelli, and he's arguably the worst safety ever to start a game for the Buccaneers. And he didn't just start one game, he started five games in 2008 and 15 in 2009. If you could lay the blame of all the long plays the Bucs defense gave up in 2009 at the feet of one player, it would be Sabby's. He was constantly out of position and missed more tackles than anyone in the NFL during the 2009 season. And when he got on the field because of Cody Grimm's injury in 2010, the Bucs promptly gave up a 65-yard touchdown pass to Todd Heap - certainly not the fastest pass catcher out there. A busted coverage was the reason for that defensive failure, and it certainly looked like Sabby was at fault there. The fact that Sabby was released before the next game was even played speaks volumes. That's not to say that Sabby was entirely useless, he was after all a good special teams player. But that's the only thing he was good at.
What were the other options: A number of players the Bucs could've selected instead of Sears or Piscitelli stand out. There's the Falcons G Justin Blalock. Not as good a player as Sears, but at least he's still playing. TE Zach Miller is one of the best in the NFL at his position, and both a capable blocker and receiver. Sidney Rice had an outstanding 2009 season but has been mediocre at best in his other seasons. Lamarr Woodley we've already talked about, but not Steve Smith - the Giants version. A great receiver when healthy, although he is pretty injury-prone. Finally, C Ryan Kalil is a great player for the Panthers and would not have looked bad at all in pewter and red.
Third Round: In the third round, the Buccaneers selected raw but very talented linebacker Quincy Black. This was certainly a succesful selection, Black started most of the 2009 and 2010 seasons, with the latter being cut short by injury. That's certainly good for a third-round pick, and Black has been a bit of an impact player in those starts as well, with 1 forced fumble, 2 interceptions and 3.5 sacks. While Black isn't a star by any means, despite Raheem Morris's attempts to talk him up, he is a solid player who has played his role well with the Bucs. And there aren't really any better players the Bucs could've selected at that point. The best third-rounder outside of Black may be DT Brandon Mebane, WR James Jones or DE Charles Johnson. But none of them have been dominant either.
Fourth Round: And in the fourth round, tragedy struck a Bucs player again. This time the Bucs selected Tanard Jackson, a standout cornerback out of Syracuse with some character concerns. Jackson was quickly converted to safety with the Bucs, started from day one - one of the few rookies to do so under Monte Kiffin - and quickly became one of the best young safeties in the NFL. Unfortunately he also became one of the many troubled young players in the NFL, being suspended for 4 games in 2009 for violating the substance abuse policy. Then in 2010, he was suspended indefinitely for violating the substance abuse policy again, and won't be eligible for reinstatement until the third game of the 2011 season. A very talented and good player may have killed his own career. The worst thing: Jackson was clearly the best 4th-rounder that year, too. 49ers S Dashon Goldson has played in more games but isn't close to the player Jackson is, and Clint Session may be the only other player to come close. OT Jermon Bushrod, OT Doug Free and FB Le'Ron McClain are other decent players the Bucs could've selected instead of Jackson.
In the fifth round the Bucs decided to take another DE, it was to be Greg Peterson this time. He managed to appear in 12 games for the Bucs, gathering 1.5 sacks. Largely a non-factor, this isn't too good for a high fifth-round pick, but it's not bad either. And it's not like the Bucs passed on a plethora of good players either, although WR Steve Breaston and TEs Kevin Boss and Brent Celek do stand out.
Sixth Round: A succesful sixth-round pick! It's Christmas miracle! The Bucs weren't quite that bad, and this sixth-round pick hasn't exactly blown anyone away, but the fact that he managed to stick around until now is pretty good anyway. LB Adam Hayward has been a standout special teamer during his tenure here, and a capable backup linebacker. He got a shot at significant playing at the end of 2010 when Quincy Black ended up on injured reserve, and he showed he was a capable player. 4 years on the roster is good for a sixth-round pick, and he has probably earned himself at least the right to compete for the starting job in 2011.
Seventh Round: And then of course, there's the traditional seventh round of suck. This time, there were three failed selections: OT Chris Denman, DB Marcus Hamilton and RB Kenneth Darby. Denman didn't even see the field in any NFL game, Hamilton appeared in a few games as a special teamer, and Darby managed to make it to one game, but at least he got 2 carries in that game. Darby is actually playing for the Rams now, and has appeared in 40 games over 3 seasons for them, but his career with the Bucs was short and irrelevant.
Overall, this draft was one of wasted potential. The Bucs selected a talented defensive end first overall, but he never turned his talent into production before he tragically passed away. The Bucs got 2 great years out of Sears, but he ran into mental health issues and is now out of the NFL. Sabby Piscitelli had all the athletic talent in the world, but none of the football intelligence to do something with it. Quincy Black has even more athletic potential and has turned himself into a solid starter, but not a standout. Tanard Jackson threw away his talent and production by doing drugs, although there's a good chance he'll be back at some point. So much potential gone to waste.