After disappointing 2004 and 2005 seasons, the Bucs managed to right the ship once again in 2005. On the back of Cadillac Williams' stellar rookie year and an eternally great defense the Bucs got into the playoffs, only to lose to the Redskins in a really ugly game. Chris Simms seemed to be the starting QB of the future for at least a short while (it wouldn't last long). The defense was still aging but still good. The main holes were, as always, on the offensive line where every position had to be upgraded except left guard with Dan Buenning - and that starter would soon be out of the league because of injury issues. The Bucs were still old but they had patched up their team to winning levels in 2005, and with a couple of tweaks maybe they could get into the Super Bowl again in 2006. They'd need a strong draft to do that, though.
Round 1: O-line was the main need, and O-line was exactly what the Bucs decided to fix in 2006, starting with the selection of G Davin Joseph. Joseph has gone to one Pro Bowl as an alternate and started every seasons since his selection - although he's missed quite a few because of injury concerns. When fully healthy, Joseph is one of the best guards in the NFL. Unfortunately he didn't show this in 2010, possibly because of injuries, and he's a free agent right now. The Bucs may want to re-sign him, but if his price is too high they'll let him walk. Joseph is one of the best draft picks of the 2000s, and the Bucs may not even re-sign him. What a shame.
What were the other options: This draft was filled with talented players at the top of the draft. CB Jonathan Joseph, WR Santonio Holmes, TE Marcedes Lewis, C Nick Mangold and LB DeMeco Ryans are just a few of the highly succesful players selected just after Davin Joseph. Every one of these players could have helped the Bucs, but Davin Joseph holds his own among these names.
Round 2: In round 2 the Bucs decided to double up on linemen, taking OT Jeremy Trueblood. The Boston College product started every game until getting injured in 2010, but he certainly isn't without his faults. While Trueblood is a good run blocker, he's a liability in pass protection. And worryingly he has a penchant for costing the team penalties - at first he assaulted players to get some personal foul flags, but when that got old he turned to false starts and holding calls. He seemed to clean up those penalties in 2010, but that didn't prevent him from being Wally Pipped by undrafted third-year player James Lee. The Bucs got 5 years worth of decent starts from Trueblood, which is a good return for a second-round pick. And not many better players were selected right after him either. Only RB Maurice Jones-Drew and T Eric Winston stand out. Of course, the fact that Winston plays the same position as Trueblood, only better, makes the selection look slightly worse.
Round 3: With Michael Clayton's disappointing second year as a pro and Joey Galloway being old, the Bucs needed some reinforcements at WR. They brought in Maurice Stovall out of Notre Dame for that purpose. Stovall is an interesting player. He's been perhaps the Bucs' best special teams player since he was selected, but he could never make much of an impact on the field. His best year came in 2009, when he was forced into a starting role because Michael Clayton sucked and Antonio Bryant couldn't stay healthy. With the influx of young receiving talent and his own injury problems, Stovall couldn't hold on to his starting job in 2010 and his time with the team seems over. Still, the Bucs got 5 years of good special teams play from this selection. Stovall certainly isn't the worst 3rd-rounder in Bucs history. And only two players really stand out, out of the next few picks in the 2006 draft: TE Owen Daniels and G Jahri Evans. The latter is now one of the best guards in football, but the Bucs weren't about to select another guard after their first-round pick. Owen Daniels is a very good and well-rounded TE, but very injury prone. Still, he certainly could've helped the Bucs.
Round 4: And here, the Bucs disappointed again. They had brought in Phillip Buchanon to play across from Ronde Barber, but it was impossible to know how long Ronde could last (at least 5 more years, apparently), and the Bucs needed a long-term cornerback prospect. To that end they selected Alan Zemaitis, a physical cornerback who seemed to fit the Bucs system well. Unfortunately he never got on the field, both due to injuries and poor play. He was released after his rookie season and never played in the NFL. Some players who could have played for the Bucs instead: DE/LB Elvis Dumervil, DE Ray Edwards and DT Kyle Williams.
Round 5: Instead of picking one of those pass rushers in Round 4, the Bucs tried to grab one in Round 5. Of course, this failed - as Julian Jenkins appeared in just 12 games before being released and never playing in the NFL again. Then again, he did win a Grey Cup in 2008 with the Calgary Stampeders. Instead of Jenkins the Bucs could've selected S Charlie Peprah, who isn't a world-beater by any means but did start 11 games for the Super Bowl Champion Packers this season. From that same team, Johnny Jolly could've been a Buc as well. Despite some significant off-field issues, Jolly has been a very good player for the Packers. Lastly, TE Delanie Walker is one of the most underrated tight ends in the NFL and a very valuable player for the 49ers. Surely he could've been of value to the Bucs.
Round 6: Here, the Bucs selected two players: TE T.J. Williams - who never did anything in the NFL - and QB Bruce Gradkowski. Gradkowski was another talent-low but cheap quarterback that Jon Gruden seemed to love so much. He started 11 games as a rookie and wasn't disastrously horrible, but certainly not good either. While he didn't last long with the Bucs, he resurfaced for the Raiders in 2009 and has started 13 games for them since then. Still, that's a lot more than most 6th-round quarterbacks do so I can't really call his selection a failure. And if we look at the other players selected there, Gradkowski doesn't look that horrible. Charlie Johnson is a starting tackle for the Colts, but the Colts O-line is pretty abysmal and protecting a QB who gets the ball away as quickly as Peyton Manning does isn't all that hard. Still, 4 years starting at left tackle regardless of the quality of those starts is pretty impressive for a 6th-rounder. P Sam Koch stands out as well - he's one of the best punters in the NFL really. And then there's S Antoine Bethea who went to the Pro Bowl in 2007. A solid safety who certainly would've been better to have on the team than Sabby Piscitelli in 2009. Similarly, CB Cortland Finnegan was a 7th-round selection for the Titans. Finnegan is a very dirty player, but also a pretty effective player. He's certainly had a better career than Alan Zemaitis, despite getting beat up by Andre Johnson.
Round 7: And then there's the perpetually pointless 7th round. In 2006 the Bucs had 3 7th-round selections and wasted all 3 of them. Justin Phinisee never made it to an NFL roster. LB Charles Bennett appeared in 3 games but only as a special teamer, and TE Tim Massaquoi managed to make it to 11 games as a special teamer. One 7th rounder who stands out like a sore thumb: Marques Colston, the Saints #1 receiver. A big, physical wide receiver he's very similar to Maurice Stovall. Except Colston is a threat in the passing game.
I do have to mention the undrafted free agents here, though, because that group of players got the Bucs Donald Penn - their franchise left tackle.
Despite the last few rounds, this was finally a good draft for the Bucs. Although they missed on a few picks, they hit on the top picks and that goes a long way.