clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Buccaneers' 1997 draft class played a ridiculous 1,175 games

New, comments
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers apparently had the single most productive draft class of the 1994-1999 seasons. In 1997, the players they drafted combined to play 1,175 games and start 772 over their careers, according to Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders. He looked at every draft class in the NFL over that period, and the Bucs did so well in that single year that there's a bigger difference between them and the second-place 1999 Denver Broncos class, than between that Broncos group and the 1998 Eagles' draft.

The Bucs' draft class is also far ahead in terms of AV (374 to second-place 1995 New England's 314), though it actually comes in second in production for the team that drafted these players: the 1996 Baltimore Ravens, which included Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden and future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, got 52 more points of AV, and the 1995 Bucs' class, the one with Hall of Famers Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp, 25 more points. The fact that the Bucs have two of the top three drafts in terms of AV for their specific team presumably has a lot to do with their run of late '90s and early '00s success.

The best-known player in the Bucs' 1997 draft class was, of course, third-rounder Ronde Barber. He played in a whopping 241 games, starting 232 without missing a single game between 1998 and his retirement in 2013. And all of that for the Bucs. First-round pick Warrick Dunn played in a whopping 181 games, starting 154, almost exactly half of those numbers for the Bucs. Add in Reidel Anthony's 73 games, Jerry Wunsch's 113, Frank Middleton's 109, Alshermond Singleton's 130, Patrick Hape's 124, and Al Harris' 194 and you've got a ridiculous group of players. Only two of the team's 10 picks produced fewer than 70 games in the NFL: sixth-rounder Nigea Carter, and seventh-rounder Anthony DeGrate, neither of whom played a down in the NFL.

That draft didn't actually produce a lot of the team's 2002 Super Bowl champion roster. Several players had moved on at that point -- most notably Dunn, Anthony, Wunsch and Middleton. In fact, only Barber and Singleton were still with the team for the Super Bowl, though the our aforementioned players and Patrick Hape were all on the team's 1999 team that was one catch removed from that Super Bowl.

The Bucs might have something similar brewing with their 2014 draft class. They managed to get four rookie, full-time starters out of it in Jameis Winston, Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet and Kwon Alexander. Kenny Bell missed all of last season with an injury, but he's still a potential future starter. It's still early, but we're allowed to be optimistic about these things, right?

Perhaps even more important than the team's amazingly productive 1997 draft, was the fact that none of their '94-'99 drafts were mentioned among the 23 least productive groups . The Bucs not only had two stellar drafts, they were consistent in adding talent to their team. That's something the Bucs have been searching for ever since firing Tony Dungy and Rich McKay. So far, Jason Licht seems to be doing a good job. Here's to hoping that continues.