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NFL draft| April 26-27

Bucs seek playmaker (or two) in NFL draft

Over the past two seasons, Joey Galloway has 13 of the Bucs’ 18 touchdown catches by receivers.


Over the past two seasons, Joey Galloway has 13 of the Bucs’ 18 touchdown catches by receivers.


Jon Gruden believes speed kills in the NFL, but the wheels came off of his offense when receiver Joey Galloway headed to the locker room late in the Bucs' wild-card playoff loss to the Giants last season.

Galloway, 36, was ineffective with a shoulder injury, struggling to get off the line of scrimmage. The team's receiving leader in yardage and touchdowns the past three seasons finished the game with just one catch for 9 yards.

The Bucs have lots of big, possession receivers who can make catches in traffic, players such as Michael Clayton, Maurice Stovall and even crafty veteran Ike Hilliard.

But Galloway is the only one with the jets on his feet to blast past the secondary and put the ball in the end zone. He has accounted for 13 of the 18 touchdown receptions by Bucs wideouts in the past two seasons.
"Do we need to add a little more explosiveness? Yeah," Gruden said. "Because you never have enough of it.

"Hopefully, (new receiver) Antonio Bryant, (new tight end) Ben Troupe or one of our younger receivers can step up. We need Clayton or Stovall — we need somebody to start hitting the ball out of the park consistently."

Shortly after that playoff loss in January, the plea for more playmakers was issued by both the coach and his quarterback, Jeff Garcia.

Tampa Bay re-signed speedy running back Michael Bennett and arranged a homecoming for 33-year-old Warrick Dunn, who spent the past six seasons in Atlanta.

But drafting skilled offensive players? The Bucs really haven't had a knack for it over the past decade.

The last offensive skill player drafted by the Bucs to make the Pro Bowl was Dunn, a first-round pick from Florida State in 1997. The same year, the Bucs used another first-rounder on Florida receiver Reidel Anthony. He played five seasons for the Bucs and never caught more than 51 passes in a season.

In the past 10 drafts, the Bucs have used 18 selections on skill players — quarterbacks, running backs and receivers (we've excluded tight ends for this comparison). Of those, only Clayton and running back Cadillac Williams were first-round picks.

Clayton led all first-year players in 2004 in receptions with 80 for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns. Williams was named offensive rookie of the year in 2005 after rushing for 1,178 yards and six touchdowns.

But injuries and ineffectiveness have torpedoed their careers. Clayton has just one scoring reception in the past three seasons, and Williams had 3.5 yards per carry in 2006 before tearing the patellar tendon in his right knee last season at Carolina in Game 4.

The Bucs have selected 10 receivers in the past decade, and three (Clayton, Stovall and Paris Warren) remain with the team. Warren and Stovall have combined for 22 career receptions. The Bucs have used four picks on running backs, but only Williams and Kenneth Darby are on the roster.

Four of those picks were quarterbacks. Shaun King, a second-round selection from Tulane in 1999, helped the Bucs to the NFC title game as a rookie and went 10-6 as a starter in 2000 before being relegated to backup. Joe Hamilton, a seventh-rounder from Georgia Tech, spent three seasons as a backup.

Chris Simms, a third-rounder from Texas in 2003, rallied the Bucs to a division title in '05 but struggled as a starter the next season before his splenectomy. He has not played in 18 months and wants to be traded. Bruce Gradkowski, a sixth-rounder from Toledo in 2006, went 3-8 as a starter.

"You'd like to just keep adding as much firepower as you can, a guy who can make a big play … return a punt," Gruden said. "Our return game, we'd like to pick that up."

Picking No. 20 overall, the Bucs could have their choice of receivers. None is expected to go in the top 10, but three or four could be selected in the first round. Michigan State's Devin Thomas has the size (6 feet 2, 215 pounds) and the speed (4.4 seconds in the 40) to be a deep threat and is considered the top receiver in the draft.

There are other guys such as Limas Sweed of Texas (6-4, 215) and James Hardy of Indiana (6-5, 217), who can be productive in the red zone. And no receiver might be more explosive than Cal's DeSean Jackson, although there were some red flags when, at 5-10, he weighed in at 169 pounds at the NFL combine.

There also is good value at running back in the second round and beyond. Rutgers' Ray Rice, East Carolina's Chris Johnson and West Virginia's Steve Slaton could complement any backfield.

"There's players and playas in every profession," Gruden said. "The players, they're the pros. They're the guys you win with — playoff players. You've got to have a passion and self-motivated will to do this."

And a little speed wouldn't hurt, either.

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Mocks galore

Seems everyone with a Web site does a mock draft, but here are a few predictions for the Bucs' No. 20 pick from some reputable sources:

Todd McShay, Scouts Inc.
CB Aqib Talib, Kansas

Don Banks, SI
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Tennessee State

Mel Kiper, ESPN:
CB Mike Jenkins, USF

Pat Kirwan,
CB Antoine Cason, Arizona

Bucs seek playmaker (or two) in NFL draft 04/19/08 [Last modified: Thursday, April 24, 2008 12:12pm]
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