The Five Greatest Bucs Drafts

April 10th, 2017

Tampa Bay’s only Hall of Fame voter, Ira Kaufman, pens columns for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and Ira churns out his popular podcasts here Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can also listen to the award-winning podcasts on iTunes or Podbean. After 89 years covering the NFL, Ira still brings it.


The Rich McKay-bashers out there in Buc Land aren’t going to like this column, but here goes.

In poring over the best drafts in franchise history, McKay’s fingerprints are all over the merchandise. In his first three years as Tampa Bay’s GM, McKay pulled the trigger on three of the five most productive drafts in Buc annals.

Those three hauls from 1995-97 are bookended by the inaugural 1976 draft and the 2015 harvest that is still bearing fruit.

With future Hall of Fame executive Ron Wolf running Tampa Bay’s football operations in ’76, the Bucs chose Lee Roy Selmon with the first overall pick.

Not a bad way to start.

Selmon became the first Buc honored with a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and people who saw him play on a weekly basis tell me he was even better than advertised, an unstoppable force off the right edge on a three-man line.

But Wolf didn’t stop there. He followed up with Lee Roy’s older brother, linebacker Dewey Selmon, in Round 2 and grabbed Steve Wilson in the fifth round.

Dewey was a tackle machine in the middle of that 3-4 alignment while Wilson was converted from tackle and started at center for seven seasons.

Those picks helped set the stage for a franchise that advanced to the NFC title game in just its fourth year.

McKay, son of Tampa Bay’s inaugural head coach John McKay, opened with a 1-2 salvo that has rarely, if ever, been equaled by a first-year GM in the NFL.

In selecting Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks in the opening round of the 1995 draft, McKay ultimately provided Lee Roy Selmon with company in Canton.

Third, Fourth And Fifth

The next year saw the Bucs draft Mike Alstott, Donnie Abraham and Marcus Jones. Alstott is still Tampa Bay’s career leader with 71 touchdowns, Abraham was a five-year starter at cornerback and Jones followed up a seven-sack season in 1999 by posting 13 in 2000.

McKay and his scouting staff were far from finished, however, because 1997 ushered in Warrick Dunn, Jerry Wunsch, Frank Middleton, Ronde Barber and Al Singleton.

That’s five starters from one draft class, including a potential Hall of Famer in Barber, who will be eligible for the first time in 2018.

Rounding out the Top 5, we turn to the 2015 draft presided over by current Bucs GM Jason Licht. The early returns are quite impressive.

Instead of listening to the Jameis Winston detractors, Licht locked onto the charismatic Florida State quarterback from the start and never wavered.

After taking Winston No. 1, Licht added left tackle Donovan Smith and right guard Ali Marpet in the second round before stealing middle linebacker Kwon Alexander in Round 4.

In landing four key starters in four successive picks, Licht helped a young team grow together and emerge from a 2-14 disaster.

Weaving Winning Philosophies

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, who worked with Licht in the desert, isn’t surprised by Tampa Bay’s impressive haul.

“Jason knows how to put a roster together,” Arians says. “And I think he feels very comfortable with Dirk Koetter. We had a great relationship in Arizona. You don’t always agree, but you get along and you make decisions for the team. Other teams might not have a player that high on the board — we don’t care. They fit us. You draft for your coach and your team, no matter what anyone else’s grades are, and that’s why Jason will succeed in Tampa.”

Bucs co-owner Joel Glazer says he judges GMs by their draft success. On that score, Licht should feel confident heading into this year’s opportunity.

“In New England, I learned the value of putting players on the board in the right way in terms of what they’re going to do for us — being specific in how you grade players,” Licht says. “With Philly, I learned leadership style from coach Andy Reid, making your staff realize how important they are in the process and empowering them to do their job. I also learned about taking blame when things go wrong and giving credit where it’s due.

“In Arizona, with Bruce Arians and (GM) Steve Keim, I saw a collective process, with everybody on the same page … being bold, not afraid to do things out of the ordinary.”

Buc fans have come to expect boldness from Licht on draft day. Last year’s second-round gamble on Roberto Aguayo has yet to pay off, but Licht won’t be afraid to wheel and deal again when the festivities begin April 27 in Philly.

One more solid haul should ensure Licht’s long-term security at One Buc Place. Having already turned in one of the most accomplished draft cards in franchise history, Licht figures he’s only just begun.

12 Responses to “The Five Greatest Bucs Drafts”

  1. gotbbucs Says:

    In other words….don’t just go with what the mock draft “expert analysts” say. This isn’t a guy that will listen to the outside voices telling him what he should do. He’s looking for fits for this team, and this team only. It’s not always going to be BPA. If the Roberto Aguayo pick proved anything, it’s that this guy looks waaaaaay outside the box.

  2. Pickgrin Says:

    I like Licht’s history of identifying players that he wants and doing what it takes to get those targets. He was obviously in on the tanking for Winston. He moved up for Marpet. Moved up for Kwon. Moved up for Aguayo as well because he was convinced Aguayo would be a difference maker. Right or wrong he sticks to his draft board. And he’s usually right.

    Perhaps most impressive to me was last year when he DIDN’T move up for Spence despite wanting him badly. Jason trusted his intel and his gut as all the other highly rated DE’s came off the board at the top of the 2nd round. I and many others I’m sure were screaming at Licht through the TV to move up for Spence. But he stood pat with balls of steel trusting his gut and was rewarded by getting his man without paying extra. Good stuff!

  3. Dusthty Rhothdes Says:

    Mckay obvioulsy had some great drafts and FA moves even the Keyshawn one that gave up a lot in future #1s but the bucs won the superbowl so the ends justified the means, licht has a lot to learn and long way to go to get to that level, drafting a 2nd round kicker is not a step in that direction when the bucs needed OL and WR help last year, time will tell

  4. The Buc Realist Says:

    I was talking with “someone in the know” about the kicker picked at the bottom of the second round!! We both agreed that if John Robinson did not go to the Titans and knew the game plan, that NFL GM Licht would have waited until the 3rd round!!!!!

  5. tnew Says:

    Pick, I could copy and paste that entire take. I agree 100% there

  6. Dusthty Rhothdes Says:

    Realist great point

  7. d-roca Says:

    I cant wait to see what Lichts got in store for this draft!!! If he gets a top 5 this year we are on our way to a playoff run every season. Finally o finally got the franchise qb. Lets get weapons. Go bucs

  8. Tom Edrington Says:

    Nice article, Ira. Toughest thing about those early years is that free agency did not exist. Back in ’76 they had that awful “expansion draft” where every team put a few guys that they didn’t want anymore into the “expansion draft” with Tampa and Seattle getting to choose from the “unwanted” pile.

  9. Pickgrin Says:

    What’s not really being talked about is the obvious upgrade in evaluating young prospects that has occurred since Licht became GM. Every level of our eval has improved. Our scouts and directors and GM are all looking at these prospects a little differently than most evaluators on most teams do. Not only “differently” but BETTER.

    And how do I know that? Because in the last 2 years – ever since he got his own hand picked front office and scouting teams fully in place – Licht has gotten a 1st round pick with EVERY pick made on day 1 AND 2 – and he also got one on day 3.

    That’s not me saying that – its the GM. PR had an interview with Licht awhile back where Jason said that all 4 of 2015’s 1st 4 picks and all 3 of 2016’s first picks carried 1st round grades. In other words – Winston, D. Smith, Marpet, Kwon, Hargreaves, Spence and Aguayo all were among the top 32 players on the Bucs big board the last 2 years. He even gave the specific that Kwon Alexander was the 28th best player on their board in 2015 (Kwon was drafted with the 124th pick in the 4th round).

    Kwon is the outlier in what I’m saying here but Smith, Marpet, Spence and Aguayo were all drafted quite a few (or more) picks outside the 1st round as well. Even if we count Agauyo as a bust which its too soon to do – then Licht is hitting at an 80% “cha-ching” rate on all his picks in the 2nd round and with Kwon way outside the 2nd round.

    Those 7 picks (plus Evans and minus Aguayo – maybe) constitute the young nucleus of our rapidly improving team.

    But But But he drafted a kicker in the 2nd round… Get over it naysayers.

    This GM is KILLING IT in the draft and he’s going to prove it again this year in the 1st 4 rounds.
    (Unless he moves up in the 1st round for a RB in which case I will not be happy – until that RB runs for 1500 yds and 15 TDs – which come to think of it, Dalvin Cook just might be able to pull off his rookie season…)

  10. The Buc Realist Says:

    mark dominik SUCKS!!!!!!!

  11. aceinthehole Says:

    That comment from PickGrin is the first nominee on my list for comment of the year!

  12. Jeremy Says:

    Man, I thought the year we drafted Gaines Adams over Adrian Peterson would have made the top 5