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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have several needs heading into the 2009 NFL Draft. Some could be addressed in free agency, but others will be dealt with in April.
One of the positions of need for the Buccaneers is wide receiver. Both of Tampa Bay's starters – Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton – are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on Feb. 27. In addition, Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard will turn 38 and 33, respectively, this year.
Tampa Bay also has Maurice Stovall and Dexter Jackson under contract, but the former third- and second-round draft picks haven't lived up to expectations thus far, and Brian Clark, Paris Warren and Cortez Hankton are considered training camp bodies.
The Bucs are interested in re-signing Bryant and have been negotiating with his agent. If a deal isn't reached soon the Bucs could opt to franchise Bryant, which would guarantee him $9 million. Tampa Bay can certainly afford to do that given it is roughly $46 million under the salary cap.
Some believe Tampa Bay should invest its 2009 first-round draft pick in a wide receiver. The last time the Bucs did that was in 2004 when the team selected Clayton out of LSU.
Michael Crabtree (Texas Tech), Jeremy Maclin (Missouri), Percy Harvin (Florida) and Darrius Heyward-Bey (Maryland) are considered first-round draft picks this year. Each player is extremely talented, but sometimes success at the college level doesn't translate into success in the NFL, especially for first-round wide receivers.
Over the past decade (1999-08), 40 different wide receivers have entered the NFL as first-round draft picks. Would you believe that over half of them (57.5 percent to be exact) have not given teams a fruitful return on their investment?
Take a look for yourself.
PERFORMED WELL Calvin Johnson (Detroit) – 2nd overall pick – 2007 NFL Draft 126 catches for 2,087 yards (16.6 avg.) and 16 touchdowns
Ted Ginn Jr. (Miami) – 9th overall pick – 2007 NFL Draft 90 catches for 1,210 yards (13.4 avg.) and four touchdowns.
David Terrell (Chicago) – 8th overall pick 2001 NFL Draft 128 catches for 1,602 yards and (12.5 avg.) and nine touchdowns
Koren Robinson (Seattle) – 9th overall pick 2001 NFL Draft 294 catches for 4,244 yards (14.4 avg.) and 16 touchdowns
Rod Gardner (Washington) – 15th overall pick 2001 NFL Draft 242 catches for 3,165 yards (13.1 avg.) and 23 touchdowns
Freddie Mitchell (Philadelphia) – 25th overall pick 2001 NFL Draft 90 catches for 1,263 yards (14.0 avg.) and five touchdowns
Peter Warrick (Cincinnati) – 4th overall pick 2000 NFL Draft 275 catches for 2,991 yards (10.9 avg.) and 18 touchdowns
Travis Taylor (Baltimore) – 10th overall pick 2000 NFL Draft 312 catches for 4,017 yards (12.9 avg.) and 22 touchdowns
Sylvester Morris (Kansas City) – 21st overall pick 2000 NFL Draft 48 catches for 678 yards (14.1 avg.) and three touchdowns
R. Jay Soward (Jacksonville) – 29th overall pick 2000 NFL Draft 14 catches for 154 yards (11.0 avg.) and one touchdown
David Boston (San Diego) – 8th overall pick 1999 NFL Draft 315 catches for 4,699 yards (14.9 avg.) and 25 touchdowns
Troy Edwards (Pittsburgh) – 13th overall pick 1999 NFL Draft 203 catches for 2,404 yards (11.8 avg.) and 11 touchdowns
According to Pewter Report's calculations and study, only 17 of the 40 (42.5 percent) wide receivers taken in the first round have performed well. That means 23 haven't, and while some of the players listed in these two categories are subject to debate, there's no denying that a team's chances of hitting on a wide receiver in the first round of the draft are about 50-50 at best.
Even more telling is the fact that many of the more successful wide receivers in the NFL today did not enter the draft as first-round picks, rather they were selected in rounds 2-7, or even undrafted, evidenced by some of the examples listed below.
Chad Johnson (Cincinnati) – second round 2001 NFL Draft 612 catches for 8,905 (14.6 avg.) and 53 touchdowns
Steve Smith (Carolina) – second round 2001 NFL Draft 509 catches for 7,348 yards (14.4 avg.) and 43 touchdowns
Anquan Boldin (Arizona) – second round 2003 NFL Draft 502 catches for 6,496 yards (12.9 avg.) and 40 touchdowns
Antonio Bryant (Dallas) – second round 2002 NFL Draft 333 catches for 5,085 yards (15.3 avg.) and 26 touchdowns
Bernard Berrian (Chicago) – third round 2004 NFL Draft 198 catches for 3,161 yards (16.0 avg.) and 20 touchdowns
Greg Jennings (Green Bay) – second round 2006 NFL Draft 178 catches for 2,844 yards (16.0 avg.) and 24 touchdowns
Marques Colston (New Orleans) – seventh round 2006 NFL Draft 215 catches for 3,000 yards (14.0 avg.) and 24 touchdowns
Lance Moore (Cleveland) – undrafted free agent 2005 112 catches for 1,240 yards (11.1 avg.) and 12 touchdowns
Wes Welker (San Diego) – undrafted free agent 2004 319 catches for 3,461 yards (10.8 avg.) and 12 touchdowns
No wide receivers were taken in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft, and perhaps that's because the risk outweighed the reward. A few of the teams that waited until the second round to select wide receivers last year were not disappointed. That includes Denver (Eddie Royal) and Philadelphia (DeShaun Jackson).
After the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft concludes, there's a good chance talented wide receivers like Kenny Britt (Rutgers) and Hakeem Nicks (North Carolina) could be available if they do not post great 40-yard dash times. The Bucs could also consider drafting Derrick Williams (Penn State) and Mike Wallace (Ole Miss) after the first round.
It's clear the Bucs need to address some needs at the wide receiver position. They need to get younger and add more vertical threats for the offense new offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski is implementing in Tampa Bay.
The Bucs could tap into a few different resources to do that, but history and percentages indicate Tampa Bay's safest bet in terms of addressing the wide receiver position is through free agency, a trade or after the first round of the NFL Draft.
Next week we'll take a look at the quarterback position to determine how risky it is to select a signal caller in the first round of the NFL Draft.