I think, someday soon, we need to agree upon a definition for the term “draft bust.” There needs to be some accepted criteria, because as it stands, it has no meaning. It’s synonymous with some of the biggest flops in NFL history (as it should be), but is also used to categorize successful players who fell short of fan expectations. Where’s the middle ground?
The brains at ESPN spent the offseason creating the Total Quarterback Rating to help gauge a passer’s impact game-by-game or season-by-season. It’s a completely situational metric, measuring and ranking players by efficiency instead of the surface statistics with which we’ve become so comfortable. It adds a bit of perspective to our opinions.
The formula is far beyond my mathematical capabilities, created by a group of statisticians a whole hell of a lot smarter than I am. So surely, developing a static definition for one of the most thrown around words in NFL circles–“bust”–would be an elementary practice.
The following men might be busts. They were drafted by the Bucs in the first 100 picks, and none of them lasted more than three seasons in Tampa Bay. Injuries, contempt, cowardice, and a sheer deficit of talent cost each of them professional success, and if the term “bust” is ever defined, I’m positive that several would fit the bill.
But until then, let’s call them what they are. They’re potential on which the franchise mortgaged its future. Educated gambles that didn’t pan out. Wasted, ill-advised selections in the NFL Draft.
Simply, they’re the five worst picks in Buccaneer history.
5. Chris Colmer (91st overall, 2005)
The Buccaneers nabbed offensive lineman Chris Colmer late in the third round, hoping the NC State standout would overcome some severe physical setbacks and reach the ridiculous potential foreshadowed in an outstanding college career. Chris missed his senior season with a rare nerve affliction called Parsonage-Turner Syndrome. He was granted a sixth year of eligibility, showed almost no dropoff in skill or athleticism, and was drafted to be Tampa’s starting tackle.
He failed to crack the lineup in 2005, and over 16 games, never saw on-field action. The next season, his Parsonage-Turner syndrome flared up and forced him on the Injured Reserve list, and he never regained his football shape. He was cut in 2007 without logging a single snap in red and pewter.
4. Brett Moritz (44th overall, 1978)
Brett Moritz was a lean, athletic guard who split his college career between Army and the University of Nebraska. John McKay was in love with him as a prospect, and drafted him in 1978 to add some depth to the offensive line.
Things didn’t exactly work out.
Moritz played in six games during his rookie season and never sniffed the starting lineup. He proved a liability on special teams, whiffing on easy blocks and hesitating to engage defenders. Halfway through the season, he injured his back and was relegated to injured reserve. And like Chris Colmer, he’d never play for the Buccaneers again.
3. Dexter Jackson (58th overall, 2008)
Danny Peebles occupies this spot on most lists. Peebles was a second-round selection, and outside of Deion Sanders, was the fastest player in the 1989 draft. His speed and athleticism measured off the charts, but in four years with the NC State Wolfpack, he had almost no college résumé to speak of.
Dexter Jackson was the 21st century incarnation of Danny Peebles. Jackson averaged only 28 catches, 462 yards, and 4 touchdowns a season playing for Division-II Appalachian State, and was inexplicably drafted in the second round by the Bruce Allen regime. Jackson was selected to be the heir-apparent to deep-threat Joey Galloway, and as the plan dictated, would return kicks until he was ready to run routes against NFL defenses.
But Jackson was afraid of contact. The minute receiver would crumple to a heap before any defender could lay a hand on him, and his timidity got him cut from the roster in 2009. The second-round pick finished his career with a miserable zero catches.
2. Booker Reese (32nd overall, 1982; 18th overall, 1983)
The Buccaneers wanted Booker Reese in the first round of the 1982 NFL Draft. Inexplicably, in a fashion fit only for the fledgling Buccaneers, they selected Sean Farrell. On accident. Bucs trainer Pat Marcuccillo, Tampa Bay’s representative at the NFL Draft, had been instructed to fill out two selection cards. One card had Reese’s name and one had Farrell’s, and Marcuccillo was to wait on a phone call instructing him on which card to turn in.
After some deliberation in the front office, the Buccaneers decided to select Booker Reese. They made the call to Marcuccillo saying, “We’re not drafting Farrell. We’re taking Reese. Turn in the card.” But, according to the legend, Marcuccillo only caught snippets through a bad phone connection: “We’re…drafting Farrell…turn in the card.”
He did as instructed, and the front office panicked. They traded away the eighteenth overall pick in 1983 to select Reese at the top of the second round. Booker Reese responded by recording two sacks in 24 games, struggling through injuries, and developing a drug habit that would eventually land him in prison. Ironically, Sean Farrell spent five seasons anchoring the right side of Tampa’s offensive line and developed into one of the better lineman to pass through Tampa Bay. John McKay should’ve let Pat Marcuccillo make all of his picks.
1. Bo Jackson (1st overall, 1986)
The Buccaneers drafted Bo Jackson with the first overall pick in 1986, and in four short seasons as a professional running back, he became one of the most electrifying and celebrated athletes in the history of North American sports.
But he did it in the wrong uniform.
Jackson was a dual-sport athlete and Heisman Trophy winner out of Auburn who could’ve made a career in baseball or football. He hadn’t quite made up his mind about a preferred professional avenue, so Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse did his best to nudge him in one direction. He chartered a private plane to taxi Jackson on a visit from Alabama to Tampa, effectively voiding Bo’s college baseball eligibility. And while he was in Florida, several players on the Buccaneers’ roster dissuaded him from joining the team, citing poor ownership and a lack of commitment toward winning.
When the draft rolled around, the Buccaneers spent the first pick in the draft on the phenom runner from Auburn. They offered him the largest rookie contract in NFL history, but Jackson declined and pursued a career in Major League Baseball.
The Buccaneers never secured his rights, and were never compensated for the pick. They’re the only team in the modern era to spend the first overall choice in the NFL Draft and receive nothing in return.