A tale of two classes
Not quite Charles Dickens but definitely better than Charles McRae when it comes to looking at Buccaneer rookies.
There is little doubt that the 2010 draft class is shaping up to be one of the best in franchise history, perhaps even to rival the number of starters that the 1987 class did under Ray Perkins. Of course that one was tempered by the fact that Perkins was like Old Mother Hubbard when he inherited a bare cupboard of talent from his predecessor Leeman Bennett.
But when you compare the current rookie class to the one from three years ago, that is when you really see the reason for not just the dramatic improvement in the fortunes of the Buccaneers this year, but also the reason for its decline in the two years before.
The top pick in 2007 was of course the late Gaines Adams. The 4th overall selection who regressed through his career into a complete draft bust but did eventually bring a 2nd round pick from the Bears before he passed away earlier this year from a heart disorder.
The two second round picks (thanks to the Colts taking Booger McFarland off our hands in 2006) were Arron Sears and Sabby Piscitelli. Arron of course is out of football and has had mental issues that led to his arrest in Tampa earlier this week. And where would the Bucs be without Sabby missing tackles in the secondary and occasionally downing a punt inside the opponents' 5-yard line?
Tanard Jackson was the 4th round pick and is currently suspended by the NFL for falling foul of their substance abuse program. So it is just Quincy Black and Adam Hayward who remain contributing at the linebacker spot and neither have really set the world on fire so far.
Now fast forward three years to the 2010 class. Nine players, only one of whom (punter Brent Bowden) failed to make the final roster and all bar two of whom have started games so far this season. And this doesn't even include undrafted free agent LeGarrette Blount.
Gerald McCoy is showing signs of why he was selected third overall and spent more time in the Panther backfield last weekend than Jimmy Clausen. Every Buc fan knows about Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams starting at receiver and the rest of the NFL is beginning to take notice of them too.
Throw in Cody the Grimm Reaper at free safety, Dekoda Watson at linebacker last weekend alongside FB (and converted DE) Erik Lorig, and you have six starters in their first NFL seasons. Brian Price is on IR instead of the defensive line and only Myron Lewis is missing out having been the last defensive back on the roster most of this season.
Actually that is nothing to be afraid of either Buccaneer fans. The last third round pick the Bucs had in the defensive secondary who was inactive most of his rookie season was a guy named Barber. Ronde Barber.
Now what none of us have is a crystal ball to indicate where our current rookies will be in three years' time. Both Gaines Adams and Tanard Jackson looked pretty good at the end of their rookie seasons too.
But what the Buccaneers do have right now is a young nucleus of talented rookies to build around. You can throw blame for the 2007 disasters anywhere you want but any NFL team in the last decade could point to a particularly bad draft year.
This small three-year comparison really does indicate though that we are watching one of the best Tampa Bay draft classes of all time.
You've been great, enjoy Mica Paris.