Could any Bucs player be rookie of the year?

by Gary Shelton on July 5, 2017 · 0 comments

in general

Monday, 4 a.m.

Can any of them be good … right … now?

Can any of the Bucs' lauded draft class be good from the start? Can any of them have an instant impact? Can any of them be among the league's pacesetters?

Can any of the Bucs' draft picks be among the best players in the league?

It's a lot to ask. The Bucs picked only 19th in the league, which means that for every O.J. Howard, there is a Leonard Fournette. For every Justin Evans, there is a Jamal Adams. For every Chris Godwin, there is a Corey Davis.

But sometimes a team gets lucky.

And, sometimes, there is more help than you would have thought in the beginning.

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Over their history, of course, the Bucs have had success with their rookies, perhaps more than with a lot of their veterans. The team has had two Pepsi Rookies of the Year (Jameis Winston in 2015 and Cadillac Williams in 2005). It's had four Rookie of the Years: Lawrence Dawsey in '91, Santana Dotson in '92, Warrick Dunn in '97 and Williams.

The team has had 53 players earn all-rookie honors by the various sites that pick such teams. Some of those were great players: Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Doug Williams, Paul Gruber, Doug Martin and Mike Evans. And some of them were forgettable: Eric Curry, Gaines Adams, Sidney Coleman, Mike Williams, Mark Barron and Michael Clayton.

Several of the Bucs have a shot at an all-rookie team. Howard was the top tight end drafted. Evans should be able to get into a playing rotation at safety. Kendell Beckworth has a shot to be the strongside linebacker. Jeremy McNichol should see carries at running back.

But one of the big awards?

The odds seem to be against it. Other teams appear ready to ride their rookies harder. In getting rookie awards, opportunity is a big deal.

One reason to be optimistic? Unlike the days of Williams and Vinny Testaverde and Keith Browner, this year's rookie group can grow at its own pace. That doesn't mean the Bucs don't want them to help as soon as possible, but the fatal flaw of this franchise is that, too many times, it has asked a rookie to be among its best players.

This year? Howard should start in the Bucs' double-tight end formations. Evans should get into a rotation at safety. Chris Godwin will play when the Bucs go to a four-wideout set. Beckwith should start. McNichols should get some carries.  Stevie Tu'ikolovatu will play in situations.

Will they measure up to the Bucs' rookies that have come before them?

We'll see.

The Bucs' 10 best rookies:

1. Jameis Winston, quarterback (2015 Pepsi Rookie of the Year): Winston threw for 4,042 yards and 22 scores. His team tripled its win total from the previous year.

2. Mike Evans, wide receiver (2014 All-Rookie team): Evans was a star as soon as he landed. In his first year, Evans caught 68 passes for 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns.

3. Doug Martin, running back (2012 All-Rookie team): Martin ran for a career-high 1,452 yards and 11 touchdowns. He's come close only once since then.

4. Michael Clayton, wide receiver (2004 All-Rookie team): Talk about a flash in the pan. In 2004, Clayton caught 80 passes for 1,193 yards. He never caught half that many in another year. People forget how good he was for a short period of time.

5. Cadillac Williams, running back: (2005 Pepsi rookie of the year): Williams started out like gangbusters, setting a record for yardage in his first four games. He ended up with 1,178 yards, the best year of his career. Williams was the rookie of the week three times and rookie of the month once.

6. Warrick Dunn, running back (1997 Rookie of the Year): Dunn ran for 978 yards and caught 39 passes for another 422 yards).

7. Errict Rhett, running back: Rhett had 1,011 yards in his first season for the Bucs. An ill-fated holdout ended things for him here.

8. LeGarrette Blount, running back: (2010 All-Rookie team). Blount, an undrafted rookie,  ran for 1007 yards and six touchdowns.

9. Santana Dotson, defensive tackle: (1992 Defensive Rookie of the Year): Dotson had 10 sacks in his rookie year. He had a solid career for Green Bay.

10. Lavonte David, linebacker: (2012 All-Rookie team): David had 112 tackles as a rookie, leading the team.

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