Before we get to reminisce over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft class from 9 years ago, let me fill you in on the 2004 draft as a whole. Eli Manning went first overall to the New York Giants San Diego Chargers, and Manning included, 38 players drafted in 2004 have seen at least one Pro Bowl, second only to the 2003 draft class (42). This draft also broke records with the most wide receivers taken in round 1 (7), the most first round trades (28) and the first time two quarterbacks taken have started and won multiple Superbowls (Eli, Big Ben). Some notable players that went undrafted this year were Jabari Greer, George Wilson, Vonta Leach, and Tyson Clabo. Even Willie Parker and Wes Welker -among others- didn’t hear their name called.
As for the 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, we had just missed the playoffs for the first time since ’98. Warren Sapp and John Lynch were sent packing. Keenan McCardell held out before finally being sent to the Chargers and overall things were not going smoothly. As for needs approaching the draft, Tampa was looking to get young at WR, deeper at offensive line, and overall deeper on defense. Actually, their 2004 defensive line entering the draft reminds me a lot of today’s front four.
Now I am only discussing the Tampa Draft Class of ’04. So although they entered the league the same year, you will not hear about former Buccaneers like Derrick Ward, Kellen Winslow II, Niko Koutouvides, Luke McCown or even current player Nate Kaeding.
Without further Ado:
1st Round (13th overall) – Michael Clayton – WR – LSU
We had already lost out on the likes of Larry Fitzgerald and Roy Williams, so drafting Michael Clayton seemed like the next logical choice. However, players like Devery Henderson, Jerricho Cotchery, Wes Welker and Patrick Crayton were left on the board.
On the NCAA champion LSU Tigers, Clayton averaged 7 touchdowns, over 60 catches and 860 yards per season. He broke many school records, some of which still stand over a decade later.
He kept this trend going for his rookie NFL season. In 2004 Clayton led all rookies, and the Bucs, with 80 grabs for 1193 yards and had 7 scores. All of this was done with three different quarterbacks starting throughout the season. Brad Johnson was benched in favor of Chris Simms, who was then injured. Brian Griese then took over until Chris Simms was healthy again…in week 17.
This turned out to be the only full season Clayton would play as the next few years were marred by injury. He never started 16 games in a season and minus the start to 2006 he never lived up to his rookie campaign. Many causes could be blamed for Clayton’s underproduction. He could never stay healthy. He never had the same quarterback for a full season causing a lack of chemistry. Or maybe his rookie season was just plain beginners luck. Either way, a player that showed alot of promise, just couldn’t deliver.
Clayton was re-signed in ’08 giving him a chance at salvation, but he was dropped before the start of the 2010 season. Other than stints as an injury replacement on the Giants, and in the UFL Clayton never materialized as the dependable wide receiver he was perceived to be. His final career stats were starting 56 of his 95 games played, and catching 223 balls for 2955 yards and 10 touchdowns. If you takeaway his rookie season, those numbers are very miniscule.
Now Michael can be seen in the Tampa area where he runs the Michael Clayton Foundation. Once a year he holds a celebrity basketball game to raise money for this cause.
2nd Round (45th overall) – Jon Gruden – HC –Oakland Raiders
Wait, what?!?! That’s right. We were still paying off the Raiders for acquiring Chucky. They used this pick on Center Jake Grove from Virginia Tech. He played for the Raiders until joining Miami for the 2009 season. Due to injuries, Miami cut him in 2010 and he has not re-signed with another team.
3rd Round (79th overall) – Marquise Cooper – LB – Washington
Marquise Cooper had 27 tackles over 2 seasons with the Bucs and was released prior to the 2006 season. He signed with the Vikings for two months, Steelers for one, and then finished the season in Seattle before being released. In ’07 Cooper had similar luck, starting the season in Pittsburgh only to be released a few weeks in, getting claimed by the Jaguars for a week, and then back to the Steelers where he finished the season. He signed on with the Raiders in 08. Marquise Cooper finished his career with 37 total tackles and had never started a game.
Many people will remember Marquise as one of the victims of a fishing boat accident, involving four football players, in March 2009. Corey Smith, who the Buc’s drafted in 2002, Will Bleakley, Nick Shuyler and Cooper set out to sea on a fishing trip. After an accident, Shuyler was the sole survivor and the other three men were never found.
4th Round (111th overall) – Will Allen – S – Ohio State
Will Allen made his mark in college history as a 2003 first-team All-American, however, he made his mark in people’s memories as the player that caused Willis McGahee to miss his rookie year in the NFL after a brutal leg injury in the Fiesta Bowl.
After being drafted, Will was a strong special teamer in Tampa for the 2004 season. Due to injuries, he was injected into the starting lineup for half of the season in 2005, and all 16 in 2006 in which he had a career year with 77 total tackles. This would be his only full season starting to date. In 2008 Will was a special teams captain and in ’09 a first alternate special teamer for the pro bowl. He was re-signed to Tampa for a year in 2009 but had very little impact. In 2010 Allen signed with the Steelers and made moderate contributions. A week ago he signed with the Dallas Cowboys and is a favorite to start at Free Safety. Only time will tell if he can use this fresh start as a chance to prove himself.
5th Round (146th overall) – Jeb Terry – G – UNC
Terry spent the 2004-2006 seasons in Tampa starting only one game in the latter. This would prove to be his only career start. Jeb spent time on the practice squad in ’07 and same for the 49ers in 2008. Now he is acquiring his Master’s Degree at UNC, as well he co-founded Gridiron Ventures with former Buccaneer Ryan Nece. This company is currently working on an app called Gridiron Grunts, an outlet for directly following NFL players.
6th Round (181st overall) – Nate Lawrie – TE – Yale
Lawrie holds the record for most receptions as a TE at Yale. After being drafted by Tampa he was waived prior to the 04 season. He went to the Eagles Practice squad but was then signed by Tampa. He made a couple appearances on the active roster seeing time in 7 games over the 04-05 seasons making 1 catch. His next tour was in New Orleans where the Saints grabbed him in the end of 05 but waived him in November of ’06. After that, he had short stops with the Ravens, 49er’s and again with the Eagles, sometime in the UFL and a couple stops with the Bengals that proved to be his most productive playing time with 5 starts. In total, Nate had mere career numbers of 4 catches for 43 yards. Now he is the Cirector of Business Development for a company that makes stormdoor hardware, as well as founder and President of Laurie Leasing, a real estate investment company.
7th Round (206th overall) – Mark Jones – WR – Tennessee
SIDE NOTE: Tampa sent Darian Barnes FB, and their 7th round pick (216 overall) to Dallas to move up ten spots for Mark Jones. Dallas used that pick on WR Patrick Crayton.
In college at Tennessee Jones was a WR, S, and Punt and Kick returner.
Tampa waived Jones prior to the 2004 season, but the New York Giants picked him up. He started 14 games as a punt returner and even lined up at WR and DB at times. He missed his last two games that season with an injury and was waived shortly after. Tampa picked Jones up prior to the 05 season where he started every game as a punt returner finishing the season with a league high 51 returns for 492 yards. 2006 wasn’t nearly as impressive and in 2007 Jones suffered an injury and was placed on IR. In ’08 the Chargers signed Jones but waived him prior to the season. The Panthers swiftly picked him up for the year and his numbers were close to those of 2005. In 2009 the Titans signed him but he made very little impact and was cut just after the season. Now Mark Jones is a pharmaceutical salesman and personal trainer in the Tampa Bay area.
7th round (228th overall) – Casey Cramer – FB – Dartmouth
SIDE NOTE: Tampa sent S David Gibson to the Colts for this pick
Casey played tight end in college posting desirable numbers leading the position in 2002 and going All-American.
He was cut from Tampa’s roster and appeared in the practice squads for the Jets and Titans before being signed by the Panthers for the 04 season. He played 7 games over the next two seasons starting 1. In 2006 the Titans signed him and for the next 2 seasons, Cramer played in 20 games (most of them in 06) but again only starting 1. After being cut prior to the 08season, Miami signed Cramer in week 2 as an injury replacement. He scored his only career touchdown there but was waived before the end of the season and despite a third trip with the Titans, never saw playing time again.
7th Round (252nd overall) – Lenny Williams – CB- Southern
Lenny didn’t make the Bucs roster, and was picked up for the Dallas Cowboys practice squad during the 04-05 season, Lenny Williams never was able to materialize a career in the NFL. He played in the CFL for the Edmonton Eskimos from 2007-2009.
And that’s it. That was the totality of our 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneer Draft Class. A lot of promise and some flashes of brilliance. But overall I’m sure we all had higher hopes, as the class failed to produce any players who would make lasting impacts on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.