Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
The 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ season saw the downfall of Brad Johnson, Martin Gramatica, and the Buccaneers’ record, as the 5-11 Bucs went into the offseason licking their wounds, ready to kick things into gear for 2005. The team had the fifth overall selection in the 2005 NFL Draft, and with multiple running backs rumored to be selected in the top 10, it was certainly reasonable to think the Buccaneers would target a running back to replace Michael Pittman and start to build up an offense around promising young players at skill positions.
Let’s take a look at how the Buccaneers did in the 2005 NFL Draft, and see where these players have gone since their start in Tampa Bay.
1st Round (5th overall) – Carnell Williams – Running Back – Auburn
Cadillac Williams was half of the dynamic duo of runners from Auburn, and along with Ronnie Brown, the two entered the draft and were compared against each other as prospects. The Bucs wound up with the Auburn running back with the better nickname, and it turned out that they got the more NFL ready back as well. Cadillac started off the season in fine form, rushing for 148 yards against the Vikings and scoring a long touchdown in the fourth quarter to seal a Buccaneer victory. Jon Gruden and the Buccaneer offense would hitch their hopes on the Cadillac, but he might have been given more than he could handle so early in his career. The young runner would start to suffer from leg and foot injuries just a few weeks into his rookie year, and would have to slow down after a record setting start to his career. He would finish his first year with 1178 rushing yards and six touchdowns, and this would earn him Rookie of the Year honors.
The future looked bright for the Bucs’ newest running back, but injuries would prove to be his downfall. His 2006 campaign was a downgrade from 2005, as injuries would slow him down. He would then suffer a gruesome patellar tendon injury in 2007 and sit out for an extended period of time, but pledged he would fight back and play again.
He returned in 2008, only to have the patellar tendon in his other knee suffer the same injury, and find himself on the shelf once again. It was unfortunately health that would hold back Williams, who showed tons of promise in his time in Tampa Bay. He would go on to be a backup in St. Louis in 2011, and has not played in the NFL since.
2nd Round (36th overall) – Barrett Ruud – Linebacker – Nebraska
When Barrett Ruud was selected in the 2005 NFL Draft, it wasn’t because he was needed to play every down at linebacker. Shelton Quarles was still holding down the fort in the middle, so Ruud was brought in to build up depth at linebacker, and give the Bucs more flexibility. It would only be a couple of years before Ruud took over for Quarles, and the former Husker would do what any good middle linebacker should, and tally a ton of tackles when he was handed the starting job.
However, tackle numbers never tell the whole story, and Ruud was never a truly great linebacker at any one aspect of the game. He’s not very fast, not very agile, and not even the best tackler. He did his job fairly well, but was not worth holding on to, and was allowed to leave after the 2010 season. He is now a free agent, after failing to catch on with the Titans or Texans for any extended period of time. He is still likely to be invited to a camp this offseason and given a chance to make a team, as he can still play linebacker at a somewhat decent level.
3rd round (71st overall) – Alex Smith – Tight End – Stanford
The second player named Alex Smith to be drafted in 2005, the tight end version of Alex Smith paid immediate dividends for the Buccaneers, scoring twice in his first game with the Bucs. Those would be the only touchdowns he’d score in his first year, but he put up respectable numbers for a tight end. He would continue to put up decent numbers from the tight end position, never going above and beyond, but consistently giving Tampa Bay his 20-30 catches for about 300 yards and a couple of touchdowns. He would eventually filter out of town, as he was traded to the New England Patriots, who saw him as a potential part of their up-and-coming tight end heavy scheme. He never caught on, and has found his way to the Cleveland Browns, where he plays today. He does have the distinct honor of being a two time champion of the Madden Bowl, meaning he’s likely better “on the sticks” than on the field.
3rd round (91st overall) – Chris Colmer – Offensive Tackle – North Carolina State
Colmer was never a key contributor to the Buccaneers, which was a shame considering what he overcame to make it into the league. He sat a large chunk of time while at NC State dealing with a rare viral disorder that caused him pain and numbness in his neck and shoulder. He would be released from the Buccaneers in 2007, and go on to be a teacher and coach.
Colmer passed away in 2010. The cause of death was unknown and unannounced. Rest in peace, Chris Colmer.
4th round (107th overall) – Dan Buenning – Guard – Wisconsin
Buenning was drafted to help build up an offensive line that was on the decline. He never made an impact, and didn’t last in Tampa Bay. He would go on to play in the UFL for the Florida Tuskers, who no longer exist. He now works in manufacturing and construction.
5th round (141st overall) – Donte Nicholson – Safety – Oklahoma
A good sized safety out of Oklahoma, Nicholson never played for anyone but the Buccaneers. He never caught on as a key member of the team, and was let go in 2009.
5th round (155th overall) Larry Brackins – Wide Receiver – Pearl River Community College
Brackins was one of the best Junior College players in the country, and combined with his 6 foot, 5 inch frame, he was worth a flier from the Buccaneers. He didn’t make the roster, and wouldn’t play for the Buccaneers at all despite getting another shot in training camp the next year. He decided to join the equivalent of NFL Junior College, and went to the Arena League, and absolutely dominated the competition there, so much so that the Jets gave him a chance in 2009 to redeem himself in the NFL.
He didn’t make the Jets either, and has since returned to the AFL. He currently plays for the Philadelphia Soul.
6th round (178th overall) Anthony Bryant – Defensive Tackle – Alabama
Bryant was a huge defensive tackle, brought in to eat space in the middle of the Bucs defense. He failed to catch on, and actually gained even more weight, and racked up 19 career tackles while playing for seven different teams.
7th round (221st overall) Rick Razzano – Fullback – Mississippi
Rizzano was better known for his suspension for use of performance enhancing drugs than for anything he did on the field. He contributed a bit on special teams, but otherwise failed to make an impact. He now works in the fitness industry.
7th round (225th overall) Paris Warren – Wide Receiver – Utah
Warren’s college quarterback, Alex Smith, was taken 224 picks before him, and was one of the main recipients of the many yards Smith racked up at Utah. He was Co-Offensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl before hitting the NFL Draft, and was a good value pick for the Bucs this late in the draft proceedings. He would stay on the fringe of the Buccaneers’ roster, bouncing between practice squad and the active roster, until he suffered a severe break to his leg in a preseason game. He never caught on with any other team, including the Florida Tuskers in the UFL.
7th round (231st overall) Hamza Abdullah – Safety – Washington State
Hamza failed to make the Buccaneers’ roster, and would instead get his chance with the Broncos. He never made a major impact, but did force three fumbles in his career.
7th round (253rd overall) J. R. Russell – Wide Receiver – Louisville
Russell never played for the Buccaneers during the regular season, and made a brief appearance in the arena league for the Orlando Predators.