1. James Wilder
Back to the old days for our final selection.
Right from the beginning, the Bucs lacked a running attack. The highly-touted Ricky Bell ran for 1,000 yards only once between 1976-1980, and that was in 1979 when the Bucs went 10-6. Nobody else ran for anywhere near that number over the team’s first five years in the NFL. Quarterbacks spent a lot of time running for their lives. The team lacked two things, among other back then. They lacked wins and a running attack.
In the 1981 draft, the Bucs selected James Wilder in the second round with the 34th overall pick. His stats at Missouri were solid, as he averaged 4.8 yards per carry and scored 22 touchdowns on the ground. He was also receiver, with 59 receptions (per Sports Reference).
It took him a couple of years to get going, but once he did, Wilder proved himself worthy. He started to show himself in 1983, when he ran the ball 161 times for 640 yards and four touchdowns. He also added 57 receptions for 380 yards and two touchdowns. That year, he had a 219 yard performance on 31 carries in a win over the Vikings.
1984, however, was the year of James Wilder. He carried the ball a league-leading 407 times for 1,544 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was third in the league that year, behind Eric Dickerson and Walter Payton. On top of that, he caught 85 passes for 685 yards. Basically, Wilder had the ball all the time, earning his only Pro Bowl selection for his troubles. He went over 100 yards five times in ’84, including a 172 yard performance on an incredible 43 carries against the Green Bay Packers.
The following year he posted a1,300 yards rushing and added 53 receptions out of the backfield. His career petered out from there before he was gone after the 1989 season. But in the middle of the 1980’s, James Wilder was as good as anybody. He sits at the top of the Bucs rushing list with 5,957 yards, making him the number one choice here.
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