1. James Wilder
It’s a trip down memory lane for our number one choice. This one goes out to the fans that were “fortunate” enough to remember this team back in the 1980’s. Kids, ask your parents about this guy.
James Wilder was chosen in the second round of the draft way back in 1981. These were not the best of times in Bucs history, as the team was only a few years removed from a winless season. Wilder was the guy who was going to get the running game going after Ricky Bell‘s departure.
From 1981-1983, most of his impact was made as a pass-catcher. He never ran the ball more than 161 times for 640 yards during that time. However, his receptions went up steadily each season from 48, to 53, and finally to 57. 1983 was the first year Wilder put up over 1,000 yards from scrimmage with 1,020. That set the stage for 1984.
In 1984, Wilder became the workhorse, and the Bucs were rewarded for it. He ran the ball a league-high 407 yards in ’84, and gained 1,544 yards on the ground, good for third in the NFL. If it weren’t for some guys named Walter Payton and Eric Dickerson, he would have won the rushing title. He scored 13 rushing touchdowns and added a whopping 85 pass receptions, earning him his first and only Pro Bowl berth. That year, Wilder went over 100 yards rushing five times, including going back-to-back twice. Not bad for a team that went 6-10.
He followed that up in 1985 with 1,300 yards and ten touchdowns on 365 carries. The numbers went downward from there but again, for a short period of time, James Wilder was as good as anybody in this league. His 5,957 rushing yards rank him best in franchise history, and sit him securely at the top of this list.
What do you think? Is this list good, or is someone missing? Sound off in the comments.