By Jeff Berlinicke
It's not the top pick in the draft that is the benchmark of a good NFL Draft.
For the Bucs, Cadillac Williams, No. 5 overall, was obviously going to be an impact maker from the start. It's the picks that follow, the hidden gems in rounds 3-5 that are the benchmarks of a solid draft.
The Bucs have been criticized for the drafts in recent years. Evan the 2004 draft, after top pick Michael Clayton, has been somewhat unspectacular.
But this year, the Bucs seem to have hit a gold mine. They've only played one game so far, but the results were spectacular.
Williams had a big game, but look at what followed: Alex Smith had two touchdown receptions in a backup role, Dan Buenning was solid and penalty-free on the offensive line, and Barrett Ruud put in some decent time off the bench at linebacker. Besides that Chris Colmer has been making strides on the offensive line.
Not only that, but with the exception of one player, everyone drafted by the Bucs in 2005 is either on the roster or on the practice squad.
Williams had the 71-yard run in Sunday's 24-13 win over the Minnesota Vikings, but Smith had the two touchdowns. Anthony Becht came into the season as the Bucs possession receiver at tight end, but it was Smith who was impressive throughout training camp and was Brian Griese's go-to guy at the goal line. Smith has also impressed coaches with his blocking. At 6-4, 258, he's a load and a better blocker than Becht.
Bucs coach Jon Gruden was impressed by all of his rookies, but he made a point of singling out Smith on Monday.
"He made a big play, scoring plays, which we were excited about,'' Gruden said. "I don't want to discount Dan Buenning, he started and played every snap at left guard. Anthony Davis got his first start and did a great job at left tackle. There were a lot of young guys who stepped up and made big plays. What a great beginning of those guys. Hopefully, it's a start of something big for them.''
He also gave Smith a lot of credit for turning the momentum of the game after the Bucs made some mental errors including Brian Griese's pass late in the second half that was returned for a touchdown and had the Metrodome at its loudest.
"We really got the crowd into the game after that interception,'' Gruden said. "That was a tough spot for us emotionally, and to deal with that crowd was tough. Alex Smith beat a single coverage on a touchdown and we somewhat silenced the crowd.''
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