"As Super Bowl champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could afford to take the risk of drafting injured running back Willis McGahee. They don't have any glaring weaknesses on the team, provided they re-sign linebackers Shelton Quarles and Al Singleton in addition to left tackle Roman Oben. McGahee was slated to be a top 10 pick before tearing two knee ligaments in the Fiesta Bowl on January 5, so if the Bucs were to draft him in the second round it would be a great value pick, provided that he eventually returns to his 2002 form. With Michael Pittman coming on down the stretch and reliable Mike Alstott in the fold, the Bucs don't have an immediate need for a premier runner. And let's not forget about Travis Stephens, who had an impressive preseason before being placed on injured reserve during his rookie season with a dislocated toe."
"The Bucs typically like to float out a smokescreen around draft time, too. And while we're not ready to declare the Bucs' interest in McGahee as a smokescreen, the rash of detailed reports about Tampa Bay's interest in the injured Hurricanes star that have come out of the Indianapolis Scouting Combine in recent days seem just a bit suspicious. The Bucs' supposed interest in Michigan offensive tackle Jeff Backus was a smokescreen a few years ago, as was the team's interest in lineman Stockar McDougle. But the Bucs openly showed interest in quarterback Shaun King in 1999 and wound up drafting him in the second round, so go figure."
"McGahee reminds me of Pittman in appearance with the muscular physique and the faceshield. However, I think McGahee is a more instinctive runner than Pittman is, and appears to have better tackle-breaking ability and elusiveness. I would give Pittman's hands an edge, but McGahee is no slouch when it comes to catching passes out of the backfield, either."
"I'd love to see McGahee in a Bucs' uniform, but I'm not sure if he'll last through the second round, especially with teams like Detroit (34), Houston (35), Chicago (36), Arizona (37), Dallas (38), Washington (45), Tennessee (60), and Oakland (63) scheduled to pick ahead of Tampa Bay, who has the 64th overall pick in the draft. Teams like the Texans, Cardinals and Redskins need running back help right away and may be impressed enough with his progress in rehab to take the risk. Other teams such as the Lions, Bears, Cowboys, Titans and Raiders could be seeking an upgrade over their current starters, who are struggling with either age or injuries."
Pewter Report Managing Editor Leo Haggerty:
"This one is a real crap shoot and could cost a general manager or a head coach their jobs. A healthy -- and I emphasize healthy -- Willis McGahee would be a top 15 pick in whatever draft he entered. The problem looming over the former University of Miami star is the horrific knee injury he suffered in the BCS National Championship game against Ohio State at the 2003 Fiesta Bowl."
"Doctors are saying he'll be ready for the upcoming NFL season but, personally, I have my doubts. Will he still be on the board when the Bucs make their first selection I the second round with the 64th pick in the 2003 NFL draft? I think not. Some other team will have rolled the dice on McGahee. The problem is it may come up craps and that's a real risk with a high-round pick these days."
Pewter Report Assistant Editor Jim Flynn:
"Miami running back Willis McGahee would be a steal if the Bucs can select him with the 64th pick in the draft. The problem is I don't think McGahee will be there when the Bucs select its first player of the 2003 NFL Draft."
"McGahee is said to be recovering well from reconstructive knee surgery, but I'm not so sure he'll be 100 percent by training camp. The good news is Bucs head coach Jon Gruden doesn't demand much from players during their rookie campaigns. Just look back to last season when Gruden and Co. placed wide receiver Marquise Walker and running back Travis Stephens on the injured reserve with what some perceived as minor injuries. If Tampa Bay were to land McGahee and he needed another year to fully recover, Tampa Bay is one of the few places where he wouldn't have to step in and contribute right away."
"Even if McGahee were to fall to the middle of the second round, the Bucs couldn't afford to give up a draft pick to move up and grab him. Remember, Tampa Bay is already without its first round draft pick due to the trade with Oakland in exchange for Gruden."
"Despite the severe knee injury he suffered in the National Championship Game, McGahee will be a hot commodity in late April. He scored 27 touchdowns and averaged 6.4 yards per carry as a sophomore in '02. Teams like Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and San Francisco are interested in McGahee, too, and one of them will likely grab him before the Bucs pick in the second round."