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After a wait ... Walker

Day 1 of NFL draft features no sudden moves for Tampa Bay, and eventually yields a wide receiver with size.

By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 21, 2002


TAMPA -- Sizing up the NFL draft for the Bucs was easy Saturday.

Big wait, big hopes and another big receiver.

photo
[AP photo]
Marquise Walker pulls in a touchdown against Rice, one of 16 at Michigan.
At 10:13 p.m., the Bucs made their only selection of the first day, choosing 6-foot-3, 213-pound Michigan receiver Marquise Walker with the 86th overall pick.

With their first- and second-round picks traded to the Raiders as part of the deal for coach Jon Gruden, the Bucs were gratified to find Walker available late in the third round.

The all-time leading receiver for the Wolverines with 171 catches, Walker will join the tallest receiving corps in the NFL: Keyshawn Johnson (6 feet 4), Joe Jurevicius (6-5) and tight end Ken Dilger (6-5).

"He's another big receiver," Gruden said. "He clearly has been the go-to guy at Michigan. Marquise Walker is a guy who will come in here immediately and compete.

"I am very pleasantly surprised (he was there). We didn't hesitate taking him off the board. I don't make any bold predictions. This is a good football player. ... If he had run a tad bit faster (at the NFL's scouting combine), I don't think we'd be talking to Marquise Walker today."

The Bucs also benefited from insider information from quarterbacks coach Stan Parrish, who held the same position at Michigan last season.

"He can talk to us about his practice habits and his work habits," general manager Rich McKay said. "Stan was very high on Marquise and his approach to the game. He had nothing but good things to say."

For most of Saturday, the Bucs waited to learn half of the price tag of their trade with the Raiders for Gruden. Oakland also has Tampa Bay's first-round pick in 2002 and a second-rounder in 2003.

It was the third time in five years the Bucs did not own a first-round pick, but the first time they did not have a pick in either of the first two rounds.

The Bucs traded out of the first round in 1998 to take Jacquez Green and swapped two first-round picks in 2000 to the Jets for Johnson.

By far, Saturday was the longest wait for the Bucs in draft history, but they learned which players went in the spots they gave up. With the 21st overall pick acquired by New England in a trade with the Raiders, the Patriots took tight end Daniel Graham.

With the second-round pick from the Bucs, the 53rd selection overall, the Raiders took California tackle Langston Walker.

The Raiders traded a third-rounder to Washington and a fifth to Atlanta to move up four spots from 21 to 17 and select Miami cornerback Phillip Buchanon.

An ESPN poll indicated 69 percent of voters thought the Raiders fared better on the deal for the Bucs coach.

"It was a long day," McKay said. "That ESPN poll about Jon Gruden, we were all voting."

The Bucs have seven selections today, four in the seventh round.

Walker said he was excited to learn he would be joining Gruden and Johnson.

"I think my family was more excited than I was," he said from his home in Syracuse, N.Y. "I was playing pingpong at the time and heard all the screams that I got drafted by Tampa.

"I think I might do well making big plays and think I'll fit in well with Tampa Bay. Getting to work with Keyshawn Johnson, I think it will be a great experience. I really like his game. I've been watching him since he was in college. I think adding me to him is just another weapon."

Walker was the primary target at Michigan, catching a pass in 35 straight games. Last season his 81 receptions set a school record and went for 1,043 yards and 11 TDs.

"With Marquise Walker, Joe Jurevicius and Keyshawn Johnson, I know this, we've got the biggest wide receivers in the league and that's going to be exciting," Gruden said. "Marquise Walker is a guy who scored touchdowns. He stepped up in big games and will be another legitimate big body, big target to throw to."


Back to the Bucs

Today's lineup

Bucs

  • After a wait ... Walker
  • All pleased with resolution of Alstott deal
  • Things will heat up today

  • Rays
  • Rays fail in clutch situations
  • Rookie downplays first start at home
  • Upheaval in homeland concerns Venezuelans

  • Lightning
  • Lightning waits out Svitov military saga

  • Other sports

    NFL Draft
  • Jags fortify both front lines near the top
  • A surprise in the South
  • Dolphins glad to give up picks to get Williams
  • Houston's slow pace at pick sets sluggish mood
  • 'Canes rule Round 1 with 5 picks

  • Motorsports
  • Gordon tries to drive around one of life's big distractions
  • Roush: critical but stable
  • Keller escapes big wreck

  • Baseball
  • Alou returns but wants to lead

  • Storm
  • Storm drops opener

  • Letters
  • U.S. No. 1 viewpoint egocentric

  • Outdoors
  • Daily fishing report

  • Preps
  • Central's Lam takes second
  • Cougars have the team, maybe not the talent
  • Spongers, Falcons have high hopes for tourneys
  • Falcons take first step
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