The Buccaneers were poised to make wide receiver Milton Wynn their fourth-round pick in the 2001 draft, but were surprised when NFC rival St. Louis snatched him up with the 116th pick overall. The Bucs, who picked 117th, were forced to reach and take free safety John Howell in the fourth round instead.
But four months after the NFL Draft, the Bucs got their man after all when they acquired him off waivers from the Rams and released fourth-string quarterback Ryan Leaf on Monday, September 3. Leaf is currently in Dallas and is expected to sign with the Cowboys on Wednesday, just four days before the Bucs travel to Texas Stadium to open the 2001 season.
The Bucs became enamored with Wynn, a 6-foot-2, 207-pounder out of Washington State who was a late entry in this year's draft because he was denied for a medical hardship redshirt year.
He began his college career at Bakersfield Junior College in 1996, before transferring to Los Angeles Valley College the next year, where he competed in only track during 1997. He joined L.A. Valley College's football squad the following year and transferred to Washington State. A serious finger injury wiped out his first year with the Cougars in 1999, but he had a breakthrough season in 2000 and led the team with 55 receptions for 984 yards (17.9 avg) and five touchdowns.
"He didn't get that fifth year of eligibility that he wanted because of the injury and moving around the JUCOs," Bucs director of player personnel Tim Ruskell said. "He was a late entry into the draft. Real late and teams were scrambling to scout him.
"We were surprised St. Louis took him because they didn't fit their mold at wide receiver. Obviously that was the case because he got cut."
The Rams were hoping to add some needed size to their receiving corps, but Wynn did something to get in head coach Mike Martz's dog house and Martz publicly ripped him, saying he was lazy. Wynn had just one catch in the preseason for the Rams, but as they did with Leaf, the Bucs will give Wynn, who will wear No. 88, a chance to redeem himself and further his football career.
"Milton knows that he'll be in a similar situation here if that happens again," Ruskell said, referring to the possibility of being released again if Wynn's work ethic isn't good. "He's getting a second chance and has to make the most of it."
The Bucs felt by bringing Wynn aboard this year, they could add some stability to the wide receiver position heading into the 2002 season, when only Keyshawn Johnson and Frank Murphy are under contract. Tampa Bay also liked Wynn's size and physical traits.
"What we like is that he's a tall, thin wide receiver with good hands and speed," Ruskell said. "He fits our mold."
Coming out in this year's draft, some scouts said that Wynn compares favorably to Detroit's Germane Crowell. Both players are rangy in size and have good speed, use their hands well and are physical.
Time will tell if he will pan out and fulfill his potential or if the Bucs will have to cut another promising player who didn't pan out.
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