Highs and Lows Over 37 Years of Drafting

The Buccaneers had a very satisfying opening night in last year’s draft, using a series of maneuvers to get in position to select S Mark Barron and RB Doug Martin (and retaining enough ammunition to trade up for LB Lavonte David the next night).  After just one season, it’s too soon to declare all of those picks as home runs, but it’s safe to say the franchise has high hopes for the careers of Barron, Martin and David.

Those three will have to produce at Hall of Fame levels, however, to top the single greatest draft round in Buccaneers history.  In 1995 – coincidentally also after a series of trades – the Buccaneers selected DT Warren Sapp with the 12th overall pick and LB Derrick Brooks at #28.  Sapp was just elected to the Hall of Fame; Brooks could very well follow him to Canton next February.  It doesn’t get much better than two Hall-bound players in one round.

In fact, Dan Rachal at NFL.com calls the Sapp and Brooks duo two of the five best draft picks in Buccaneers history.  In a very entertaining series currently running on the league web site in the last few weeks leading up to the 2013 draft, a handful of site contributors are going through the five best and five worst picks each team has made in its drafting history.  On Thursday, the Buccaneers got their review. Continue reading

Point/Counterpoint: Can we find a hidden gem still on the free agent market?

A few weeks before free agency started, you and I took a look at the list of big-name players who could possibly hit the market, trying to predict which ones would be most coveted league-wide.  Since I know you’re going to throw it in my face anyway, I’ll go ahead and remind the readers that you’re first choice was safety Dashon Goldson, who is now a Buccaneer.  We weren’t specifically trying to pick good free agent targets for Tampa Bay, but the Bucs’ instant and successful wooing of the former 49er made it clear that, yes, Goldson was quite coveted.

Both of my picks in that particular point/counterpoint exercise – Bears DT Henry Melton and Cowboys DE Anthony Spencer – got franchise-tagged before they could hit the market, which left me with a big bowl of fail soup.  On the other hand, your second choice, former Miami running back Reggie Bush quickly found a new home in Detroit.  Aargh.  Why am I still writing about this?

Like Goldson and Bush, most of the biggest names got the biggest contracts within the first few days of free agency.  (And like Melton and Spencer, some of others never even made it to the market.)  That’s the way it is every spring, of course.  Last year, the Bucs had Carl Nicks, Vincent Jackson and Eric Wright in the bag before free agency was 36 hours old.  However, it should be noted that a whopping 524 players began some sort of free agency on March 12, most of them of the unrestricted variety.  Some of them undoubtedly will be riding off into the sunset, and new careers, but many others will quietly either re-sign with their original teams or find a new opportunity that is accompanied by little fanfare.

These are the players I want to talk about today, Andrew.  Continue reading

Earliest Picks by Position

Last week, we noted that a growing number of NFL Draft analysts had begun to believe the Buccaneers would take West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin with the 13th overall pick.  At first, that was a radical departure from group-think, as most of the mock drafters through January, February and early March had paired the Bucs with a cornerback or a linebacker.

Obviously, compiling a mock draft is just making a series of guesses, hopefully bolstered by as much research, roster analysis and inside information one can gather, so there’s no way to really know if the Bucs would be interested in Austin in the first round.  If they did make that pick, however, that would be a departure from the norm of another sort – it would mark the highest the Buccaneers had ever drafted a wide receiver (if only by a slim margin).  Currently, Michael Clayton, the 15th overall pick in 2004, holds that distinction, just barely over Reidel Anthony, the 16th pick in 1997.

What would make that Austin pick particularly interesting is that it would actually be the second year in a row, and the fourth time in the last six years, that the Bucs have used their highest pick ever on a specific position. Continue reading

Lucky Number 13?

Over the last decade or so, over on Buccaneers.com, we’ve frequently engaged in a little NFL Draft research project at this time of the year.  Taking the spot at which the Buccaneers are slated to pick in the first round, we’ve looked back at the history of that specific draft spot to see how the league as a whole has fared with that pick over the years.

A few Aprils ago, for instance, we noted that the third overall pick had yielded such players as Matt Ryan, Joe Thomas, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Gerard Warren, Simeon Rice, Barry Sanders, Cortez Kennedy, Ray Childress, Carl Banks, Curt Warner, Freeman McNeil and Anthony Munoz during the previous two decades.  (And Vince Young, Joey Harrington, Akili Smith, Andre Wadsworth, Heath Shuler, Bruce Pickens, Alonzo Highsmith and Jack Thompson, FYI.)  The Bucs ended up with DT Gerald McCoy, who just made his first Pro Bowl this past season.  In 2006, we looked at pick #23 and dubbed it the Ozzie Newsome Pick in honor of the eventual Hall of Famer that Cleveland grabbed their in 1978.  And so on.

Well, the Bucs are scheduled to pick 13th in the first round this year, but you won’t find that corresponding article on Buccaneers.com this time around.  The current sentiment is that it doesn’t really offer much predictive value, for several reasons.  Continue reading

Taking the Test

After the Twenty Questions Draft Contest went live on Buccaneers.com on Friday, I asked my colleague, Andrew Norton, to take a stab at an entry, including explanations for his picks.  Don’t worry – he’s not eligible to win.  However, if you find any of his reasoning compelling, you may want to include it in your thought process when you fill out your own entry.

Here are Andrew’s predictions:

1. Who will the Buccaneers draft with their first overall pick?

Sheldon Richardson. I don’t think they’ll be comfortable reaching on a corner at 13th overall with Dee Milliner off the board. Richardson as a shifty DT makes a great fit and will help keep the Bucs atop the NFL’s rushing defenses. Continue reading

Austin Predictions Multiplying

Daniel Jeremiah may have started a trend.

As far as I can tell, the former NFL scout turned draft analyst for the NFL Network and NFL.com was the first mock drafter to match the Buccaneers up with West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin.  Jeremiah had Austin coming off the board at #13, Tampa Bay’s pick, in his March 20 update, which is still the one displaying on NFL.com’s oft-updated collection of mocks.

(Note: You will find Austin’s name pop up right here in the Captain’s Blog three weeks before that, in our Point/Counterpoint right after the Combine.)

Now some rather prominent NFL and draft analysts are following Jeremiah’s lead.  Continue reading

Point/Counterpoint: Who will be the Buccaneers’ MVP in 2013?

The Buccaneers had a nice rebound season in 2012 under new Head Coach Greg Schiano, after a very tough 2011 campaign.  While the team faded from the playoff race down the stretch after a heady midseason run, it definitely sparked a lot of optimism heading into this year’s campaign.

When the dust had settled on 2012, it was legitimately hard to decide which player was the team’s MVP.  While there were a number of potential candidates, it probably boiled down to five men: Lavonte David, Josh Freeman, Vincent Jackson, Doug Martin and Gerald McCoy, the latter three of whom ended up in the Pro Bowl.

If you think it was hard to pick the one winner from among that group last year, I’ve got an even tougher task for you, Andrew: Predict who will be the Buccaneers’ MVP this coming season.  Continue reading

New Foes in the South

The Buccaneers signed five new players on Tuesday and have been active throughout the first three weeks of free agency, beginning with the March 13 addition of All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson.  Of course, there were 524 players who became free agents on March 12, and not all of them were going to end up in Tampa, barring some pretty massive changes to roster limits/salary cap rules/reality as we know it.

A few of the more prominent players on that free agency list were bound to end up in the NFC South, signing with either the Falcons, Panthers and Saints.  And while the division hasn’t been ridiculously active on the open market as a whole, each of the Bucs’ three opponents has added a noteworthy player or two.  Let’s take a look at one new face on each of Tampa Bay’s three division foes and what it could mean for the Buccaneers. Continue reading

Not Afraid to Trade

Last year, when the NFL Draft began on the evening of Thursday, April 26, the Buccaneers were holding picks #5, #36 and #68 in the opening three rounds.  By the time Friday night was over however, they had made none of those particular selections, instead choosing at #7, #31 and #58.  Obviously, General Manager Mark Dominik spent a lot of time working the team-to-team phone lines in the Bucs’ draft room.

A recent article on NFL.com by analyst Daniel Jeremiah sought to identify the teams that might currently be plotting trades up or down in the first round of this year’s draft, and which players they might be targeting.  An entertaining read, it suggests the Dolphins, Vikings and 49ers as the clubs most likely to be looking upward, with some of the most coveted offensive and defensive tackles as their likely targets.

Jeremiah’s choices make sense, as all three of those teams have extra selections to wield, especially San Francisco and its cache of 14 picks.  In the end, however, more than three teams (or six, given their necessary partners) will be in on the first-round swap meet, and a majority of the clubs will make at least one move before the seven rounds are over.  Last year, exactly half of the 32 first-round picks changed hands at some point (many of them on the night of the draft itself), with 16 teams involved in the maneuverings.

Obviously, the Buccaneers were among those 16 teams, and that was no surprise.  Tampa Bay has been one of the league’s most active traders over the last decade, and that has been especially true since Dominik took over as general manager in 2009.  Continue reading