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

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

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

Mock Drafts Continue to Evolve

It’s been more than a month since we’ve checked in on the various NFL mock drafts dotting the web and, as is the case every spring, they rarely stay static.

Our earliest review of the mocks, way back in January when the online experts were just starting to get warmed up, saw a nearly unanimous belief that the Bucs would take a cornerback, generally either Alabama’s Dee Milliner, Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes or Mississippi State’s Johnathan Banks.  A few weeks later, we saw some more variety start to creep into the process, partly because Milliner’s “stock” had risen and put him out of reach at #13.

That was in early February.  Now it’s late March, and in addition to the inevitable evolution of thinking that takes place over the pre-draft weeks there was also one very significant event that took place in between.  The NFL Scouting Combine at the end of last month definitely affected the experts’ mock drafts, so it makes sense to take another look at where they stand with just over a month to go until the real thing. Continue reading

No Comps, But Clarity

File this under “Least Surprising Buc News of the New League Year:” The NFL announced its 2013 compensatory draft picks on Monday, and Tampa Bay was not on the list.

That’s a direct result of last year’s bold free agency attack, particularly the signings of WR Vincent Jackson and G Carl Nicks.  Each year, the NFL distributes a total of 32 compensatory picks based on net gains and losses in the previous year’s free agency period.  The formula the NFL Management Council uses to determine who gets picks is actually quite complicated – taking into account salary, playing time, postseason honors, Twitter followers and end zone dances, or something like that – but you didn’t need all that data to know the Bucs would be sans comp picks this year. Continue reading

Regional Combine Comes to One Buc

The NFL invited approximately 300 prospects to the 2013 Scouting Combine in February, and those young men will make up the vast majority of the 254 players who are drafted this coming April.  However, for some NFL hopefuls, the path to the pros won’t go through Indianapolis.

For the second straight year, the NFL is conducting a series of Regional Combines across the country, allowing some potentially overlooked prospects an opportunity to put their skills on display.  And, for the second straight year, one of those Regional events will be held on the fields behind One Buccaneer Place, the Buccaneers’ headquarters.

The Tampa Regional Combine will be held this Saturday, March 9.  It falls smack dab in the middle of 13 workout dates for position players, plus an additional eight for kickers and punters at overlapping sites.  The series of Combines began in Hawaii on January 25 and have since taken place in Los Angeles, Houston, Cleveland and New York/New Jersey.  Subsequent Regional events will be held in Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore and Seattle.  More information can be found here, although registration is now closed for all events except the Sunday, March 24 specialists combine in Seattle.

Selected participants in the Regional Combines will be invited to take part in a “Super Regional Combine” on April 7-8 at Cowboys Stadium.  That event will be covered by the NFL Network.  Last year, approximately one-quarter of the players who took part in the Super Regional Combine eventually earned NFL contracts.  While the Regional Combines may not draw a heavy number of NFL team scouts, all 32 teams were represented at last year’s Super Regional.

Polling the Krewe: Turning Attention to Pro Days

NFL teams, managers, coaches and scouts are turning their attention to the next phase before of draft preparation: various college Pro Day workouts.

Pro Days give the college athletes another change to showcase their skills, this time on their own turf. While not quite as compelling as the NFL Scouting Combine, these events are well-attended by NFL teams looking for another glimpse at some of the rookie hopefuls. These individual performances can make up for a lackluster showing at the Combine and help bump names of lesser-known talent higher up the big boards.

As was so eloquently pointed out here, the Buccaneers will be among those in attendance at these college workouts around the country. And there are some big ones that might be drawing more attention based on what experts are saying the Bucs might do come draft day.

So, again, we turn to you. Let us know what you think is the most important college Pro Day for the Buccaneers to be keeping an eye on? The offensive line and defensive back talent in Alabama? A big-name cornerback and pass rush combo at Florida State? The first-round talent at tight end and linebacker up in Notre Dame?

Make your choice in the poll and share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Which is the most important college Pro Day for the Buccaneer scouts to visit in the next six weeks?

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Remember, if you have a question for an upcoming “Point/Counterpoint” debate or a poll that you would like to discuss? Let us know in the comments below!