USC LB Brian Cushing could be taken well before the Bucs' pick at number 19 in the first round, but two analysts predict Cushing will land with Tampa Bay
The 2009 NFL Draft is less than a week away, and the nation's draftniks are still trying to divine the Detroit Lions' intentions.
While it mostly boils down to educated guesses, the consensus of the draft cognoscenti is that the Lions will use the first overall pick to select either Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, Baylor tackle Jason Smith or Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry. But which of those three resides at the top of your most trusted mock-drafter's latest work seems to change by the day.
The thing is, there's a good chance that merry-go-round will stop in time for the various analysts to post at least one more mock before Saturday's 4:00 p.m. start. Because the team with the first overall pick is allowed to negotiate the structure of a contract with their targeted player (or players), that top selection has been something less than a mystery in recent Aprils. Very few analysts had Michigan tackle Jake Long going first overall to the Miami Dolphins when they first started mocking up their lists last March, but anyone who updated within the last few days of the actual draft could lock that one in.
Knowing that it's Stafford – or Smith or Curry – in that top spot will also provide a little clarity on the Rams in the second position and the Chiefs at pick three. If one concedes that it's a short list of players who will go in the top five, then solidly removing one of those options makes it that much easier to guess the rest.
That clarity, of course, is short-lived. With a widening number of justifiable picks at each spot down the order, and the ever-increasing chances for trades, it is the rare mock drafter who gets more than a couple of predictions right after the top 10. There's nothing wrong with that; NFL teams are very guarded with their draft strategies, and even if you can guess a club's intentions, that doesn't mean it will definitely get its man.
But what about a consensus of mock drafters? If we combine a good number of the first-round predictions that are bouncing around in cyberspace, can we perhaps get a better feeling for what is likely to happen? At least for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at pick 19?
Actually, even the chances of that are fairly slim. Last year we conducted a similar exercise in the week before the 2008 draft, using 15 assembled mock drafts. Of those 14, only one analyst predicted who the Buccaneers would take at almost the same spot, pick #20. That analyst, ESPN.com's Todd McShay, was right when he said the Buccaneers were aiming for Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib.
Actually, the most commonly held opinion was that Tampa Bay was after a wide receiver. The player matched up with the Bucs the most was Michigan State wideout Devin Thomas, who got three "votes." Cal's DeSean Jackson got two nods and two other receivers, Houston's Donnie Avery and LSU's Early Doucet, got one each.
In fact, the Bucs passed on all the receivers in the first round, as did every team in the NFL. The first receiver off the board overall was Avery, two picks into Round Two.
In all, there were 11 different players linked to the Buccaneers at pick #20 in those 15 mock drafts. In addition to the receivers, there were four different cornerbacks, two running backs and one linebacker.
Again, this is no knock on the analysts. Even rival GMs are mostly guessing when they predict the selections of other teams in their official draft rooms.
What the mash-up of mocks can do for us is give an indication of what the consensus outside belief is that the Buccaneers will do with pick 19. And what the teams before them will do, as well. And that is information that, however useful or accurate it proves to be, is certainly very entertaining.
So let's marry the mocks once again. We have gathered 16 different mock drafts, all as they appeared on Monday, April 20. Many of these will be updated again before the week is over, but this represents a look at where the consensus stands five days out. Our experts range from a handful of mock drafters at NFL.com to McShay again to, of course, Mel Kiper.
Here are all 16 Buccaneer first-round picks by the mock drafters: