If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't make any trades during the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft, they can do something they've never done before: pick 26th overall.
The Buccaneers landed the 26th pick in the first-round order for this year's draft, marking the third time in the last five years they've been slotted there or lower. Tampa Bay has never before started a draft in the 26th spot and have never traded it into it. That was one of the eight remaining first-round spots from which the franchise has never made a selection (also second, ninth, 10th, 18th, 21st, 24th and 27th).
The first 24 teams in the draft were set by the end of the Wild Card round last weekend. The Buccaneers' draft slot was finalized over the weekend based on the results of the four Divisional Playoff round games. Two outcomes in particular landed Tampa Bay in the 26th spot, its own loss in Detroit and Green Bay's loss in San Francisco. The Buccaneers and Packers tied for the worst regular-season record among the four teams eliminated over the weekend and thus got the next two picks. Green Bay was awarded the 25th spot over the Buccaneers based on a slightly worse strength of schedule figure (.474 to .481). Strength of schedule is the combined winning percentage of all the opponents a team faced during the regular season.
The Buccaneers and Packers were two of seven teams to finish the 2023 regular season with a 9-8 record, but the other five did not make the postseason and were slotted between picks 14-18. The Buccaneers and Packers will be in their own tied segment, which means they will rotate between the 25th and 26th picks from round to round. Tampa Bay currently has six selections, their own picks in Rounds 1-4 and Rounds 6-7. The Bucs traded their 2024 fifth-round pick to Philadelphia during last year's draft in order to acquire the sixth-round pick it used on Nebraska wide receiver Trey Palmer.
Last year, the Dallas Cowboys used the 26th overall pick on Michigan defensive tackle Mazi Smith. Smith played in all 17 games with three starts and contributed 12 tackles, one sack and three quarterback hits. The 26th pick has produced a string of productive NFL players over the last six years, including Jets defensive end Jermaine Johnson, Browns cornerback Greg Newsome, Packers quarterback Jordan Love and Commanders defensive end Montez Sweat.
Other notable NFL players who were picked 26th overall in the draft include Texans defensive end Whitney Mercilus, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, Texans tackle Duan Brown, Steelers guard Alan Faneca, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, 49ers defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield, Lions defensive end Robert Porcher, Bears quarterback Jim Harbaugh and Raiders tackle Don Mosebar.
The 2024 NFL draft will take place over three days in Detroit, from Thursday, April 25 through Saturday, April 27th.