Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Countdown Ends: It's Draft Time!

Countless hours of preparation by team insiders – and probably an equal amount of scrutiny by outside analysts – come to a head today with the 2006 NFL Draft

walker04_29_06_1.jpg

The Bucs traded up seven spots in 2001 in order to draft T Kenyatta Walker

The draft is like a lighthouse in the NFL offseason. We fix our eyes on it months in advance and then are pulled inexorably and unavoidably toward it. As we get close, we look at virtually nothing else, dazzled by its glare.

Now, if we can just avoid dashing ourselves on the rocks with our respective first-round picks, we will have arrived happily at our destination.

Yes, we're here. After months of speculation, which this year only got hotter and hotter as the big weekend approached, the 2006 NFL Draft is upon us. Let us enjoy it in all its 20-hour splendor.

Particularly those 40 or so minutes when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on the clock throughout Saturday and Sunday. Barring trades up or down, the Bucs will make their first pick at number 23 overall – expect that to be about four hours into the afternoon – then execute nine more selections

If your like most draftniks and serious NFL fans, you'll be glued to the set on this day, following every round on the NFL Network or ESPN/ESPN2. If that's your plan, the Houston Texans go on the clock at noon E.T. on Saturday. Last year, the first day of drafting, which covers rounds one through three, concluded one minute shy of 11:00 p.m. So, yeah, it's a full day.

On Sunday, the fourth round of the draft starts at 11:00 a.m. ET and MR. Irrelevant will be selected, by the Oakland Raiders, at approximately 6:00 p.m. ET. There will be 255 players drafted over the two days.

On both days, you can supplement your television viewing with a wealth of information inside the Buccaneers.com Draft Central section. A full-league draft-tracker, announcement and analysis of Tampa Bay's selections, a running blog, exclusive interviews with team scouts, video coverage of every press conference, Buc drafting history, fan polls – it's all inside.

Here are the picks the Buccaneers are expected to make (again, barring trades), with an estimated time for that pick based on last year's pace. Please be aware that, in addition to trades, a slower or quicker pace by other teams could cause these estimates to be well off. Also, last year's draft actually started at 12:13 p.m. ET, not noon on the dot, so we're beginning with that assumption again. Sunday's four rounds actually began at 11:10 a.m. ET, rather than precisely 11:00. Again, we'll use that as a starting point.

Buccaneers' 2006 Draft Pick Slots and Estimated Times

**Rd.****Overall Pick****Pick Time Limit****Estimated Time of Bucs' Pick**
12315 mins.4:22 p.m. ET
25910 mins.8:39 p.m. ET
3905 mins.10:26 p.m. ET
41225 mins.12:24 p.m. ET
51565 mins.1:57 p.m. ET
61945 mins.3:37 p.m. ET
62025 mins.3:56 p.m. ET
72355 mins.5:23 p.m. ET
72415 mins.5:39 p.m. ET
72445 mins.5:47 p.m. ET

Could the Bucs' affect those estimates by trading at various times during the weekend. You bet, particularly in regards to the second-day picks. After a couple of lean pick years, Tampa Bay has been loaded with selections the last two years and hasn't been shy about shifting them around. In 2004, the Bucs even made the rare trade-up-in-the-seventh-round maneuver, shipping fullback Darian Barnes to Dallas in order to climb 10 spots in the final frame. The player they coveted: Tennessee WR Mark Jones, who ended up with the New York Giants as a rookie but was back last year as the team's punt returner.

The Bucs made two deals last year. The first was announced during the first day of the draft but affected the second day, as one of the team's two sixth-round picks was flipped to Cleveland for quarterback Luke McCown. Later on Sunday, the Bucs added an extra seventh-round selection by trading back 11 spots in the fifth round with St. Louis. The Rams ended up taking tight end Jerome Collins with the 144th pick while the Bucs selected wide receiver Larry Brackins at 155 and used the extra seventh-rounder to take a flyer on safety Hamza Abdullah.

Of course, these are the types of deals that burn up the draft room-to-draft room wires around the league while the television coverage is focusing on other things entirely. When most fans discuss whether or not their team will trade up or down in the draft, they mean in the first round, of course.

So is that a possibility on the Bucs' horizon? You can't rule it out.

"Yes, there's always [that possibility]," said Director of College Scouting Dennis Hickey. "If you want to, yes. Future picks and a combination of different things – yes, you could."

There is a "draft pick value calculator" kicking around, and it's posted each year on NFL.com by analyst and former team executive Gil Brandt. Click here and scroll down to check it out. It's a cheat sheet to help a team figure out if it is getting equivalent value in a trade involving just draft picks, and it works by assigning a rapidly-declining numerical value to each spot in the draft. The first overall pick, for instance, is valued at 3,000 points, while the third overall pick is worth 2,200 points on the scale. Thus, if you're using this system, you need to get a pick worth 800 points in order to justify trading down just two spots from one to three. Which pick is worth 800 points? As it turns out, number 21 overall, later in the first round. Therefore, using this chart, the first overall pick for the third and 21st picks would be a good deal on both sides.

By that measure, if the Bucs made the decision on draft day to move up, say, 10 spots to 13 and they had a willing trade partner, they would need to throw in a pick worth 390 points, because #13 is worth 1,150 and number #23 is worth 760. The pick worth 390 points on this chart is number 51, 19 picks into the second round. The Bucs don't have that pick, but they do have #59. Whether that would satisfy the trade partner in this hypothetical deal is up for debate, but the exercise does make it clear that it would probably cost the Bucs their second-rounder in order to make that move. And, as a matter of fact, that's exactly what the team surrendered in 2001 to move up seven spots, from 21st to 14th, in order to draft tackle Kenyatta Walker.

(By the way, that trade was almost a dead-on match using the draft value chart. The 14th pick is worth 1,100 and the 21st pick is worth 800, leaving a difference of 300. The 58th overall pick, the price the Bucs paid, is valued at 320 points.)

In that case, the Bucs made a decisive move after seeing a player they coveted slip farther down the board than most pre-draft analysis predicted. That's the kind of happening that could conceivably prompt the team to trade up again.

"I'm open to all scenarios," said Hickey. "It really depends on how we rated the players, and obviously I can't tell you that. But I'm open to that, if a guy drops who maybe you expected to go higher and who you have rated that can really impact your team."

It is important to note that we have no actual knowledge of the draft strategy concocted by the team's decision-makers, led by General Manager Bruce Allen. It is well within possibility that the Bucs feel this draft is deep enough to make any sort of trade up a needless expense of later picks. However, should the team want to strike northward in the first round, it at least feels comfortable enough with the existing Buccaneer talent base to be able to part with a valuable pick.

"That's exactly how we feel," said Hickey. "Our coaches, as part of our meetings in there, we talk about our players and we like our players. We've been successful. We have 21 of 22 returning starters, so we feel good about our team. So we do have a lot of flexibility."

Tired of the speculation? Well the wait is nearly over. The draft is upon us, and by mid to late afternoon on Saturday the Buccaneers are likely to have a shiny new first-rounder over whom to get excited. If the last two first-round picks by the team are any indication – Michael Clayton and Cadillac Williams, to refresh your memory – the pick is going to be worth the wait. However, that doesn't make it easy.

And if you think the wait has been tough for you, consider the team representatives who have poured a year of their lives into this weekend.

"You're always anxious for the draft," Hickey admitted. "It's so unpredictable and it's the culmination of a lot of hard work. Your whole year, it all comes down to two days and about five minutes a pick."

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