New Buc Kellen Winslow was part of a history-making draft class in 2004
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tabbed Gaines Adams with the fourth overall selection in the 2007 draft two years ago, they also made the Clemson pass-rusher the first defensive player off the board.
The pick of Adams boosted an unusual trend that could continue this weekend if, as expected by many, Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry gets a very early phone call. In 2006, the Houston Texans took defensive end Mario Williams of North Carolina State as the first pick in the draft. The former ACC star was followed by Adams in 2007, and then Virginia defensive end Chris Long in 2008, who was drafted second overall and first among defensive players.
Thus, if Curry is drafted before any of his fellow defensive prospects this year, it will mark the fourth straight year that an ACC product was the first defender to be selected. Of course, there could be a team in the top three or four picks that is enamored of Texas defensive end/linebacker Brian Orakpo or perhaps Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji, but very few of the mock drafts surveyed by Buccaneers.com had Curry falling out of the top three.
What other unusual and/or interesting notes and trends may develop during this weekend's draft? Let's take a look:
Deals to be Done. How much wheeling and dealing might we see during the first round of the draft on Saturday? Well, there have already been almost as many first-round picks dealt in 2009 as there were by the time the 2006 draft was over.
The NFL's collective "war rooms" had a veritable trading frenzy going on for a decade from 1993 to 2002. During those 10 drafts, an average of 12 first-round picks a year were dealt by the time it was all said and done (that includes picks traded before and during the draft). The Buccaneers were very much involved in that, trading away their first-rounders in 1998 (for extra second-rounders), 2000 (two of them, actually, for Keyshawn Johnson), 2002 (for Jon Gruden) and 2003 (also for Gruden). They also moved around in 1995, 1997 and 2001 and had gathered extra first-rounders in 1995, '96 and '97.
However, the trading tailed off over the next few years, bottoming out at four swapped first-rounders in 2006. From 2005-07, there were an average of only five trades a year, though it went back up to nine last year. The Buccaneers haven't budged from their prescribed first-round spot once in the last five years.
Dallas, Chicago and Philadelphia have already sent away their first-rounders this year, so the lowest possible trade total will be three. Expect it to get much higher than that this weekend, whether or not the Buccaneers become involved with their 19th overall selection.
First-Round U. New Buccaneers tight end Kellen Winslow was part of a rather impressive sub-group of the 2004 NFL Draft class. Even though Winslow was the sixth player off the board that year, he was not the first player taken from the University of Miami. His Hurricane teammate, Sean Taylor, went one pick earlier to the Washington Redskins.
Before the first round was over, four other Hurricanes would join Winslow and Taylor as first-round picks – linebacker Jonathan Vilma, linebacker D.J. Williams, offensive lineman Vernon Carey and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. That group of six has, as a whole, proved to be quite good on the NFL level (Taylor was tragically slain in November of 2007), but they were noteworthy even before stepping on a professional field. That Miami subset stands as the most number of first-round picks in one year from the same school.
Can any institution of higher learning match that record in 2009? It doesn't look likely, and only USC has any hope of getting close.
Most observers expect Trojan quarterback Mark Sanchez to go in the top half of the first round; his stock has certainly been rising in recent weeks. There's an impressive trio of USC linebackers – Brian Cushing, Rey Maualaga and Clay Matthews – that may also go in some order in Round One. And USC defensive tackle Fili Moala has appeared near the turn from Round One to Two on a couple mock drafts. However, it might take a significant jump up the draft charts for defensive end Kyle Moore or linebacker Kaluka Maiava for the Trojans to match Miami's six.
Longhorns or Sunshine? With Baylor tackle Jason Smith, Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree and Texas defensive end/linebacker Brian Orakpo drawing serious early-pick consideration, it's possible that three college players from the same state but not all from the same school will go in the top 10 for the first time since 2000.
That's something that has happened in the state of Florida fairly frequently over the last decade. In 2000, Peter Warrick and Corey Simon of Florida State (fourth and sixth overall, respectively) were joined by Florida's Travis Taylor at number 10. Florida schools did the same thing in 1998 with Florida State's Andre Wadsworth (third), Florida's Fred Taylor (ninth) and Miami's Duane Starks (10th); and in 1997 with Peter Boulware (fourth) and Walter Jones (sixth) of Florida State and Ike Hilliard (seventh) of Florida.
Though California has frequently had such trios (or in some cases, quads) over the years, it hasn't occurred for the Golden State since 1994. That year, the Buccaneers took Fresno State quarterback Trent Dilfer (sixth) after San Diego State running back Marshall Faulk went second and USC linebacker Willie McGinest went fourth. UCLA linebacker Jamir Miller made it a foursome by going 10th to Arizona.
Pounds and Pounds of LBs. Last April, the NFL went offensive-tackle crazy in the first round, beginning with top overall pick Jake Long of Michigan. After the Miami Dolphins kicked off the draft thusly, Ryan Clady (to Denver), Chris Williams (to Chicago), Branden Albert (to Kansas City), Gosder Cherilus (to Detroit) and Jeff Otah (to Carolina) all went between picks 12 and 19. With several teams aggressively trading up to get into the tackle run, Sam Baker went to Atlanta at 21 and Duane Brown went to Houston at 26 to make it a total of eight players at the position in Round One.
This year, the tackle position is once again loaded with players considered potential first-round picks. Baylor's Smith, Virginia's Eugene Monroe and Alabama's Andre Smith are all considered potential top-10 picks and Mississippi's Michael Oher, Arizona's Eben Britton and Connecticut's William Beatty might all find their way into the first round, too.
Still, it doesn't look likely that the tackle position will match its record of eight first-rounders from 2008. The positions most likely to match their own first-round records are linebacker and defensive end, and it may depend on how a handful of hybrid-type players are defined.
At end, Texas' Orakpo, Penn State's Aaron Maybin, LSU's Tyson Jackson, Tennessee's Robert Ayers, Florida State's Everette Brown and Northern Illinois' Larry English are all showing up in the first rounds of multiple expert mock drafts. Cincinnati's Connor Barwin and Georgia Tech's Michael Johnson have made a few first-round mock appearances as well. The most defensive ends ever drafted in the first round was six, in 1992.
However, given the type of defense into which the players are drafted, Orakpo, Maybin, Brown and English may all be officially thought of as linebackers. If that happens, the linebacker position as a whole may shatter its own mark of seven, which was set in 1990. The Buccaneers began that run with Alabama's Keith McCants (himself a DE/LB tweener) and it continued with Junior Seau, Chris Singleton, James Francis, Percy Snow, Lamar Lathon and Tony Bennett.
Even without the LB/DE types, this year's class might approach that mark. The three USC 'backers would get the class halfway there, and Curry is a lock to go in Round One. Add in Ohio State's James Laurinaitis, Utah's Paul Kruger and Virginia's Clint Sintim as possible first-rounders, and it could be a linebacker bonanza.