With free agency slowing to a trickle and the 2022 schedule not due to be released until May, the NFL is all about the 2022 draft right now. Mock draft, scouting reports, prospect visits at teams' headquarters, rumors, smokescreens, reverse smokescreens – the NFL Draft inspires so much content and discussion that it easily keeps us occupied throughout the month of April.
There is one product of NFL draft coverage, however, that strikes me as pure lunacy, and at the same time I'm completely down for it. I'm talking about the seven-round mock draft.
We all know how hard it is to put up a high score when just mocking up the first round. If you get seven or eight of the 32 picks right, you're feeling pretty good. Hit double digits and you're rubbing elbows with the best mock drafters out there. The idea that you're going to match a Ferris State wide receiver – he's undersized but very fast! – to the Indianapolis Colts in the seventh round and they will actually make that pick in the real draft is ludicrous.
But those seven-round mocks are out there, and they start to become more numerous as the real thing approaches. Maybe some of these analysts just get bored mocking the same 30 or so players to various teams over and over again. Maybe they really want to find the right home for that diamond in the rough from Ferris State.
Seriously, you can find them all over the place. Here's one. Here's another one. You can check out this one if you have ESPN.com Insider access. (If you don't and you're wondering, the Buccaneers get Arkansas EDGE Tre Williams with the 261st pick.) I could go on.
Personally, I would never even try a seven-round mock draft, so I wonder what the payoff is for these maniacs (and I mean that in a good way) who do give it a try. How often do they get anything right after the first round? Well, I can't answer that definitely because I haven't studied the results of multiple seven-round mock drafts in previous years. But I did decide to match up one of them from last year against the actual results. Let's just say you won't be surprised at how well it worked out.
I went to NFL.com and found a 2021 seven-round mock draft by Chad Reuter, who is a well-known analyst on the topic of the NFL draft. Let me be clear that the following is in no way criticism of any sort of Reuter's work; again, he's very good at this. And, in fact, I'm pretty impressed with the results. I honestly wouldn't have been surprised to see him get zero predictions right from the second round on, but that wasn't the case.
First of all, Reuter got six picks right in the first round, impressively hitting on Jaelen Phillips to the Dolphins at pick 18 and Rashod Bateman to the Ravens at pick 27. I consider any hit at 27 to be far more notable than, say, shipping Kyle Pitts to the Falcons at number four, which was the consensus pick for Atlanta at the time. He also put Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey in the first round (to Pittsburgh at the 24th pick). That didn't happen, but it probably should have and it certainly would if the 2021 draft was redone today.
For the rest of the way, I looked for two things: exactly perfect predictions – right player to the right time at the right pick – and also correct matchups of players and teams even if not at the predicted spot in the draft. Reuter's best prediction after the first round was Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore to the Arizona Cardinals at pick 49 in the second round. That happened!
Reuter also correctly matched player and team four other times, including once in the sixth round! He gave Wake Forest EDGE Carlos Basham to the Bills early in the second round after a trade up; Buffalo actually nabbed Basham later in that same round. In the real draft, the Falcons took San Diego State cornerback Darren Hall in the fourth round; Reuter had that happening with a compensatory pick at the end of the fifth round. In addition, Duke linebacker Chris Rumph was drafted by the Chargers in the fourth round, 21 picks after Reuter put those two together with a third-round compensatory choice.
Finally, our intrepid analyst predicted the Bengals would swipe Michigan running back Chris Evans with a sixth-round pick. Cincinnati couldn't wait that long and took Evans in the fifth round.
So anyway, a seven-round mock draft must truly be a labor of love because it is certainly not one that is likely to lead to any bragging rights. Now, if the Bucs draft Arkansas EDGE Tre Williams with the 261st pick in two weeks, I may have to rethink this whole thing.
And now on to your questions.
A reminder that you can send questions to me anytime you want on Twitter (@ScottSBucs) and they're easier to find if you include the hashtag #SSMailbagBucs. We are also now soliciting questions each week on our Instagram page; look for that story on Wednesdays. As always, if you want to get a longer question into the mailbag and would prefer to email your question, you can do so to email@example.com.
Always wondered about the draft clock on draft night and thought this was a good week to ask my question.
When a team makes a draft pick is the next team immediately notified of the pick or do they have to wait for it to be announced publicly? Usually when watching the draft you always see the "pick is in" and the next team is immediately "on the clock". So if the other team has to wait for the pick to be announced wouldn't they be deprived of a full clock?
If they are notified immediately when the "pick is in" before the commissioner announces the pick, how does that process work with the teams being notified? Is there a secret draft sheet online that all teams have access to so they can see real time picks?
Always wondered this and hopefully you can help me finally answer it.
Sean Amstutz (via email to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sean, your suspicions are correct. You have essentially answered your own question.
Yes, representatives from all teams have access to a site that is updated immediately when a pick is made, so there is no time lost whatsoever between when a team first goes on the clock and when it realizes it is on the clock. As you point out, that would be extremely unfair. Theoretically, the draft could three or four picks behind the broadcast of those picks if a number of teams in a row made their picks in a real hurry.
While all the team's draft decisions are made in various draft rooms at team headquarters around the country, the actual mechanism of turning in that pick still takes place at the NFL draft site. This year, that's in Las Vegas. Each team has a table in whatever large room they're using at the NFL draft site, and there will be one or two team representatives at that table. They will maintain a constant open line with the crew back at team headquarters and when they are told who to pick they right the name and other information on a card and hand it over to an NFL representative. That's the actual point at which the pick is made and it is immediately entered into the system.
Then we get the show on TV. In the early going, it's Commissioner Roger Goodell who is handed the card so he can take it to the podium and announce the pick to the world. Depending upon who accepted invites to be at draft headquarters in person, we might also then be treated to that player coming out on the stage, hugging Goodell and putting on a new team hat.
I can verify the existence of this league site with real-time draft updates because there was a time, some years back, where I had access to it. Those were the days. At some point, I believe, the link and password had made its way into too many hands, including some of those belonging to people in the media, and it subsequently became much more restricted. Now I'm stuck waiting a couple extra minutes to see who the Lions are picking at number 32. Oh well, it's still a good show.
Will Kyle Trask be given the chance to compete for the backup QB job now that both Ryan Griffin and Blaine Gabbert are back?
-broden.fisher (via Instagram)
Yes, I believe he will.
When the Buccaneers drafted Trask a year ago, I don't believe they had any intention of using him as Tom Brady's primary backup. The Buccaneers had Blaine Gabbert back to fill that role and were in all-in mode, trying to win a second consecutive Super Bowl. I'm sure it was the plan all along that, if Brady became unavailable for one or more games, that the team would turn to the veteran Gabbert, who has a lot of experience in the team's offense and clearly had the trust of then-Head Coach Bruce Arians. Trask was almost certain to take the number-three spot on the depth chart, even with Ryan Griffin also still around, because the Bucs weren't going to expose a second-round pick to the waiver wire in an attempt to get him onto the practice squad. It was Griffin, instead, who took the practice squad spot.
However, we have a little evidence that, this year, the Bucs may be ready to consider Trask as the number-two quarterback. When Brady announced at the end of January that he was stepping away from the game, that forced the Buccaneers to start searching for new options to start at the game's most important position, and on a team that was otherwise built to win now.
Bruce Arians, who at this point was still Tampa Bay's head coach, was asked about that search at the NFL Scouting Combine and he insisted that Trask would get "a very great shot" to win the starting job in Brady's absence. Arians said that Trask had "earned his shot" with what he had done behind the scenes in his rookie year. General Manager Jason Licht said he "definitely" thought Trask had a chance to win the job.
At this point, Brady was still "retired" and Gabbert was set to become an unrestricted free agent. Gabbert would indeed hit free agency but would eventually, for the third year in a row, re-sign with the Buccaneers. The comments from Arians and Licht were made on March 1, but at that time it was reasonable to assume that Gabbert would in fact be back in the fold at some point.
So, if Trask was definitely going to get a shot to compete with Gabbert and whoever else rounded out the Bucs' quarterback depth chart for the starting job, it stands to reason that he will now get a real chance to pass Gabbert into the number-two spot behind Brady. If they eventually surmised that Trask was their best shot to win with an otherwise strong roster in Brady's absence, then they would logically feel the same way in preparing for a potential Brady absence at some point during the 2022 season.
Griffin also recently re-signed with the Buccaneers, meaning he could stick around for an eight consecutive season with the team. That in itself is pretty remarkable. In fact, if one counts last season, which Griffin spent on the practice squad, he is the longest-tenured quarterback in franchise history.
However, I don't think his re-signing lessens Trask's chances of winning the number-two job. Barring any other additions to the group, which I would find surprising at this point, this looks like a competition between Gabbert and Trask. If I was a betting man, I'd still consider Gabbert the favorite to remain in that role. The Bucs might only have one more year of Tom Brady and they're in Super Bowl-or-Bust mode. Arians is no longer the head coach, having stepped aside into a consulting role recently to allow Todd Bowles to move into the corner office, but most of the coaching staff is the same. I'd guess they're still more comfortable in this scenario with the experienced Gabbert as the next man in, with Trask possibly figuring into the picture more in 2023. However, as I said at the top, I think Trask will get a real shot at jumping over Gabbert this year.
When will the opponent and date for the game in Germany be announced?
-rlm1991 (via Instagram)
When the NFL announced that Tampa Bay had been designated to play in the first regular-season game ever in Germany this year, it also said that the opponent, date and time of the game would be announced "in conjunction with the release of the league's full 2022 schedule" later in the spring.
Last year, the NFL's schedule was released on Wednesday, May 12. That was the second year in a row that the schedule dropped after the NFL Draft. Prior to that, it had always been released at some point in April, usually around the middle of the month. The schedule news has now come after the draft two years in a row and I don't think it's likely it's going back to the old pre-draft approach. It's probably safe to assume it will happen around the same time as last year, probably on May 11 or 12.
It's possible the league will put out a handful of dates before the full release, potentially including the International Series of games, including the Bucs in Germany. But it wouldn't be much before the full release, so we're probably looking at some point in the second week of May.
Which matchups on this year's schedule have the best chance of being primetime games?
-hrrygleason.cyccm (via Instagram)
I answered a question not too long ago about how many prime-time games I thought the Buccaneers would get in 2022 and my answer is five, which is the maximum at the time of the original schedule release. (The number can go as high as seven if some late-season flexed games are involved.) The Buccaneers got five prime-time games in 2020 and that was before the team went on to win the Super Bowl that season. The reason was clear and obvious: Tom Brady. Last year, it was five again, as now we were talking about Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champs.
The Bucs aren't the reigning champions this year but they did tie for the NFL's best record last year at 13-4 and took the eventual Super Bowl winners, the Rams, down to the wire in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. And Tom Brady is still here (after about 40 days when he wasn't). The Bucs certainly look like Super Bowl contenders on paper with Brady back for another year.
So we're talking about five games, which gives me a lot of choices. The only tricky part here is that the game in Germany will not be a prime-time game, so if that one pits the Bucs against one of the most attractive opponents on the schedule – say, Kansas City – it would reduce our options by one. That said, the schedule is still loaded with juicy matchups, including those defending-champion Rams, the runner-up Bengals, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, America's Team and perennially popular clubs like Pittsburgh and San Francisco.
In 2020, the Buccaneers got three of their prime-time games on the road and two at home. Last year it was three at home and two on the road. If I had to guess, given that the Bucs are more established as a contender heading into 2022 – like they obviously were heading into 2021 – than they were heading into 2020, I'd say it will be three home primetime games and two on the road.
Rams at Bucs seems too good to pass up. Let's put a check mark by that one. I doubt it will be Atlanta or Carolina, and while the Bucs and Saints have played in prime time each of the past two seasons, both games were duds and the league may not want to go there again. Brady against Rodgers is such a good matchup that it's going to draw incredible attention no matter when it airs, so I'll go with Bucs-Bengals as the primetime game instead. And for the third one at home I'll guess Baltimore. I'm not making any predictions about which of these will be Thursday, Monday or Sunday night games, though Bucs-Rams would seem like a strong bet for the Sunday evening platform.
Browns-Bucs could be interesting but I've already created two AFC-NFC matchups above. So let's go with Bucs-Cowboys (you know Dallas will have five prime-time games) and Bucs-49ers. Okay, to be honest, I'm really just throwing darts here. There are so many good options on this year's schedule – seriously, it's a pretty insane list of opponents – that you could reasonably go in a lot of different directions.