Head Coach Jon Gruden had a lot to think about in the Bucs' draft room last year
Sixteen hours that could change the future of the franchise.
The National Football League has taken some steps to speed up its annual draft – mostly through shorter time limits in the first and second rounds – but it still occupies most of the weekend.
This weekend. Today.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their 31 fellow NFL teams will spend approximately 16 hours on Saturday and Sunday selecting 252 players from the college ranks. Add in the lengthy lead-in shows on the NFL Network and ESPN and the many hours of analysis that will follow the last pick, and a draftnik could, if he so wishes, spend the entire weekend in front of the television.
You can also spend it here on Buccaneers.com. In our special Draft Central section you will find coverage of everything the Bucs do on draft weekend, along with a full-league draft tracker following all 252 picks.
For the personnel pros making the decisions on Saturday and Sunday, this will be an exhausting but almost certainly satisfying 48 hours. Free agency is a very useful tool – and the Buccaneers certainly made significant use of that tool this year – but every general manager will tell you that the draft is how one builds the foundation of a team.
The Buccaneers have drafted well in recent years. All 10 of their picks from last April are still with the team in 2008 and three – Gaines Adams, Arron Sears and Tanard Jackson – were starters as rookies. The 2006 draft gave the team Davin Joseph, Jeremy Trueblood, Maurice Stovall and Bruce Gradkowski; the 2005 draft produced Cadillac Williams, Barrett Ruud, Alex Smith, Dan Buenning and Paris Warren.
With only five picks in this year's draft, and a roster that was reloaded with veteran depth in March and April, there is a little less, in terms of volume, to be accomplished this year than in the past three springs. However, those five players (barring trades) could still make an enormous difference in 2008; the Bucs have had at least one big-impact rookie every year since 2004 (Michael Clayton, Williams, Joseph, Trueblood, Adams, Sears, Jackson). More importantly, they may prove to be the core of the team four or five years down the road.
It will take several seasons to properly assess how Tampa Bay or any team in the league fares in this weekend's draft. However, in just a few short hours, the Buccaneers will know how well their draft strategy paid off. The team's scouts have been preparing for this weekend for 10 months, culminating in the past two weeks of all-day, every-day meetings. Now, the day of reckoning has arrived.
It's all over but the picking.
The 2008 NFL Draft starts at 3:00 p.m. ET today, with the official selection of Michigan tackle Jake Long by the Miami Dolphins. That will put the St. Louis Rams on the clock, followed by the Atlanta Falcons. Tampa Bay picks 20th in the first round, just after Philadelphia. The NFL will conduct the first two rounds of the draft on Saturday and Rounds 3-7 on Sunday. The third round will begin at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday.
A few more fast facts as draft weekend dawns:
- The estimate of 16 hours of drafting used above is based on last year's running time and this year's streamlined time limits for picks. Before 2008, first-round picks had a 15-minute time limit, followed by 10 minutes for the second round and five minutes for each successive round. Now the time limits are 10 for the first round, seven for the second round and five for the remaining rounds. Last year, the first round lasted six hours and eight minutes. If the reduction of the time limits by one third leads to a matching reduction of one third for the overall time of the first round, it will take "only" four hours this year. Round Two should similarly be shortened by a third, while the last five rounds should remain the same. Last year's draft took 18 hours and five minutes; figuring two hours knocked off in the first round and some additional time saved in the second round and you can expect somewhere in the 15 to 16-hour range. Of course, last year's first round and overall draft times were the longest in NFL history, but that was a trend heading in only one direction, so 18 hours remains a good starting point for the above equations. * The Buccaneers' draft decisions will be made in a spacious draft room located next to General Manager Bruce Allen's office. The Buccaneers' two representatives at the official draft headquarters in New York will once again be Video Director Dave Levy and former tight end great Jimmie Giles. The draft is conducted at Radio City Music Hall on the Avenue of the Americas in New York City. Levy and Giles officially make the Bucs' selections by handing index cards with the players' names on them to Commissioner Roger Goodell and his representatives. * Dallas, picking 22nd and 28th, is the only team with two picks in the first round, at least for now. Dallas owns its own pick plus the one belonging to Cleveland, thanks to last year's trade that allowed the Browns to move back into the first round and take quarterback Brady Quinn. * Indianapolis is the only other team without a first-round pick as the draft begins, having sent it to San Francisco last year in order to get the second-round pick that was used on tackle Tony Ugoh in the 2007 draft. That's pick #29; San Francisco's own first-round pick, #7 overall, belongs to New England as a result of the trade the 49ers made last year to get tackle Joe Staley. Without that pick, the Patriots would have been out of the first round, too, as their own selection was forfeited as part of the punishment for their sideline-signals taping incident. * The Buccaneers have made 28 first-round picks in 32 years of drafting (1976-2007). Defensive line (ends and tackles combined) is the most common position drafted by Tampa Bay in the first round, with a total of eight, including last year's selection of Gaines Adams. The Buccaneers have never drafted a tight end or a safety in the first round. The only cornerback ever drafted by Tampa Bay in the first round was Rod Jones in 1986. * The school that has produced the most Tampa Bay draft picks, with 12, is Alabama. Miami (FL) and Tennessee are just behind, with 11 each. * The Buccaneers' roster headed into this weekend's draft already includes 16 players who came into the league as first-round draft picks. That includes six who were drafted by the Buccaneers – Derrick Brooks (1995), Warrick Dunn (1997), Michael Clayton (2004), Cadillac Williams (2005), Davin Joseph (2006) and Adams (2007). Three members of the 1995 first-round class are now together on the Bucs' roster, as Brooks (the 28th overall pick) has been joined by Kevin Carter (St. Louis, sixth overall) and Joey Galloway (Seattle, eighth overall). * Heading into this year's draft, the Bucs have no picks in the sixth or seventh round. That is a radical departure from the team's trend of the last decade. Over the last 10 drafts, the Bucs have made a total of 39 picks in the sixth and seventh rounds combined, or almost four per year. The last time the Bucs didn't pick in the seventh round was 2003, and the last time they have never before been finished by the fifth round. * The fewest picks Tampa Bay has ever made in a single draft was five, in 2000. The Bucs did not select in the first or fourth round that year. Before it was shortened to seven rounds in 1994, the draft consisted of eight rounds in 1993 and 12 rounds prior to that.