Some of the top draft prospects are already in New York City ready for this weekend's proceedings
Last year, the National Football League made some pretty significant changes to the format of its hugely popular draft. The NFL will seeking to streamline the process, to speed it up while still giving teams time to make proper decisions and fans time to enjoy the proceedings.
Most notably, the time limit per pick in the first round was shortened from 15 minutes to 10, an effort to reverse the trend of ever-longer opening stanzas.
It worked. The first round in 2007 took a record six hours and eight minutes to complete. Last year, with the new format, it was over in three hours and 30 minutes. The draft started three hours later than the year before, at 3:00 p.m., and the first round still wrapped up at almost the same time.
Of course, it wasn't all attributable to the reduced clock. An automatic 10 minutes was saved by the fact that New England had forfeited its first-round pick as a result of the infamous sideline camera incident. More importantly, the rest of the teams simply moved at a quicker pace.
With 15 minutes per pick, the first round of the draft could conceivably last eight hours. That it lasted approximately six hours in 2007 means that the various teams were using, on average, 75% of their allotted time.
Reducing the limit to 10 minutes means the first round could go a maximum of five hours and 20 minutes. By using 3:30 of that maximum allotment last year, the teams consumed an average of 65.6% of their available time.
All of which is to say there is potential for the first round to edge back towards a longer completion time in 2009, if teams become a little more deliberate this time around. In addition, the picks will start at a few minutes after 4:00 p.m. this year, with Rounds 1 and 2 to be completed on the first day. The league is estimating a finish of about 10:00 p.m. ET on Saturday.
So, when will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers be on the clock? If the picks are executed at the same rate as they were last year, and if the Buccaneers don't trade up or down from their #19 spot, they would be ready to pick about two hours and one minute after the draft began, or some time not long after 6:00 p.m. ET. If teams pick at the rate they did in 2007, it might be closer to 6:20 or 6:30.
Of course, you may choose, as many NFL fans do, to stay glued to the televised draft coverage all weekend as the picks are announced at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. It will be broadcast in its entirety on both the NFL Network and ESPN/ESPN 2. Streaming video of the NFL Network coverage will also be available on NFL.com. Fans wishing to follow the draft online will find more in-depth coverage from a Buccaneer standpoint in the Buccaneers.com Draft Central section.
The draft will resume at 10:00 a.m. ET on Sunday for Rounds 3-7. Those five rounds, with a time limit of five minutes per pick, are expected to conclude at approximately 6:30 p.m. ET. A similar second day of drafting last year took eight hours and 33 minutes.
The wall-to-wall coverage of both days of drafting on Buccaneers.com will include a running draft tracker of all the picks, exclusive video interviews with team scouts, Buccaneer Insider reports, blog posts, sortable team-by-team draft results, descriptions of each Buccaneer pick, video press conference coverage and more.
The Buccaneers' player personnel department has been preparing for this draft for a year. Rabid NFL and Tampa Bay fans have been absorbing draft coverage since February. It all comes down to this weekend. Ready or not, the 2009 NFL Draft is here.