Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn is most often projected to go to Cleveland at the third pick, but several analysts see Quinn becoming a Buccaneer
Tackle Marcus McNeill started every game as an NFL rookie in 2006 and helped the San Diego Chargers to a league-best 14-2 regular-season record. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie picked a round earlier than McNeill by the same team in the 2006 draft, played in all 16 games after returning from an injury that cost him his senior season at Florida State.
Linebacker Chad Greenway sustained an injury after arriving in the NFL and missed his entire rookie season with the Minnesota Vikings. Fellow linebacker and 2006 first-rounder Ernie Sims had 124 tackles and, as expected, an immediate impact on the Detroit Lions' defense.
Wide receiver Santonio Holmes had a reasonably strong, 49-catch rookie year in Pittsburgh and was a starter by the end of the season. Center Nick Mangold stepped right into a starting spot with AFC runner-up New England. Tackle Winston Justice, a noted first-day slider last spring, didn't play a game for his NFL team, the Philadelphia Eagles.
These seven players share the obvious connection of the 2006 NFL Draft. All were considered possible first-round picks, and in fact all but McNeill and Justice did come off the board in the first round. But for our purposes McNeill, Cromartie, Greenway, Sims, Holmes, Mangold and Justice share a more specific connection.
That is, all seven were destined to be Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At least, that was the thoughtful, albeit contradictory, analysis of a handful of draft prognosticators a year ago. The Buccaneers were slotted to pick 23rd in the 2006 draft, and the many mock drafts to be found online revealed a host of opinions as to what the team would do when it was on the clock. Of course, the Buccaneers actually selected Oklahoma guard Davin Joseph, admitting afterward that they had coveted the high-ceiling lineman for months. That was information the prognosticators couldn't know, of course, so there is no blame to be assessed for the many errant guesses.
In fact, few mock drafts proved particularly accurate after the first 10 or so picks last year, and that's no slight to the analysts doing their best to shed light on what will happen draft weekend. No one on the planet has the sort of 32-team draft-room access that would be necessary to put together any truly meaningful mock draft. Each surprise pick early in the round sends shockwaves down through the rest of the picks, rendering most mocks off the mark before they reach the double-digit selections.
Last year, in an analysis of 12 widely-read mock drafts, the Bucs were most often matched up with Cromartie or McNeill, who got three mentions each. Cromartie, however, went off the board at pick 19, four spots before the Bucs could move (barring a trade). McNeill, in contrast, lasted 18 picks into the second round.
The Bucs did pass on Holmes, who went 25th, and Mangold, who went 29th. Justice, who was slotted very high in the first round in some mock drafts, slid all the way to the 39th overall pick, going to Philly in Round Two. Tampa Bay never came close to Sims, who went ninth, and would have had to make a decent hop up to 16 to beat the Vikings to Greenway.
Perhaps there were some nuggets of wisdom in those assembled mock picks, however. After all, five of the 12 assembled drafts linked the Bucs to an offensive lineman, and they used their first two selections on that position, taking Joseph and then tackle Jeremy Trueblood in the second round. The Bucs didn't take Holmes or Cromartie, but they did go receiver (Maurice Stovall) and cornerback (Alan Zemaitis) in the third and fourth rounds.
Two years ago, of course, the mock drafts were much more accurate in regards to the Buccaneers' first pick, as Tampa Bay was in the five-hole and most analysts had gleaned a Buccaneer interest in Cadillac Williams. That worked for everyone; most mock drafts got a check mark and Williams took home the NFL Rookie of the Year award.
Are we looking at a similar situation in 2007? Maybe, maybe not. There is definitely one player who dominates the Bucs' spot in the mock drafts – wide receiver Calvin Johnson – but the reasoning is a bit different this time around. In 2005, most agreed that running back was a position of serious need for the Buccaneers, thus spiking the analysts' interest in Williams. This year, few are claiming that wide receiver is one of the Bucs' most pressing needs, yet most believe Tampa Bay will take a best-available-player approach and grab the Georgia Tech star.
To be exact, two-thirds of the 12 mock drafts we've assembled this year say the Bucs will be turning in a Calvin Johnson index card about 45 minutes into next weekend's draft. That's a consensus that doesn't even exist for the second or third picks, to be made by Detroit and Cleveland if there are no trades.
For this analysis, we compared mock drafts from the following sources: The Sporting News, ESPN.com's Mel Kiper, Scouts Inc. (Todd McShay), Dallas Morning News (Rick Gosselin), Pro Football Weekly, SI.com (Don Banks), Foxsports.com (Peter Schrager), NFL.com's Pat Kirwan, CBSSportsline.com (Clark Judge), ProFootballTalk.com, Yahoo.com and NFLDraftScout.com. All of the drafts have been updated in April, most of them as recently as last week. Obviously, any and all of these mock drafts could experience some tweaks in the coming days.
All four of the dissenters in regards to the Buccaneers' pick have Johnson coming off the board before Tampa Bay is on the clock. Gosselin and Judge see the Bucs then switching their interest to Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn. Pro Football Weekly believes the Bucs would go for Wisconsin tackle Joe Thomas. And Pro Football Talk, the only source among these 12 that doesn't have LSU QB JaMarcus Russell going first to the Raiders, gives Russell to your Buccaneers.
Because some of these mock drafts are behind subscription services on their respective sites, we won't reprint them here. However, we will give you the consensus top 10 across the 12 mocks. That is, these are the players who receive the most "votes" at each of the first 10 picks.
1. Oakland…Russell (11 votes) 2. Detroit…Clemson DE Gaines Adams (5) 3. Cleveland…Quinn (7) 4. Tampa Bay…Johnson (8) 5. Arizona…Thomas (6) 6. Washington…Louisville DT Amobi Okoye (4) 7. Minnesota…LSU S LaRon Landry (5) 8. Atlanta…Landry (5) 9. Miami…Penn State T Levi Brown (4) 10. Houston…Michigan CB Leon Hall (4)
As you can see, the consensus falls off quickly after the first five picks. Not a single player received even half of the picks for any slot from six to 10. Furthermore, Landry was the top choice at two different spots, which obviously can't happen.
Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson is an even more interesting case. He is in the top 10 of 11 of the 12 mock drafts (all but Fox Sports, which has him going 12th to Buffalo), but he isn't the top votegetter at any particular spot. He gets three votes each at three (to Cleveland), seven (to Minnesota) and 10 (to Houston).
By the bottom of the round, there is almost no consensus at all, even on the position a team might be targeting. Indianapolis picks last in the round and the 12 mock drafts give the Colts 11 different players. Only Tennessee defensive tackle Justin Harrell gets a pair of votes. Others include two linebackers (Michigan's David Harris and Miami's Jon Beason), two defensive ends (Purdue's Anthony Spencer and Michigan's LaMarr Woodley), two safeties (Texas' Michael Griffin and Miami's Brandon Meriweather), a defensive tackle (North Carolina State's Tank Tyler), a tight end (Miami's Greg Olsen), a tackle (Central Michigan's Joe Staley) and a wide receiver (USC's Dwayne Jarrett).
Of course, Buccaneer fans are much more interested in the top of the round. These collected mocks, unsurprisingly, reflect the general public opinion that the Buccaneers are targeting Johnson (this analysis offers no confirmation or denial of that opinion). But even if that is the shared thought of the analysts, few agree on how the top of the round will unfold. Only three believe the first four picks will go Russell-Adams-Quinn-Johnson, and only three see Russell-Thomas-Quinn-Johnson.
In other words, even if these analysts' guesses do prove to be educated, there is still a lot of intrigue to unfold on Saturday.