Tampa Bay Buccaneers

One Buc Mailbag: Countdown to the Draft

As the final hours before the 2017 NFL Draft tick away, we discuss such issues as trade-reporting protocol, the Buccaneers' backloaded division-game schedule and more.

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Each week during the offseason, Senior Writer/Editor Scott Smith will dip into the inbox to answer questions from  Buccaneer fans. This week we take a look at the draft from a procedural standpoint – just how are trades reported while teams are on the clock. We also take a rare departure from draft talk to discuss the way intra-division games are strangely bunched at the back end of the Bucs' 2017 schedule. Finally, we get into some feedback from Buc fans on previous mailbag topics, including one note that will be encouraging for those hoping the team grabs another target for Jameis Winston in the first round.

Fans can submit questions for upcoming mailbags via Twitter to @ScottSBucs (#BucsMailbag), through a message on the Buccaneers Official Facebook Page or via email at *tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com.  The One Buc Mailbag runs every Thursday and is not necessarily meant to reflect the opinions of the team's management or coaching staff.

*1. Scott, Saw the Adam Shefter report about the Buccs trading down and your article about how that or an upward trade could happen. Personally I think the Buccs should trade up to make sure they get Dalvin Cook and really make this into one of the best offenses in the league. Or maybe they don't have to trade up to get him. But what do I know? That's not my question anyway. What I've always wondered is – who reports a trade during the draft? I know that teams are on the clock and they have to pick or they'll get past and the next team will jump in. So maybe sometimes there's not a lot of time to let the nfl know you've got a trade done. Is it a scramble. Does the team trading up always report, or the team trading down, or do both teams have to report? They should do a Hard Knocks on that, let us see how all that goes down. Thanks, Scott. If you can let me know any of that I'd appreciate it. Jim Lawrenson (via email to

You know what, Jim? That regrettable Draft Day movie with Kevin Costner actually got this right.

Okay, maybe "regrettable" is a bit strong. (And maybe it isn't.) I actually didn't mind watching it for much of its run time, but the trade machinations at the end that saved the day for Costner's character were absolutely ludicrous. However, the manner in which the movie portrays a trade being reported during the draft was not only accurate but actually featured the real league-office employees who field the calls when teams report their deals, Ken Fiore and Joel Bussert (although Bussert has since retired).

Photos of Scott Smith's mock draft.

So here's how it works. Two teams (probably their general managers, specifically) are on the phone with each other from the draft rooms at their respective headquarters. They agree on a trade and hang up with each other. The two teams then simultaneously call draft headquarters (in Philadelphia this year) and each one is connected with one of the two aforementioned employees. Team A reports the deal to Fiore, Team B reports the deal to Bussert's replacement. The two league employees compare notes, and if the trade particulars match, both teams are told they have successfully made a deal and the calls are ended.

At this point, it's just like the normal process for the team that traded up to the current pick on the spot. An employee in Team A's draft room is on a dedicated line with the team's representative in Philadelphia, and he relays the pick so that it can be turned in. This part of the process can be accomplished pretty quickly, so the two trading teams can go down pretty close to the wire as the clock is ticking down on the current selection.

By the way, if you want to read more about Adam Schefter's report and what it could mean for the Buccaneers, I wrote about that yesterday.

  1. Backloaded Schedule, Good or Bad?

I see a lot of debate on Twitter whether it's a good or bad thing that the Buccaneers play seven straight non-division games before finishing with six of their last nine against the Falcons, Panthers and Saints. I've seen a lot more votes for "bad," but I don't think your scenario is a reason why, Hanz.

What's a slow start to the 2017 season? Maybe 3-4? Let's go with 3-4; not devastating but certainly not the way to set up a playoff run. Now, if there were two or three division games during that 3-4 start, wouldn't that be even worse? If you're 3-4 but you still have all your division games left, you've got a lot better chance to catch the NFC South leader than if you're 3-4 and you're already 1-2 against those other three teams. No, I would say we'll actually be happy about the makeup of this schedule if the Buccaneers happen to come out of the gate slowly. (Not going to happen, right?)

Overall, is it good or bad? That's a tough call. It certainly feels weird, though it's not quite as strange as it looks on first glance. Getting a run of division games at the end of the season is not unusual, especially since the league purposely started making all Week 17 games intra-divisional matchups. Three of Tampa Bay's last four games last year were against New Orleans and Carolina. Three of the last five in 2015 were against division foes.

The difference this year is that the first half of the Bucs' division slate is all bunched up from Weeks 8-12 (with a bye in Week 11). Coupled with the usual end run through the division, that means two-thirds of Tampa Bay's games from late October on are against Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans. But I'll tell you one thing this isn't: Unfair.

As you might expect, the entire NFC South intra-division slate is backloaded. The Buccaneers' game against Carolina in Week Eight is just the second one on the whole schedule that features two NFC South teams. The only NFC South division game played before that is New Orleans at Carolina in Week Three. The Bucs play their last three games against division foes, but the Falcons play their final four against NFC South opponents. So if there is any disadvantage to such a schedule, it's shared pretty equally.

Any one of these four teams might actually look at this sort of schedule as a good thing. There's no doubt that intra-division games are the most important ones on the schedule. Coaches and players talk about them "counting double" because of what a win over a division opponent can do to the division standings. So if you have any thought that your team might need a little while to settle into a groove – and over the last five years, the Buccaneers' winning percentage in November has been FAR better than in any other month – you might feel like you'll be at your best when the most important games arrive.

Take a look at our 2017 opponents in order of our schedule.

Really, there's no way to know if this is going to be a good or a bad thing. Maybe the Buccaneers will have more injury problems early in the season than late, as was the case last year, for the most part. A very late bye (Week 11) could help the Bucs be at close to full strength as possible for this division-heavy stretch run. I tend to look at this as a positive thing: If the Buccaneers are a contender, as many expect, and if the South is as competitive as it has been for most of its history, we're going to have one huge matchup after another down the stretch. That would be very exciting, if maybe a little nerve-wracking.

The other possibility is that one team (hopefully the Buccaneers!) will be far and away the class of division, like Seattle was in the NFC West last year or Carolina in the NFC South in 2015. If that's the case, that dominant team will enjoy a relatively (VERY relatively) easy second half of the season.* 3. Feedback Time! Here are a couple of responses to mailbag items from last week. Name: Kody Goergen pronounced GorGen Sex: Male*

*So, in my last email I failed to introduce myself. Hopefully the info above clears that up... Lol. Anyhow, I appreciate you putting my email on the website, and really enjoyed your insight. However, I feel a counter point is needed. *

    *

As far as Forrest Lamp in round 1 goes, I don't want to give the impression that I think our line is substandard. On the contrary, I believe they played well last year. Ali Marpet, to me, should have made the pro bowl, but past that the guard play was just ok. Jr Sweezy is coming back from a year off, and even when he was healthy, wasn't really talked about as tops at his position. In my opinion, when you are picking above 22 in the draft, and have the talent levels across the board that our team has, it gives you the opportunity to pick the best available. *

  • Now most mocks I've seen agree that the top RB's, safety, corner, and top three DE's in this draft will be gone by 19. That leaves TE, DT, LB, OL, and QB. Honestly, I think the biggest need on the whole team is OLB, but I'm not sure there is a player talented enough to warrant 19, so then you have TE. Most mocks have OJ Howard gone by then. I also don't hear people talking about the overwhelming talent at DT. This is all just speculation of course, but if it falls the way I expect ( however unlikely), then I feel that taking a potential pro bowl level player, like Forrest Lamp, who can help both the run, and pass game, makes a lot of sense. You were right about the rest. Its near impossible to get the first ten picks right, let alone multiple rounds, but it's fun to dream. With an over active mind like mine, I've gone through about a million different draft scenarios, and honestly most of them I like. We are in a unique position this year, and I hope we take full advantage. Sorry for the crazy long rant. Hopefully you at least enjoy the read.*

As way of explanation regarding that email from Kody, I answered a question he had sent in last week but I could only guess at his name from his email address. So now we all know. It's Kody.

Anyway, Kody sent me an ambitious four-round mock for the Buccaneers, and as you can tell from his feedback above, it was only with the first-round pick that we really disagreed. Kody thinks Western Kentucky's Forrest Lamp – the consensus top guard in the draft – will be available at #19, and that the Buccaneers should pounce. I disagreed, suggesting that, internally, the team feels a lot better about its offensive line depth, especially on the interior, than outside analysts appear to feel. I like Lamp as a player and believe he's worthy of the 19th pick but I think there will be equally (or more talented) players at other positions still available that would fill a more pressing need for the Buccaneers. As I've made probably too clear in the last few weeks, I think one of those positions is cornerback.

Essentially, Kody's counterpoint boils down to this: The Buccaneers' overall roster depth means they can stick close to the "best player available" approach (that's good!), and that Lamp is a future Pro Bowler. My problem is with his assessment of what will already be gone by pick #18. Yes, the top safety (probably the top two safeties) will be gone, but there's still a lot of value there. The third safety on the Bucs' board may very well be a better acquisition for the team than the top guard.

As for cornerback, at least one and probably several will already be gone, but I'm not convinced anyone knows for sure which are the best ones. Most mock drafts have Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore going first, perhaps in the top 10, but even that isn't universally agreed upon. After that, I challenge you to find any sort of consensus on the order that these cornerbacks will be selected: Gareon Conley, Marlon Humphrey, Adoree' Jackson, Tre'Davious White, Kevin King, Chidobe Awuzie and Quincy Wilson. I'm sure there's a very clear order for those players on the whiteboards in the Draft Room at One Buccaneer Place, but we're not privy to that. So, Kody, I stand by my original reply to your original email, but I do appreciate all the thought you've put into this. At least the draft is finally here!

Now, Brian's tweet was in reply to a Bucs tweet linking to last week's mailbag. That included a discussion about the competing ideas of taking a tight end, a running back or a wide receiver at #19. At various points, in that mailbag and the one before, I think I've contended that there's a good chance that the following players will all be gone by #19: tight end O.J. Howard; wide receivers Mike Williams, Corey Davis and John Ross; and running backs Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook. In addition, running back Christian McCaffrey seems to be seeing an uptick in his draft stock the last few weeks, though I don't believe I specifically mentioned him being gone by #19.

So, if I'm reading Brian correctly, he's making a rather convincing argument (if it's true) that those seven players – Howard, Williams, Davis, Ross, Fournette, Cook and McCaffrey – will not all be off the board when the Bucs' pick. From additional tweets in Brian's timeline, it's clear he's hoping that McCaffrey, at least, will still be there. Brian claims that the last time seven "skill-position" players (RBs, WRs and TEs) went in the first 18 picks was nearly two decades ago. So, is his note correct?

It sure is! In fact, I'd have to say he undersold the point. By a lot.

Not only have we not had seven RB/WR/TEs go in the top 18 in this millennium (yes, I know the millennium actually started in 2001, but it sounds more dramatic that way and is still true), we haven't even had six since 2005. That was one of the two years I was guessing would break this string. I thought maybe the 2014 receiver run that brought the Bucs' Mike Evans might put that year over the top, but only three of those came before #19 and there were no backs in the mix. I also know that three of the first five picks in 2005, when the Bucs took Cadillac Williams, were running backs, so I thought that one had a shot. It did get to six with three backs and three receivers, but there were no tight ends. In fact, the tight end position hasn't contributed much to this, with only five top-18 picks in all those drafts combined.

You could say that our cutoff point here is a little arbitrary, and indeed in some years there were several skill-position plays taken in the 19-22 range of picks. But I think that's sort of Brian's point – the Bucs are in what is historically a good spot to get one of the top five to seven skill-position players. Maybe this year just happens to be extra loaded in high first-round options at those three positions, or maybe this happens every year and when it's all said and done the offensive playmakers get spread out all over the round because there are always teams with bigger needs at quarterback, offensive tackle, defensive end and cornerback.

Check out these draft totals for the RB/WR/TE positions among the first 18 picks since 2000:

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That's an average of about three-and-half skill position players in the top 18 per draft. So if the Bucs want one of those, they just have to wait until that poor team that drafts half a player and then pounce on the next one!

I still think all three of those receivers are gone before #19, though.* *

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