Last year, the Giants picked CB Aaron Ross with the 20th pick in the draft, the selection the Bucs may execute in 2008
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may pick 20th in next April's NFL Draft. At the moment, they hope not.
The conclusion of the 2007 regular season finalized much of the draft order for next spring, and the Bucs are currently in the 20th slot, just between Philadelphia at 19th and Washington at 21st. However, since the bottom third of the draft can be affected here and there by the results of the upcoming playoffs, Tampa Bay could actually end up 21st, 30th or 31st.
The higher the draft pick, the better, right? Right now, the Bucs disagree.
The Bucs would drop from 20th to 21st if they advance farther in the playoffs than the Washington Redskins do. And they would fall all the way to the final two picks if they make it to Super Bowl XLII. Each year, the winner of the Super Bowl picks last and the runner-up picks second-to-last, regardless of their records going into the playoffs.
Obviously, the Bucs would trade draft positioning for a successful postseason run.
As the only two teams to finish with 9-7 records this year, the Buccaneers and Redskins are in a draft "segment" together, at picks 20 and 21. If the Bucs advance no further than Washington in the playoffs, the current order will remain the same, and the two teams will alternate throughout the draft. That is, the Bucs will pick 20th in Round One, then 21st in Round Two, then back to 20th in Round Three, and so on.
The Bucs got the 20th pick ahead of Washington thanks to the traditional draft tiebreaker, strength of schedule. Tampa Bay's opponents went a combined 120-136-0 in 2007, for a winning percentage of .469. Washington's opponents went 142-114-0 in 2007, for a winning percentage of .555. Because they played the "inferior" schedule, the Bucs' 9-7 record is considered weaker than the Redskins' 9-7, giving Tampa Bay the higher pick.
Ironically, the Bucs' two losses to end the season, after they clinched the NFC South in Week 15 and used mostly reserves in the last two games, significantly improved their draft positioning. Had the Bucs won those last two games – certainly no guarantee even if they had played all of their starters – they would be picking 26th.
There are five teams grouped at 10-6, two at 11-5 and three at 13-3. Playoff results may change the current order in each of those segments, but a team does not drop out of its segment unless it makes it all the way to the Super Bowl. That's why the Bucs could drop to 30th or 31st but will not move into the 22-29 range under any circumstances.
The Cleveland Browns are one of those 10-6 teams, but their spot is set. Since they are the only club in that group of five that did not make the playoffs, they get the first spot out of those five, at number 22 overall. They won't actually execute that pick, however; Dallas owns the Browns' first-round pick this year.
You may notice that we didn't mention the 16-0 Patriots, and that we've referenced 31 picks instead of the usual 32. That's because New England famously forfeited its first-round pick in 2008 after the videotaping incident in Week One. There will be only 31 picks in the first round this year, though the Patriots will be involved, as they own San Francisco's seventh-overall selection.
The draft order actually won't be set in stone even after the playoffs are over. Picks number three through five haven't been finalized yet because three teams that finished 4-12 – Atlanta, Oakland and Kansas City – had identical strength-of-schedule numbers. The final order will be decided by a coin flip, or possibly two coin flips.
Kansas City will not pick ahead of Oakland in any scenario, because the Chiefs finished third in the AFC West and the Raiders finished fourth (their tie was broken on the basis of common games). So the Falcons and Raiders will flip a coin to decide who's third and fourth, and if the Falcons win the Chiefs will be fifth. However, if the Raiders win the first toss to claim the third spot, the Falcons and Chiefs will then flip to decide fourth and fifth.
The league did not announce when that coin flip would take place, but a similar situation last year was resolved at the NFL Scouting Combine in late February. The Bucs were involved in that flip, and they lost to the Browns, giving the third overall pick to Cleveland.
No coin flip will affect the Bucs' draft position this year. However, the playoffs could, and hopefully will. Until then, here is the current 2008 first-round draft order (including traded picks):
|**Team**||**Record**||**Opp. Win %**||**Opp. W-L Record**|
|1. Miami Dolphins||1-15-0||.539||138-118-0|
|2. St. Louis Rams||3-13-0||.512||131-125-0|
|3/4/5. Atlanta Falcons #||4-12-0||.516||132-124-0|
|3/4. Oakland Raiders #||4-12-0||.516||132-124-0|
|4/5. Kansas City Chiefs||4-12-0||.516||132-124-0|
|6. New York Jets||4-12-0||.523||134-122-0|
|7. New England Patriots (from S.F.)||5-11-0||.465||119-137-0|
|8. Baltimore Ravens||5-11-0||.516||132-124-0|
|9. Cincinnati Bengals||7-9-0||.461||118-138-0|
|10. New Orleans Saints||7-9-0||.480||123-133-0|
|11. Buffalo Bills ^||7-9-0||.516||132-124-0|
|12. Denver Broncos ^||7-9-0||.516||132-124-0|
|13. Carolina Panthers||7-9-0||.523||134-122-0|
|14. Chicago Bears %||7-9-0||.543||139-117-0|
|15. Detroit Lions %||7-9-0||.543||139-117-0|
|16. Arizona Cardinals||8-8-0||.434||111-145-0|
|17. Minnesota Vikings||8-8-0||.504||129-127-0|
|18. Houston Texans||8-8-0||.516||132-124-0|
|19. Philadelphia Eagles||8-8-0||.563||144-112-0|
|**20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers**||**9-7-0**||**.469**||**120-136-0**|
|21. Washington Redskins||9-7-0||.455||142-114-0|
|22. Dallas Cowboys (from Cle.)||10-6-0||.430||110-146-0|
|23. Seattle Seahawks||10-6-0||.414||106-150-0|
|24. Pittsburgh Steelers||10-6-0||.453||116-140-0|
|25. Tennessee Titans||10-6-0||.500||128-128-0|
|26. New York Giants||10-6-0||.516||132-124-0|
|27. San Diego Chargers||11-5-0||.500||128-128-0|
|28. Jacksonville Jaguars||11-5-0||.516||132-124-0|
|29. Green Bay Packers||13-3-0||.469||120-136-0|
|30. Dallas Cowboys||13-3-0||.496||127-129-0|
|31. San Francisco (from Ind.)||13-3-0||.516||132-124-0|
# - Subject to coin flip(s). ^ Denver defeated Buffalo head-to-head, so Buffalo gets pick 11 over Denver. % Detroit beat Chicago head-to-head twice, so Chicago gets pick 14 over Detroit.
If the Bucs do end up picking 20th or 21st, it will be the first time in team history they've executed that specific pick. Tampa Bay has made a first-round pick in the 20-29 range five times: guard Ray Snell (22nd, 1980), cornerback Rod Jones (25th, 1986), linebacker Derrick Brooks (28th, 1995), defensive tackle Marcus Jones (22nd, 1996) and guard Davin Joseph (23rd, 2006).
Last year, the 20th and 21st picks in the draft were Texas cornerback Aaron Ross, to the Giants, and Florida safety Reggie Nelson, to the Jaguars. In 2006, it was Penn State Tamba Hali, to the Chiefs, and running back Laurence Maroney, to the Patriots.
The Bucs have been slotted into that general range quite frequently in recent years. In 1998, they started in the 23rd spot; in 2001, the 21st spot; in 2002, the 21st spot again; and in 2006, the 23rd spot.
The 2008 NFL Draft is scheduled for the weekend of April 26-27.