General Manager Bruce Allen and the Buccaneers found the new draft time limits to their liking
The first round of the 2008 NFL Draft took three hours and 30 minutes to complete, a full two hours and 38 minutes less than it did a year ago.
You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who disliked that turn of events, at least among the players waiting by their phones and the fans trying to follow the action on television. As NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell predicted, shaving five minutes off the per-pick time limits in the first round and three minutes of the second-round limits did indeed "streamline" the draft.
But how did the shortened time limits go over inside the 32 draft rooms, where decisions that could change the future of a franchise are made under a ticking clock?
Surprisingly, the 30% reduction of time in the second round, from 10 minutes to seven, was more limiting than the 33% reduction in the first round, from 15 minutes to 10. And, while the first day of the draft started three hours early but finished about the same time as usual, the second day started an hour earlier and included a whole extra round.
Overall, however, the new limits and the move of the third round to Sunday led to few complaints – at least in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' draft room – and that makes Goodell's change a definite winner.
"It was interesting, because they quizzed all the teams before they changed [the limits]," said Buccaneers General Manager Bruce Allen. "The first thought was, 'I don't know how it will affect anything.' There aren't many people around the league that sleep the entire weekend anyway. So, if you had three rounds [Saturday] or two rounds, it really didn't matter. You did feel it a little bit, in the second round, the time crunch. You felt like there was more dialogue that could have been had."
Maybe so, but teams weren't too hampered in their trade talks in any round on Saturday and Sunday. In fact, there were a draft-record 34 trades over the weekend, and 25 of the 63 draft spots in the first two rounds exchanged hands at least once (including pre-draft trades). The Buccaneers stayed put at pick 20 in the first round but did make a trade down in Round Two, moving down six spots and gaining an extra fifth-round pick in the process. That pick was later helpful when Tampa Bay wanted to trade up a few spots in the fourth round to ensure that it got defensive tackle Dre Moore.
It's possible that the shortened time limits reduced the number of trades that involved players. That kind of deal was noticeably absent on draft weekend, despite persistent rumors that such big-name veterans as Jeremy Shockey, Jason Taylor and Lito Sheppard might be on the move. (Allen revealed after the draft that, contrary to some of those rumors, the Bucs never had trade discussions with the Miami Dolphins regarding Taylor.)
Of the 34 trades that were made during the draft, only four involved players, including the Pacman Jones deal between Dallas and Tennessee, which was essentially just finalized on Saturday. None of the players traded – Jones, Miami's Lorenzo Booker, Oakland's Fabian Washington and the Dallas duo of Akin Ayodele and Anthony Fasano drew a pick higher than the fourth round in return.
Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden wasn't surprised by the lack of veteran movement on draft weekend.
"I think sometimes a trade doesn't just involve the parties that are trading," he said. "It involves the agent and the contract demands, et cetera. Things have to be worked out and normally those things don't happen within a 15-minute phone call. It's a process that takes time and there weren't many that happened [during the draft], that's for sure."
Still, 252 players from the college ranks found new homes on draft weekend, and in a lot less time than it took last year's class to get dispersed. The NFL may now consider moving the draft headquarters from location to location in the future, like the Super Bowl, rather than basing it in New York City each spring. If that idea goes over as well as the streamlining of the picks, no one will complain.
ESPN's Todd McShay is the winner, at least as far as the Bucs are concerned.
In the week leading up to this year's draft, Buccaneers.com posted a story comparing more than a dozen mock drafts. The idea was to see if a consensus of predictions might lead to any insight into the plans of the Buccaneers, specifically, and the rest of the league overall.
One note: As mentioned in the original comparison, we analyzed a collection of mock drafts that were posted roughly a week before the real thing took place. Most of the sources would later publish updated mock drafts, tweaking them right up to the last few days before the draft. Now, as then, our idea was to get a feel for the opinions of the assembled media before some of the early picks became too obvious. For instance, anyone filling out a mock draft just hours before the draft would know that Jake Long and Chris Long were going to go first and second. The mocks involved in this exercise were mostly posted after reports of the Miami-Jake Long talks had broken but before anything had been finalized. Thus, six of the included 14 mock drafts didn't even correctly name the first overall pick.
Of the 14 drafts included in our original analysis, only the one turned in by ESPN's McShay correctly predicted that the Buccaneers would take Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib. The most common prediction for the Buccaneers was Cal receiver DeSean Jackson, who actually went late in the second round. The Bucs did take a receiver in Round Two, but it was Appalachian State speedster Dexter Jackson.
Talib's final destination was one of McShay's best guesses. He also correctly predicted that Dallas would tab Arkansas running back Felix Jones at pick #22, and that the New York Giants would finish the first round with Miami safety Kenny Phillips.
Overall, McShay correctly predicted the draft position of six players in the first round. For the purpose of this analysis, we looked at where the players went, from pick 1 to pick 32, rather than which teams took them, as trades invariably alter the landscape of any first round.
That wasn't the best total among the 14 drafts included in the analysis. The top predictor in that regard was another ESPN analyst, the infamous Mel Kiper. Kiper nailed the draft spot of eight of the 31 picks…at least in the April 15 version of his mock that was used in this study.
In addition to the many correct predictions for the two Longs, six of the 14 prognosticators accurately paired Arkansas running back Darren McFadden with the Oakland Raiders at pick four. More impressively, eight of the 14 put T Ryan Clady together with the Denver Broncos at pick 12, and seven made the Dallas-Jones connection at pick 22. Surprisingly, the last pick of the round was one of the most common accurate picks, too, as five mock drafters saw the Giants taking Phillips.
Most of the mock drafters got between four and six of the 31 picks right, though two nailed only a single prediction and another topped out at two. None of that is surprising, particularly when using mocks posted a week before the draft. If you miss one or two picks at the top of your predictions, your whole round can be quickly thrown off kilter.
Still, McShay was the only one in our study to correctly match the Bucs with Talib, and for that he deserves special recognition here.
In Aqib Talib, the Buccaneers drafted a 6-1 corner in the first round. It's easy to envision Talib as a one-on-one weapon against the ever-growing ranks of big and tall receivers in the league. Marques Colston, Calvin Johnson, Terrell Owens and Dwayne Bowe are just a few of the supersized passcatchers the Buccaneers will have to deal with in 2008.
Big men aren't the only receivers who can create mismatches for a defense, however. The Buccaneers' newest wideout, Appalachian State's Dexter Jackson, believes speed along the line of scrimmage can cause opposing teams to scramble in the draft room, too.
"It just feel like the mismatches cause teams to draft nickels and fast corners to guard us in the slot," said Jackson. "I may not be the tallest guy but I feel like my work ethic and my speed can cause some problems for the defense."
Jackson is listed at 5-9 and 182 pounds, which makes him one of the smaller targets in the Bucs' corps of wideouts. But he should also be one of the fastest, alongside the unparaleled Joey Galloway. Galloway has a couple inches and about 10-15 pounds on Jackson, and his strength is an underrated aspect of his game, but he is still a good example of how top-notch speed can often negate size problems. Carolina's Steve Smith is another obvious example.
It's fairly clear that the Buccaneers were targeting speed at the receiver position in this year's draft. Had they been more concerned with size, they could have met that demand in the first round, or even in the second round before trading backwards.
"It was a very unique year at that position," said Allen. "It seemed like quite a few went in the second round. That's where they had everyone clumped together, and you had to make sure you got your receiver that fit the specifics of what you were looking for."