Call it grade inflation if you like, but we don't care. We're proud of you, you students of the NFL Draft!
Last year, a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan from Lake City named Tom Slawinski won the "Twenty Questions" draft contest on Buccaneers.com with a somewhat underwhelming score of eight. (You might guess from the contest title that, yes, 20 was the target score.)
That's no offense to Tom; there were roughly 1,000 entrants to the 2010 version of the annual test, and none of the others even matched his score of eight. Fortunately, we were grading on a curve, and Mr. Slawinski plus two other draftniks with scores of seven walked away with Buccaneer game tickets and other coveted prizes.
(Yes, we are here to tell you who won this year's contest. If you can't wait, scroll down!)
Still, the lower scores overall made us re-evaluate the content and difficulty of our popular contest, which we have brought back every year since 2005 thanks to consistently good feedback. Could we tweak it here and there to make it a little more fun for our contestants, and possibly a little more relevant to the Buccaneer fan experience?
Yes, we decided, we could. We reworked the questions to focus a little bit more on what our own team, and what the other teams in the highly-competitive NFC South would do. We also put more emphasis on the earliest picks, which generally draw the most interest and are also potentially easier to predict.
Rather than have you guess which would be the first team to trade up in the first round, we asked you how likely the Bucs would be to trade out of either of their first two slots. We wanted to know what positions you thought Tampa Bay would not draft, not which small school would have the first player picked. And so on.
Yes, some (if not many) of the 20 questions still involved a great deal of guesswork. And we still finished up with a few less serious topics to keep it light. But overall, we tried to make it worth your while to do a little draft analysis this year.
And, lo, our high score jumped all the way to 11! We had two entrants hit that mark, while a third nailed 10 of her predictions and another 11 were good on nine of the 20. All 14 of those contest players scored high enough to win last year's game. (Of course, we did basically spot you two answers with what proved to be a pair of repetitive questions about the first pick in the draft. Let's just say, things were a little more obvious in the last week before the draft than they were when the contest first hit Buccaneers.com).
And who were those awesome draftniks who hit the mark on more than half of their 20 predictions? Please give a round of applause to Rick Carbonell of Oldsmar and Mike Williams of Sarasota!
Now, since there was only one Grand Prize winner and one First Runner-up prize winner, we had to randomly select the top entrant out of those two. Carbonell got the luck of the draw in that portion of the contest, but both Bay area fans will be at Raymond James Stadium this fall thanks to the Twenty Questions contest. Carbonell won four tickets to the regular-season game of his choice; Williams won two.
Our Second Runner-Up prize winner, with a score of 10, was Maria Turner of Tampa. She has won an official Buccaneers hat and t-shirt.
The three top entrants actually produced a correct sweep of only six of the 20 questions, including the two regarding Cam Newton's selection by the Carolina Panthers. All three also believed that the Buccaneers would take a defensive end in Round Two; that Tampa Bay would not trade up or down from either of their first two draft slots; that the Bucs would not draft a wide receiver and that the final pick in the draft would be a defensive end.
Carbonell's best prediction was that Jabaal Sheard would be the first defensive end selected in the second round. As you'll see below in our question-by-question run-down, less than 15% of this year's 971 entrants got that one right. Williams' top crystal ball moment was his prediction that eight offensive linemen would be selected in the first round; almost none of the other contest players got that one right.
Interestingly, the Buccaneers windfall when Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers stunningly fell to their second-round slot at #51 was probably what kept Williams from winning the Grand Prize outright. That impacted two of his incorrect guesses, as he predicted Bowers would go to the Atlanta Falcons in the first round and that the nation's leading college sack man would come off the board before Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
Oh, well, there's always next year, Mike! In the meantime, we extend our congratulations to the three 2011 Twenty Questions draft contest winners, all of whom have already stepped forward to win their prizes. If you were one of the many Buccaneer fans from all over the globe who participated in this year's contest, we hope you had fun, and that you will play with us again next year.
Here's a look at the answers to each of the 20 questions in the contest and a rundown of how well our entrants predicted them as a whole.
1. Who will Carolina draft with the first overall pick (or who will go first if the pick is traded)?
This proved to be the easiest question in the entire contest, as 637 of the 971 entrants got it right, or 65.6%. We'd be willing to bet that the majority of submissions that were wrong were sent in more than a week before the actual draft; as crunch time grew near, media reports made it increasingly clear that the Panthers had closed in on Auburn quarterback Cam Newton.
As mentioned above, all three of our winners got this one right.
2. Who will be drafted second overall?
What was great about this year's draft, however, was that while the first pick became somewhat obvious, as usual, the rest of the top 10 was still difficult to predict. That's clear in how precipitously our contest success rate dropped from question one to two. Surprisingly, only 45 of the entrants, or 4.6% foresaw Denver choosing Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller.
We call that surprising because, while there was still plenty of mystery regarding the Broncos intentions, most analysts were fairly certain it would be a defensive player. And within that subset, there was a fairly small handful of names expected to have a shot at the top five: Miller, Alabama DT Marcell Dareus, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson and perhaps Fairley.
Dareus proved to be the pitfall for most of the incorrect entrants, though there were some votes for A.J. Green. Perhaps those came from local University of Florida fans hoping the Broncos would give ex-Gator Tim Tebow a shiny new target. On the other hand, one of the 11 contest entrants who got nine of the questions right probably kept himself out of the prizes by predicting the Broncos would take Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert. That guy? Probably not a Gator fan.
Of our three contest winners, only Williams got this question right. Carbonell and Turner placed their best on Dareus.
3. Who will be drafted third overall?
The Dareus issue struck here again. Because so many entrants had expected the Broncos to take the 'Bama big man, there were relatively few that expected him to still be on the board at pick #3. That left a vast majority of the entrants picking between Miller and Gabbert, while the Buffalo Bills happily snapped up Dareus.
Only 51 of the 971 entrants got that one right, or 5.3%. None of our three winners were on the money here, with Carbonell and Turner betting on Miller and Williams thinking the Bills needed a quarterback and tabbing Gabbert.
By the way, remember the entrant we mentioned above who sent Gabbert to the Broncos? Well, he then predicted the Bills, who haven't had the best luck with first-round running backs in recent years, would take Alabama's Mark Ingram. It makes one wonder how this particular entrant ended up getting nine right.
4. Which team will draft Auburn QB Cam Newton?
This is the other half of our two-point freebie to anybody who sent their entries in closer to the deadline. If Newton is going to be the first player drafted, and if Carolina isn't going to trade out of the number-one spot (which almost never happens anymore) than this was clearly going to be Carolina. And it was. Of the 971 submissions, 627 (64.6%) got it right.
If you're paying close attention, you'll notice that there is a difference of 10 between the number of correct entries to question #1 (637) and #4 (627). Either a few people really weren't paying attention, or somebody out there was boldly predicting that a team would trade up for Newton. Maybe it was a little of both.
5. In what order will these four players be drafted, from first one off the board to last one off the board: Da'Quan Bowers, Nick Fairley, Blaine Gabbert and A.J. Green?
This is another question that was far more mysterious when the contest was first posted in early April than it was in the days before the draft. That was most notably due to Bowers, who was beginning to move down some mock draft boards at that time of the year.
In the end, however, what likely tripped up many of the entrants was Gabbert's "fall" to the Jacksonville Jaguars at #10. Most analysts had pegged Gabbert as the quarterback most likely to come off the board second, and that may have led many entrants to pair him with the Buffalo Bills at #3. If you believed that – and we noted above that many of you did – than you probably had Gabbert first on this list of four.
As it turned out, Green was drafted first at #4, followed by Gabbert at #10, Fairley to the Lions at #13 and Bowers to the lucky Buccaneers at #51. Only 22 of the 971 entrants (2.3%) got that one right, making it the third-hardest question in the bunch when all was said and done.
Among our winners, Carbonell and Turner got this one right but Williams, as mentioned above, had Bowers going before Fairley (and Gabbert before Green, too).
6. Who will the Buccaneers draft with their first overall pick?
Now we get to what might have been the most interesting question of the 20 in the end. Answers ranged all over the board from OL Mike Pouncey to DE Ryan Kerrigan to LB Akeem Ayers to RB Mark Ingram to T Tyron Smith to CB Prince Amukamara.
There was a fair amount of pre-draft support for (or at least belief in) Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn, the Bucs' eventual pick at #20. In fact, a decent total of 141 entrants got this one right, or 14.5% of all submissions. Not bad, folks. Carbonell and Turner were among those 141 on the right side; Williams dropped off the pace a little by predicting Pouncey.
7. From what position group will the Buccaneers pick with their second selection of the draft?
But it was on this question that our field of entrants really impressed. A full 229 of you, or 23.6% of the total, correctly predicted that Tampa Bay would go for a defensive end at this spot. That's exactly what happened when Bowers was surprisingly available.
Some, like Carbonell and Turner, must have guessed that the Bucs would double up on that position in the first two rounds as they did at defensive tackle last year. Perhaps others, especially those who predicted the Bucs would take an offensive lineman or a running back in round one, thought the team would be waiting on a deep pool of ends in the second round.
There were plenty of predictions here for cornerback and linebacker as well. The vast, vast majority of entrants expected this to be a defensive player, and weren't disappointed.
All three of our winners scored a point here.
8. From what position group will the Buccaneers pick with their third selection of the draft?
Collectively, our group of entrants did almost exactly as well on this question as the one before, with 228 of the 971 (23.5%) guessing the choice would be a linebacker. Our winners weren't as sure, as only Carbonell made the correct choice here. Williams and Turner both expected a tight end.
The choice was Washington linebacker Mason Foster.
9. In terms of draft-pick trades, what do you think the Buccaneers are most likely to do with their first two picks: Trade down once, trade up once, trade either way more than once, stay put with both picks?
Since 483 of the 971 entrants, or 49.7%, got this one right, perhaps it was a little too easy. After all, after the Cam Newton slam dunks in Questions 1 and 4 and another question that proved to have two correct answers (see #10 below), this one produced the fourth highest total of correct answers.
Still, given the Bucs' significant amount of maneuvering the past two years under General Manager Mark Dominik, there was certainly reason to believe the team would cut some early deals. Two years ago, for instance, the Bucs traded up from #19 to #17 to grab quarterback Josh Freeman (and thank the heavens for that!).
Not this year, though. The Bucs stayed put at both spots, got excellent value and helped many of you score a point in our contest. All three of our winners did.
10. From which of these positions will the Buccaneers NOT select a player during the course of the draft (more than one answer could be correct): wide receiver, tight end, offensive tackle, defensive end, linebacker, cornerback?
This was the only question in the draft where two possible answers would produce a point, and that helped 531 of you get it right, or 54.7% of the total entries. All three of our winners nailed it, all by guessing wide receiver.
That answer was correct, as was offensive tackle. The Bucs did draft two tight ends, two defensive ends, one linebacker and one cornerback.
11. How many offensive linemen will be drafted in the first round?
Our success rate falls off the table here, and you can thank a long run on front-line blockers at the back half of the first round. Only one of the top 14 picks and three of the top 21 were offensive linemen, and at that point it looked like a low-number guess would end up being right.
However, three of the next four picks were offensive linemen, which took us to six in the round. That was the total guessed by both Carbonell and Turner. Unfortunately for them, Chicago grabbed Wisconsin T Gabe Carimi at #29 overall and then the defending-champion Green Bay Packers finished the first round with Mississippi State T Derek Sherrod.
That was fortunate for Williams, who guessed eight. He was one of only 26 entrants to get that one right, part of the 2.7% minority.
12. Who will the Atlanta Falcons select with their first overall pick?
Then came what proved to be the two hardest questions in the entire contest, and that's not particularly surprising since they needed the kind of late-first-round precision that even media experts rarely manage.
This one was particularly hard because the Falcons changed the game by trading up an amazing 21 spots in the first round, giving up a king's ransom in the process. At #6 overall they snagged Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones. Given that, it is somewhat amazing that 10 of the 971 entrants got that one right! That is only 1.0% of everyone in the contest. Did these people anticipate a trade up, or a fall by Jones. We will never know. Perhaps it was the same 10 people who got question #1 right and question #4 wrong.
Our three winners were not among those 10. Carbonell said Georgia LB Justin Houston, Williams went with Bowers and Turner guessed Ingram.
13. Who will the New Orleans Saints select with their first overall pick?
The Saints question was difficult for more traditional reasons – it's hard to predict a specific player going to a specific draft position out of the top 10, and the Saints were picking 24th. Unlike the Falcons, they stayed put (though they later traded back into the first round to also get Ingram) and chose California DE Cameron Jordan.
Only 13 of the 971 entrants, or 1.3%, saw that one coming. It is perhaps a bit surprising that there wasn't a little more success here, as many analysts thought the Saints were targeting a defensive end. Perhaps the surprise was that Jordan was still available at that spot. After all, among our three winners, two gave the Saints a pass-rusher (Houston for Turner, Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward for Williams) and the other predicted an interior defensive lineman (Illinois DT Corey Liuget).
14. Which team will be first to draft a running back?
Only a few more entrants were right on this one – 32 of the 971, or 3.3%. Once again, this is presumably because most of our contest players thought Ingram would be off the board before the Saints at pick #24.
As it turned out, he wasn't, but the Saints went with Jordan anyway. Then they doubled back around for Ingram and the wait ended for the Alabama back at #28.
The most popular answers for this question among our contestants were New England and Miami. None of our winners got it right, as Carbonell went for the Dolphins, Williams said Jacksonville and Turner predicted the Falcons. (Unlike some of our entrants, Turner showed consistency with her answers when you compare questions #12 and 14.)
15. Who will be the first defensive lineman selected in the SECOND round?
The trick to this question was to guess how big the run on linemen in the first round would be. Once you decided on a stopping point, then you just had to choose which player among those who were left would be the most attractive to the teams picking early in the second round.
A lot of you figured it out. The choice proved to be Pittsburgh DE Jabaal Sheard, who went to the Cleveland Browns at pick #37 overall. Of the 971 submissions, a respectable 130 were right on this tricky question, or 22.1%. As noted above, Carbonell nailed it, and that would help him maintain his lead over Williams, who streaked to the end of the contest by getting the last four right.
16. How many quarterbacks will be taken among the first two rounds of the draft?
Two factors likely went into the thinking on this question for most of our contest players. One, how much do you believe the growing pre-draft opinion that there would be a quarterback feeding frenzy in the early going, given the delay of free agency and the many QB-needy teams? And, two, how far would Arkansas' Ryan Mallett fall?
If you believed in the first theory, you had a shot here, because as it turned out there were four quarterbacks taken in the first 12 picks and another two came off the board by the 36th slot, early in the second round. That gave us six total passers in the first two round, a number correctly predicted by both Carbonell and Turner.
Williams missed on this one, guessing just four, perhaps believing that Christian Ponder and/or Colin Kaepernick and/or Andy Dalton would fall to Round Three. They didn't, but Mallett did, and that kept the final answer from being 7. That was awfully good news for Carbonell and Turner, because three of the 11 entrants that got nine of the questions right had guessed seven and would have moved into the prize-winning range had Mallett been drafted earlier.
Still, 215 of the entrants got this one right, a very fine 22.1%.
17. In which round will the first kicker or punter be drafted?
This is where the end-of-the-contest run for Williams began, as he was one of 117 entrants who predicted that a punter or kicker would come off the board by Round Four. Joining that minority of 12.0% of the entrants gave Williams a tally where Carbonell and Hunter were shut out. The former said none would be drafted, the latter predicted the seventh round.
In fact, the Philadelphia Eagles surprised many by jumping on Nebraska kicker Alex Henery in the fourth round. Henery was one of only two placekickers drafted this year, and nobody spent a pick on a punter.
18. How many of the first 15 picks in the draft will be defensive players?
Despite the fact that this year's draft was considered very heavy on quality pass-rushers, there were actually more offensive players in the first 15 picks of the opening round than defensive players, by a margin of one. Once again, thank the run on quarterbacks. Passers went first, eighth, 10th and 12th overall, and the top 15 also included two wide receivers (Green and Jones) and two offensive linemen (Smith and Pouncey).
That left seven spots in the top 15 for defensive players, which is exactly what Williams predicted. Carbonell and Turner both guessed nine, and there's a very good chance it was the surprisingly high picks of quarterbacks Jake Locker and Christian Ponder that threw them off.
Williams was one of just 82 entrants, or 8.4% to be right with his prediction on this question.
19. What position will "Mr. Irrelevant" play?
You could say that this is where our three winners separated themselves from the crowd. Only 36 entrants got this one right, making it the sixth-hardest question in the contest, and yet all three of our prize-winners were in that 3.7% minority.
They all said defensive end, which is the position played by Rice's Cheta Ozougwu. Houston made Ozougwu the latest Mr. Irrelevant when they picked him with the last pick of the draft, #254 overall.
20. What grade will the Buccaneers' draft get from Mel Kiper in his first post-draft grading article?
Given that this question essentially asked contestants to make a multi-layered prediction – how good would the Bucs draft be and would Kiper see it the same way – it's impressive that 309 of the 971 entrants got this final one right. One suspects there were many a good guess.
That high number might also reflect a growing confidence in the draft acumen of Dominik and his crew, after they were rightfully praised for their work in both 2009 and 2010. Once again, that group produced a draft that the analysts love, and Kiper was one of many who gave it an excellent grade. Kiper's specific evaluation was a B+, which scored one final point for both Williams and Turner. Carbonell had guessed the Bucs would draw a B-.