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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Zero Hour

The 2004 NFL Draft is nearly upon the Buccaneers, who are eager to get the process started…Follow all the draft developments this weekend in the Draft Central section


The last time the Bucs were on the clock, almost a year ago, they drafted CB Torrie Cox out of Pittsburgh

Anyone else starting to feel a draft in here?

If you drift aimlessly from February to August, waiting for the new NFL season to begin, then draft weekend is the one small, lush island in the middle of that great expanse.

Even with baseball hitting its stride and basketball and hockey playoffs in full swing, the NFL Draft weekend is a dominant part of the sports landscape every spring. Heavily anticipated by football fans, it offers mystery, intrigue and, especially, hope. For two solid days. What a weekend.

That feeling of anticipation is shared inside One Buccaneer Place, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are making their final preparations for what could be a critical draft. Recently, general manager Bruce Allen said he hopes to get three or four immediate contributors from this year's class.

Tampa Bay's coaches and personnel men have spent virtually the entire week in lengthy draft meetings. Final rankings have been made and consensus opinions have been reached, hopefully. By Saturday morning, that old adage will ring true: 'If you don't know it by now, you're not going to.'

That's why Buc personnel are happy the week is over. Let the games begin.

"The later the week goes, probably the more relaxed I get," said Director of College Scouting Ruston Webster. "I enjoy draft day. It will be interesting and fun this year, and I'm looking forward to it."

That's not to say Saturday and Sunday will be stress-free. Considering how significantly the events of the weekend may affect the future of the team, every decision will be pondered very seriously. Throw in some last-minute lobbying and the fact that not every coach and scout can get what he wants, and there's bound to be some tense moments in every war room around the league.

"Every position coach has got his guy that he wants, and every scout and even myself," said Webster. "We all have our favorites, the guys we'd be really excited about if they were Buccaneers. There will be a lot of that."

The Bucs also know that this weekend will bring more scrutiny of their decisions than any other time during the offseason. Newspapers, magazines and web sites will post their grades of each team's efforts almost immediately. The reality is, those instant opinions, while entertaining, are rarely relevant. It takes years, not hours, to properly evaluate the impact of a specific draft class, and that may be particularly true on a team that isn't looking to fill a number of gaping holes.

"Our situation now is, we have more veteran players, we were a little more active in free agency," said Webster. "So we're able to let guys play (special) teams and sit and watch for awhile until they're ready to really go out there and play, maturity-wise and physically."

The draft will commence at noon ET on Saturday, when San Diego (or, as is seeming increasingly possible, a trade partner) goes on the clock. Each team will have 15 minutes to make its first-round pick, if needed. Second round picks draw a 10-minute allotment and all remaining rounds are five minutes per pick. In all, the league will spend nine to 10 hours drafting on Saturday and another six or seven on Sunday. will be on site for the entire process, adding to the draft's intense coverage, though from the team's perspective. In Draft Central, you will find a pick-by-pick Draft Tracker, news and feature stories on the weekend's proceedings, video coverage of press conferences, a contest, fan polls and more. Visit Draft Central now for a look at what the compiled mock drafts have taught us.

So it's only a few hours until the weekend starts heating up and the Draft Central becomes your location for insider team news. In the meantime, whet your draft whistle with a few notes and facts about the 2004 NFL Selection Meeting:

  • If the Chargers do indeed trade the first pick of the draft before noon, it won't be the first time that coveted spot has changed hands. In fact, the first overall pick has been traded 13 times and as recently as 2001. That trade, of course, was also pulled off by the Chargers, who sent the top choice to Atlanta, which coveted Virginia Tech QB Michael Vick. The first overall pick has been traded five times since 1990, with the other targeted players being QB Jeff George (Indianapolis, 1990), DT Russell Maryland (Dallas, 1991), RB Ki-Jana Carter (Cincinnati, 1995) and T Orlando Pace (St. Louis, 1997). The Buccaneers were actually the trading team on one of those 13 occasions, sending the top pick to Houston in 1978 (RB Earl Campbell). The first pick of the 1984 draft was supposed to belong to the Bucs, also, but they traded it in 1983 to get QB Jack Thompson from Cincinnati. Cincinnati later shipped that pick to New England, which picked WR Irving Fryar. * The question isn't whether or not there will be any trades in the first round. The question is, how many? Over the last five years, there have been an average of just over 11 trades per first round, peaking in 2001 with 14. The Buccaneers have not made a first-round pick that was originally slotted for them since 1999, when they had the 15th overall pick and stayed put for DT Anthony McFarland. Coincidentally, the Bucs are set to pick 15th this year, as well. * Most analysts expect the top five picks to be dominated by offensive players. By the end of the first round, however, the picks will probably be split fairly evenly between offense and defense. Last year was the most defense-heavy draft of the last 15 years, as 18 of the 32 picks played on that side of the ball. However, the majority of the last 15 drafts split almost evenly down the middle. The most offense-intensive draft of the past 15 was 1995, when 18 of 32 picks went to that side. * If, as some draftniks have predicted, seven receivers go in the first round, it would be a new draft record. The highest number of wideouts ever taken in the opening round was six, in both 1988 and 2001. The 2001 class is still carving out its collective spot in NFL history, but the '88 group was quite notable, as it included Tim Brown, Sterling Sharpe, Michael Irvin, Anthony Miller and Wendell Davis. * The longest draft round ever, in terms of time, was just two years ago. The 2002 first round took five hours and 48 minutes to complete. That same year, the entire seven rounds took 17 hours and 30 minutes. * Ten fewer underclassmen entered this year's draft than the year before. In 2003, a record 54 non-seniors were in the pool, but that number shrunk back to 44 this season. Of course, that's still tied for the fifth-highest total ever.
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