My plan to live blog the draft from the O's game fell apart much quicker than expected. Not only did I fail to write any posts yesterday but I hadn't even seen the Buc's picks until a few hours ago. But more on the Buc's picks in a bit.

I've never been to Oakland or New Orleans, but Baltimore might be the shadiest city in the country. In how many cities can you see crackheads passed out on the sidewalk on the way to the ball game? Or police who blatantly ignore open container laws to instead harass Pakistani cabbies? I love Camden Yards (and highly recommend catching a game there) but the rest of the city, with the notable exception of the Inner Harbor, is all warehouses and crackheads.

My first reaction when I saw the Bucs draft was surprise. I completely botched that cornerback-in-the-first-two rounds prediction. Davin Joseph was not even on my radar screen. I'm an idiot.

That being written, my second reaction was literally, "Gruden is an idiot." And let me explain why...

What I Don't Like:

The Buc's first two picks

Nothing against Joseph or Jeremy Trueblood, but the Bucs could have added a quality guard in the third or fourth round (Max Jean-Gilles for example). The Joseph pick especially reminds me of Gruden's Janikowski pick from a few years back. Gruden reached to draft a position which was a major weakness for the Raiders when he could have selected a kicker later in the draft. And while Janikowski has worked out for the Raiders he was not worth a first round pick. Joseph will most likely be a good player for the Bucs but a starting guard could have been picked several rounds later.

The 49ers selecting Manny Lawson

I called it, I called it, I called it. My squirrel killer went one pick before the Bucs. Not sure if anyone noticed but Reggie Bush and DeAngelo Williams now play in the NFC South and it wouldn't have hurt to add a stud defensive player for the future this year. The one thing this draft class has is a startling lack of impact defensive players.

What I Liked:

The Alan Zemaitis pick

Good value pick in the fourth round for the Bucs at a position they need help at. Almost all the first and second tier corners were off the board before the Bucs second pick. The Bucs first defensive pick may not make the immidiate impact I had hoped for but Zemaitis is a great choice in the fourth.

The Maurice Stovall pick

Another great value pick for the Bucs at a position of need for Gruden. There may be little difference between Stovall and every other tall, slow receiver Gruden has drafted in the last couple of years but most mocks had Stovall off the board early in the second (Of course all those mocks had Bush going number one). At least Stovall has experienced success in Notre Dame's NFL-like offense.

All in all, this is not a very impressive draft. I would be surprised if any of these guys play in the Pro Bowl. But Gruden and company did fill their most pressing needs, and well...that has to be worth something. I still think Gruden went a little heavy on the offense when so many defensive playmakers were available in this draft. It seems like the Bucs passed on more talented players to instead select character guys.


NFL Draft Preview: Take Five

Well this is it, our fifth and final draft preview. Quick note before we begin, I will miss most of ESPN's coverage of the draft tomorrow since I'm heading out to the O's game. Although there is a chance I will blog from Camden Yards, since I'm bringing the Blackberry with me to check out the draft. (Of course, this all depends on how many frosty beverages I consume. So don't bank on it.)

The following is a list of guys, in order, I would like the Bucs to pick in each round. I'm assuming the Bucs have a reasonable shot at drafting these players.

Round 1:
Manny Lawson, DE
Winston Justice, OT
Jonathan Joseph, CB
Jimmy Williams, CB
Nick Mangold, C

Round 2:
Cedric Griffin, CB
Daryn Colledge, OT
Taitusi Lutui, G
Max-Jean Gilles, G
Maurice Stovall, WR

I would try and predict whom the Bucs will draft but Gruden and company's lips have been sealed for the last month. Then again, there's something satisfying about the fact that Dr. Z has the same access to One Buc Place that I do.

This would be an ideal draft for the Bucs to pick up a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball, somebody who will play for the franchise another twelve years. The bottom half of the draft will be stocked with defensive talent which in any other year would have gone higher. The cornerback class is especially deep and Griffin would be a perfect fit for Kiffin's defense. Truth be told he's the one guy, more than anybody else (even Lawson) I hope the Bucs will draft.

Either way, tomorrow's draft should be one of the more interesting drafts in recent history. I fully expect a number of trades to be made in the first round. Already the Texans have passed on Reggie Bush to sign Mario Williams to a contract. Should be an entertaining Saturday.

And speaking of Reggie Bush I leave you with a YouTube clip of the his college highlights, enjoy.


Reading the tea leaves

There's nothing more interesting than blind conjecture and here at the Best Bucs Blog we're always happy to keep you interested.

Charles Woodson's signing with the Brett Favre Packers makes it more likely the Bucs will draft a defensive back early. I've already mentioned this before so I won't waste too much space on it, but this is a deep cornerback draft and the Bucs need a corner to groom for the future. In fact, I will go out on a limb and GUARANTEE the Bucs take a defensive back in the first two rounds.

That being written, I'm still holding out hope the Bucs pick Manny Lawson. And Lawson's availability will most likely depend on how the top six picks in the draft work out. San Francisco has two first round picks (#6 & #22), which the 49ers will likely split on an offensive talent and a defensive talent. If Maryland tightend Vernon Davis falls to the sixth pick, there is no question the 49ers will grab him. If that happens it is very likely the 49ers would select Lawson one pick before the Bucs are on the clock.

But (and this is a big but), there are indications the Jets or Packers (who pick before San Fran) are interested in Vernon Davis. If the Packers select Davis then the 49ers would end up drafting Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk. In this scenario, the 49ers would probably pick a reciever at the 22 spot.

And of course, this would make it more likely that my favorite squirrel killer would be available to the Bucs.

The first eight picks will set the tone for the rest of the draft. For example, if D'Brickshaw Ferguson falls past the fourth pick, it is likely Winston Justice would also fall since few teams besides the Bucs need tackle help. Any unexpected pick in the first eight will act like stone thrown in a pond, creating a ripple effect in the rest of the first round.

Miss Cleo says for another $5 she'll tell you who the Bucs will pick


Michael Vick being Ron Mexico

And with one last whimper the curtains close on this enjoyable little drama. Which is sad really. The ideal ending would have involved a jury trial and zombified Johnnie Cochran. (Think Weekend at Bernie's II. Actually no, I apologize...nobody should ever be asked to remember Weekend at Bernie's II.)

But in the end we're all slightly richer for this story. Michael Vick will always be known as Ron Mexico and Sonya Elliott will always have herpes.

And while we're on the subject, when exactly does the Michael Vick meltdown clock begin? His coaches can't design a decent offense for him. His receivers are more likley to catch herpes from Vick than they are one of his passes (excuse the obvious joke). His brother is busy brandishing guns at the Golden Arches and getting kicked off the Tech football team. At some point the combination of impossibly high expectations and unavoidable failure will catch up with Vick resulting in one of two results. One, Vick will get traded (we're still another four or five years from this happening). Or two, Coach Mora the Younger gets his pink slip from the president and #1 member of the Michael Vick fan club, Arthur Blank.

The whole Starbury-like tirade from the other week was just a precursor. By the end of next season Michael Vick will get his coach fired.


NFL Draft Preview: Take Four

Time for our fourth effort to blindly wave the divining rod in the direction of the Bucs first round draft pick. Less than a week before the draft and we're still no closer to predicting whom the Bucs will select. Four months ago I figured the smart move would be to draft a corner in the first. Four weeks ago I thought they should go outside linebacker. Just a week ago I was willing to bet they would select an offensive tackle.

And now I'm back to predicting the Bucs will select a corner with their first pick. (Just remember my track record in the prediction business is less than perfect.)

Make no mistake the most compelling need for the Bucs is at the tackle position. The Bucs biggest problem at this position can be described in two words, Julius Peppers. Hell, I'll give you two more words to digest, John Abraham. If we want Chris Simms to last a whole season, Gruden and company have to find someone (or some people) to slow down Peppers and Abraham.

Marcus McNeill has already become a household name for Bucs fans. The mamooth tackle out of Auburn is the most popular mock draft selection for the Bucs. The only problem is that when not comparing Cadillac to a cheeseburger (or possibly french fries) McNeill has been sliding down draft boards quicker than Kenyatta gives up a sack. Which means that while McNeill is still a strong possibility for the Bucs first pick, other personalities have emerged as more likely canidates.

In the interest of honesty, I have to admit I am starting to develop a man crush on NC State defensive end Manny Lawson. Even ignoring the fact Lawson is the perfect replacement for Simeon Rice after next season, you have to love somebody who hates squirrels with such a passion. But sadly it looks like it would take a good bit of luck for Lawson to still be on the board at 23. Nobody has seen their stock climb higher in the past month than Lawson.

This year's cornerback class is incredibly deep and the Bucs need to add depth to their secondary. The following list of first round talent will most likely be available when the Bucs pick.

Jimmy Williams, Virginia Tech
Antonio Cromartie, FSU
Tye Hill, Clemson
Richard Marshall, Fresno St.
Jonathan Joseph, South Carolina
Kelly Jennings, Miami
Jason Allen, Tennessee

Out of all the guys, Williams, Cromartie, Joesph and Allen look like the best fit for the Bucs defense. It would take a stroke of luck for Williams, widely considered the #1 rated corner, to fall to the Bucs. Cromartie and Joseph are coming off serious injuries and have bigger question marks next to their names than anybody else on this list.

Jason Allen is somebody whom I believe would be a good addition to the Bucs but, much like Dwight Smith, may end up being moved to safety if he can't cut it at cornerback.

Actually the guy whom I think would be the best fit for the Bucs at cornerback, Cedric Griffin out of Texas, is not even listed as a first rounder. Overshadowed by Michael Huff at Texas, Griffin could be one of the most reliable picks of the draft. But, much like the Lawson pick, it would take a good bit of luck Griffin to still be available when the Bucs pick towards the end of the second round.

Which brings us right back to where we started, who will the Bucs draft in the first round?

The Bucs best option may be to start injury rumors about DeBrickshaw Ferguson or Winston Justice, and pray one of those guys drops to 23.

The Bucs second best option will be to draft the best non-runningback on the board. Except for offensive line whomever the Bucs draft will get in very little playing time this season, especially if that pick is a defensive player. Unlike the last two first round draft picks, this years first rounder will not have as many opportunities to make an impact as Michael Clayton and Cadillac Williams.


Pass the puck, hey

I've been informed that there's this sport where grown men push a "puck" around with a stick in between savagely beating the shit out of each other (how barbaric)... and they play on ice of all places! Despite the absence of ice in Florida this Tampa Bay team has done quite well, and has even won some kind of giant cup. (I suspect they've been recruiting players from outside of Florida.)

And apparently the postseason for this odd sport starts today, with our "local" boys facing off against a Canuck team called the Ottawa Senators. Which seems like an odd name for a team from Ottawa since everyone knows the capital of Canada is Toronto.

Either way, I suggest you stop by BoltsMag for all the latest news on our puck-pushing boys in blue and black. Even despite the absence of any pictures of the ice girls.

Sadly this is the closest picture I could find to the Tampa Bay ice girls.


Sowell to become a Buc

Much was made of the departure of fullback Jameel Cook a month ago to the Texans. The cries of "what will we do now?" could be heard all across Tampa Bay, from Tarpon Springs to Sarasota. Undoubtedly many a Bucs fan woke up at night in a cold sweat from nightmares of a season without Jameel Cook.

Well those Bucs fans can rest easier now with the signing of Jerald Sowell. What's that you say? The Bucs already had TWO FULLBACKS on their roster, Mike Alstott and Rick Razzano. Rubbish, a team can never have too many fullbacks.

Just bring back the Wing "T"!


Mahan to remain a Buc (probably)

Bucs sign right guard Sean Mahan to one year tender.

49ers trade into 22nd pick

Denver and San Francisco have swapped draft picks. San Fran sends their 2nd (#37) and 3rd (#68) round picks to Denver in exchange for a first rounder. It just so happens the 49ers newly acquired pick is right before the Bucs first rounder at 23. Which is bad news for the Bucs.

Most indications are that the Broncos were leaning towards drafting an offensive player, either a receiver or runningback. In fact, the Broncos may have agreed to trade down because they have a feeling USC runningback LenDale White will be available at the beginning of the second round. The 49ers, on the other hand, will most likely be looking to select a defensive player since indications are that they will draft Maryland tightend Vernon Davis with their other first rounder.

For example, Manny Lawson's name has been brought up as a possible selection by the Bucs. Lawson's stock has been rising quickly the last couple of weeks due to impressive workouts, and it's very likely the 49ers would select Lawson at 22. There will be plenty of defensive talent available late in the first round, but chances are that talent pool will be slightly more diminished than it would have been if the Broncos still had that 22nd pick.


Will Bush still go #1?

NFL.com has reported that "multiple sources, from across the league" have mentioned that the Texans are leaning away from drafting Reggie Bush with the first overall pick. These supposedly credible sources also indicated that Houston has been talking with Mario Williams about possibly signing a deal.

I'm not sure what's more laughable that people believe a story leaked so close to draft time, or that people are taking a story on NFL.com this seriously.

Every team in the NFL is running a full scale misinformation campaign that would make Big Brother in 1984 jealous. Houston tipped there hand over a month back when they indicated to Bush and his agent that they wanted to draft the much-hyped USC runningback. Bush, WITHOUT A DOUBT, will be the first overall pick.

Of course, that doesn't mean Houston is not looking to trade down. The Texans have other more pressing needs than runningback. Houston would be fools not to explore trade options, and leaking stories about talking with Mario Williams would stregthen their trade position.

The better question here is which team would be willing to give up the multitude of picks required to move up to number one? Jets, maybe. But the Jets have almost as many holes to fill as the Texans. And after that there's no team in the top eight which really needs a runningback enough to trade away other high picks.

In the end, Bush is such a unique talent at a position that can impact your team from year one (i.e. Cadillac), that a coach would be a fool to pass on him. Head coachs have three years to prove themselves or else they're done. Except for maybe Leinart or Vinny Young, nobody in this draft has been more analyzed and tested than Reggie Bush. Bush is the lead pipe lock of this draft.


Preview of the NFL Draft: Take Three

If I was a betting man (and I am but sadly such a gambling site does not exist) I would be willing to bet the Bucs draft an offensive tackle in the first round. And by all accounts that tackle will most likely be Marcus McNeill out of Auburn. Tom mentioned this a few months back and I mocked him for, but then again apparently I routinely mock him.

Rumors are that the Saints are increasingly becoming interested in defensive end Mario Williams, which means the Bucs should increasingly become interested in a left tackle. Julius Peppers proved the Bucs don't have a single offensive lineman capable of slowing a premier pass rusher, and the addition of John Abraham (and possibly Mario) to the division would make that point more apparent unless the Bucs pick a tackle early come Saturday.

But is a first round pick worth spending on an offensive tackle? Even ignoring McNeill's back problems, what are the chances the Auburn giant would pan out to be a Pro Bowl caliber tackle?

Below is a list of every tackle selected in the first round between 1998 and 2002. If you're looking for encouragement for selecting a tackle you should probably look else where. Outside of the top ten, you're just as likely to pick a bust as not.

7- Bryant McKinnie (Miami), Vikings,
started all 16 games at left tackle for Vikings, 2nd rated left tackle by Football Outsiders
10- Levi Jones (Arizona St), Bengals
started 15 games for the Bengals, left tackle for one of the best offenses in the NFL last year
29- Marc Colombo (Boston College), Bears
now playing for Cowboys, started zero games last season

2- Leonard Davis (Texas), Cardinals
started 15 games for Cardinals, worst starting left tackle in NFL according to Football Outsiders
14- Kenyatta Walker (Florida), Bucs
he's the reason I'm writing this
18- Jeff Backus (Michigan), Lions
started 16 games for Lions at left tackle, middle of the pack left tackle

3- Chris Samuels (Alabama), 'Skins
started all 16 games for 'Skins, home run pick
20- Stockar McDougle (Oklahoma), Lions
started 2 games for Dolphins, fighting for spot on Jaguars' roster
22- Chris McIntosh (Wisconsin), Seahawks
quit playing in 2003 because of a neck injury

14- John Tait (BYU), Chiefs
started 15 games for Bears
18- Matt Stinchcomb (Georgia), Raiders,
started zero games last season, has had only one season ('04 w/ Bucs) where he started all 16 games
19- Luke Petitgout (Notre Dame), Giants
started 15 games last season, most solid first round pick of this draft
21- Lonnie Shelton (Eastern Michigan), Cardinals
started 16 games for Cleveland, now in Miami fighting for starting spot
27- Aaron Gibson (Wisconsin), Lions
started 3 games for Bears last season, has played for 3 teams in 6 years, now with his 4th team (Bills)

7- Kyle Turley (San Diego State), Saints
released a year ago by Rams because of back problems, if he comes back this season it will not be as an offensive tackle
11- Tra Thomas (FSU), Eagles
started 10 games for Eagles last season, before last season started in at least 15 games every season for Eagles
23- Mo Collins (Florida), Raiders
has not played since 2003 because of injuries
27- Victor Riley (Auburn), Chiefs
started 8 games for Texans, currently a free agent, has had difficulty keeping his weight down

Pro Bowls: Samuels (2001, '05), Thomas (2002, '04)

My Thoughts...

Anyone else notice the Lions spent three first round picks on offensive tackles three straight years? Then again maybe they just needed those first two years of practice to get the pick right.

The Mo Collins selection is just down right eerie. In a pick that would have been the Bucs (and at 23 to boot) the offensive tackle selected has not played since 2003 because of injuries. Miss Cleo-like foreshadowing or simply a case of reading too much into nothing?

Out of 16 picks only two have made the Pro Bowl, Chris Samuels and Tra Thomas.

Huge warning flag, none of the picks between 20 and 32 have worked out. Probably the most successful of these picks has been Lonnie Shelton who started 16 games for Cleveland last season. Shelton is now fighting for a starting spot in Jacksonville.

Admittedly this is a small sample size, but just looking at how big of a disappointment some of these guys turned out to be I would think twice about drafting an offensive tackle in the first round if I were the Bucs. You have about a fifty-fifty chance of the pick panning out.

Offensive Lines 2005 [Football Outsiders]

EDIT: It has been pointed out to me that I failed to list the 4th overall pick in 2002, Mike Williams to Buffalo. Big mistake by me, but the Williams pick is further evidence against picking a tackle in the first. Williams was cut by Buffalo after four disappointing seasons and is now competing for a starting spot in Jacksonville. (4/17)


Lawson got ups

Manny Lawson, the OTHER defensive end out of NC State, has been brought up as a potential first round pick by the Bucs. Lawson has the type of physical attributes which leave draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. drooling. But it's this one sentence in his NFL Draft Countdown profile which left me confused...

...Vertical jump is higher than the device used to measure that stat...

I had no idea what that meant until I saw this picture earlier today.

Ahhh, that's what the NFL Draft Countdown guys meant. It all makes so much more sense now.

Coming tomorrow, my third take at previewing the NFL Draft.


When Gun Safety Demonstrations go Bad

Note to former Buc player Lee Paige, might want to make sure the gun is not loaded next time.

Paige played three games for Bucs replacement team during the 1987 player strike (that's right he's a scab and a klutz), and then joined the DEA in 1990. He was giving a drug safety presentation for the DEA when one of the guns he was showing accidently went off. Best part about this video? Right before he shoots himself in the foot Paige says, ""I'm the only one professional enough in this room to use this weapon."

(Big tip of the hat to BucPower)


Anthony Davis signs 3 year deal

Bucs lock in left tackle Davis to a three year, $4.725 million contract. From what I understand Davis played well last season, but I'm not going to sit here and pretend I watched Davis on every snap. Hell, except for Kenyatta I almost never watched the o-line. Of course, if Gruden wanted to send me game film (on DVD of course) I would be more than glad to break down Davis' play.

A better measurement of Davis' play would come from Football Outsiders, the premier football statistical analysis site out there. FO rates the Bucs line as the 19th best last season, but ranked the Bucs left tackle position 8th in the NFL. Which places Davis above other premier left tackles such as Jonathan Ogden of the Ravens and Orlando Pace of the Rams.


Preview of the NFL Draft: Take Two

Mockity mocking mock draft time.

It's Saturday so time for another installment in our look at the upcoming draft. Below are some of the many mock drafts out there. Most of the mocks only predict the first round but I have included the second and third round picks for those drafts which project that far.

Draft Ace (4/6)....Kamerion Wimbley, DE - FSU...Charles Spencer, OG - Pittsburgh...Greg Blue, S - Georgia

Draft King (4/6)....Jonathan Scott, OT - Texas

NFL Draft Countdown (4/5)....Jimmy Williams, CB - Virginia Tech...Davin Joseph, OG - Oklahoma...Derek Hagan, WR - Arizona St.

CNN/SI.com (4/4)....Antonio Cromartie, CB - FSU

FoxSports.com (4/4)....Eric Winston, OT - Miami

Football's Future (4/4)....Eric Winston, OT - Miami...Richard Marshall, CB - Fresno State

Our Lads (4/4)....Winston Justice, OT - USC

Gridiron Central (4/3)....DeMeco Ryans, OLB - Alabama

Huddle Geeks (4/3)....Chad Greenway, OLB - Iowa

Draft Daddy (4/2)....Ernie Sims, OLB - FSU

Draft Notebook (3/31)....Winston Justice, OT - USC

Draft Board Insider (3/31)....Marcus McNeill, OT - Auburn...Maurice Stovall, WR - Notre Dame...Alan Zemaitis, CB - Penn State

KFFL (3/31)....Kamerion Wimbley, DE - FSU

Draft Insiders (3/30)....Manny Lawson, DE - N.C. State

Football Expert (3/30)....Marcus McNeill, OT - Auburn

Consensus Draft (3/30)....Tamba Hali, DE - Penn State

My Thoughts...

Offensive tackle and outside linebacker are the predominant selections, but the cornerbacks selections are the most interesting. Cromartie did not play at all last season because of a torn ACL but has been jumping up draft boards lately. Cromartie is a tremendous athlete but has little starting experience.

Jimmy Williams reminds me a lot of former Buc Dwight Smith, with the exception that Williams is garnering more pre-draft accolades. Williams is widely regarded as the top corner in the draft, but most also think he will end up playing safety. That kind of versatility would make him a good fit for the Tampa Two.

Two guys which will definitely not drop to the Bucs are Justice and Sims. Both players have had excellant workouts and their stocks have been climbing lately.

The Lawson and Wimbley (defensive end) picks are growing on me. Both guys have the speed to play the right end position, and would cost a fraction of what the Bucs are paying Simeon Rice. On the other hand, Hali has been dropping down the draft boards as a result of poor workouts, and it's unlikely the Bucs will draft him.

On 2nd Thought...

Been going over this list the last 24 hours and I can't believe I didn't mention how odd the Jonathan Scott pick is. There appears to be little consensus on Scott's draft position, I've seen some drafts project him being selected in the middle of the first, while others don't have him going off the board until the third round. A few draftniks have rated Scott as a top five offensive tackle, but most others rate Scott as the eight or ninth best tackle. Scott dilemma is fairly emblematic of this year's draft, nobody can agree on how the draft will play out beyond the first pick.

Out of the sixteen drafts I listed above, thirteen different players are named. Only three players are listed more than once, and none are listed thrice. In part this is because of the shell game coaches and GMs play when it comes to draft, but all the quarterback movement this offseason has shaken up the draft like J Lo shakes that ass.

Obligatory J Lo shot


Ha Ha!

Thanks to gax for pointing out the Patriots' signing of Martin Gramatica, who only has to replace the most hyped kicker in history.

This is a marriage which will work well for the first couple of weeks, and then Martin will miss his first game winning kick. After that, I would rather be a NASCAR fan in Tehran than Martin in Boston.


NFL releases Buc's schedule

Much like the NFL Draft or Selection Sunday, the announcement of the NFL schedule has become one of the biggest non-events in sports. ESPN talking heads furrow their brows in a vain attempt to predict the ten biggest NFL games of next season, despite the fact we still have no idea how good any of the teams will be. But that's what you get when your league is the king of the hill.

My biggest complaint with the schedule is that the Bucs got screwed over with their nationally televised games. I'm not one of these people who complains that the Bucs got too few national games (they will most likely get a Sunday night game or two). Instead, both of the national games are AWAY games. Nationally televised home games are great opportunity to show off the local community to the rest of America. It would be better for the Bucs to not have any nationally televised games than the two away games they currently have.

Anyway, on to what you came here for, the schedule...

Sept.10: Baltimore, 1 p.m.
Sept.17: at Atlanta, 1 p.m.
Sept.24: Carolina, 1 p.m.
WEEK 4: Bye
Oct.8: at New Orleans, 1 p.m.
Oct.15: Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Oct.22: Philadelphia, 1 p.m.
Oct.29: at New York Giants, 1 p.m.
Nov.5: New Orleans, 1 p.m.
Nov.13: at Carolina, 8:30 p.m. (MNF)
Nov.19: Washington, 1 p.m.
Nov.23: at Dallas, 4:15 p.m. (Thanksgiving)
Dec.3: at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.
Dec.10: Atlanta, 1 p.m.
Dec.17: at Chicago, 1 p.m.
Dec.24: at Cleveland, 1 p.m.
Dec.31: Seattle, 1 p.m.

My Thoughts...

The NFL made a mistake frontloading the Bucs division schedule this year with three division matchups in their first four games. Last year the Bucs played almost all their division games in the last eight weeks which made for some exciting football down the stretch.

Their bye comes in Week 4? Might as well have your bye in Week 1.

Four of the Bucs last six games are away, and three of those are December games above the Mason-Dixon line. I've always argued the Bucs dismal cold record is misleading (since they were an abysmal franchise until ten years ago) but they don't play as well in the cold. I don't know if it's mental or because they aren't designed for the cold (since they rely on speed and precise route running) but the Bucs rarely bring their A game for cold, away games.

Enough of my ranting, what are your thoughts?

Jesus Rays one step closer to being reality

Tampa Bay Devil Rays announce desire to change nickname to something less blasphemous.

Devil Rays president Matt Silverman said the team met a March 31 deadline to inform Major League Baseball it was considering the change. The Devil Rays have until May 31 to commit to a name change, which would take effect next season. After the home opener next week, the team will begin studying a potential name change and begin asking fans for ideas.

Hey GNorb, better get that list of yours ready.


Popcorn Seller Update

Could Brett Favre's continuing self-absorbed refusal to commit to next season mean that Charles Woodson ends up in Tampa Bay?

Only two teams have expressed interest in Woodson (aka the Popcorn Seller), Tampa Bay and Green Bay. Green Bay can offer considerably more money than Tampa, but with Favre's decision in limbo Woodson may decide to play for the team he knows he has a better chance of winning with (i.e. the Bucs).

On a final (and side) note, it appears the Cowboys will not match the Bucs offer for offensive tackle Torrin Tucker.

Hey, Baseball's here!

The first "Play Ball", the first crack of the bat and the first syringe thrown on the field have all arrived, which means it's time to turn our attention (to steal a phrase from Grits) to the local baseball collective.

In case you haven't noticed yet, the DRays have hung up a "Under New Management" sign outside their home offices to go with their (modest) spending spree which has been mainly directed at keeping around young talent. The new management in St. Pete is part of a new wave of Wall Street trained investors who pay more attention to the bottom line than a sinking pitch. From a New York Times piece on the DRays...

"Applying that notion to baseball allows Mr. Friedman to attach a market value of perhaps $7 million to Scott Kazmir, the team's star pitcher, who is actually on his payroll for $370,000 a year. Luckily for them, most of the players on the team are contract-bound to salaries lower than what they might command on the open market. The bottom line is this: Mr. Friedman reckons that the real value of the Devil Rays' payroll is closer to $50 million."

The article also mentions how the DRays traded all star closer Danny Baez for two untested pitchers from the Dodgers.

Fact is, if the DRays are going to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox while on a $35 million pay roll Tampa Bay needs to get the most bang for their buck. This means they have to take a much riskier approach than well established franchises such as Atlanta or Chicago.

Or, to compare apples to oranges, the DRays have to take a similar approach to what the Bucs have done in the past two offseasons. Buy low on guys like Chris Hovan or Toniu Fonoti and hope they pan out better than could have reasonably been expected. Assuming the DRays are able to resign key players this strategy has the best chance of putting them (don't laugh) into position to get into the playoffs.

Sunday is the new Monday

Night that is.

With the shift of the NFL's premier game from Monday to Sunday night comes the anticipated flex scheduling, which should prevent those snorefest Week 15 Green Bay vs Baltimore matchups. Details?

  • When the NFL schedule is released (soon), no Sunday night games will be scheduled for Weeks 10-17. Instead NBC (which will broadcast Sunday night games) can pick, at least 12 days in advance, which matchup it wants to broadcast.

  • Only games on Sunday afternoon can be moved to Sunday night. Thursday, Saturday and Monday games are protected.

  • CBS and Fox can each protect up to five games in those seven weeks from being moved to Sunday night.

All in all, good move by the NFL which guarantees that its marquee matchups get top billing. If this policy had been in place last season you can guarantee the Bucs would have had at least one Sunday night game, considering their unexpected success.


Go Gators!

There's something poetic about the Gators beating George Mason, and then going on to win the national championship. This tournament will always be remembered for Mason's Final Four run, and the Gators had to end the Patriot's run before they could win the championship. Then, just for icing on the cake, the Gators beat one of the most storied basketball programs ever.

Congrats Gators. When Tony Kornheiser picked you to lose in the first round, I still had faith in you (although I had no idea you had a championship run in you).

What's next?

If Florida can keep all four of their talented sophomores (a big if) they have to be the best team in the country next season. As good as he was tonight, Joakim Noah is still improving as a player. Al Horford is the key, the Gators need him to stick around for another title run.

Urban Meyer better go ahead and win that national championship pretty soon.


Thank you George Mason

"It's something that's going to go down in history," said senior [Mason] guard Lamar Butler. "Whenever you talk about the Final Four, you have to mention us. We changed the face of college basketball."

Not a whole lot left to say about Mason's Final Four run, every angle and story has been covered. Liz Clarke at the Washington Post has a great paragraph summing up just what Mason has done.

"While energized Patriots fans, no doubt, will expect the team to build on its success, George Mason's 2006 tournament run was, in many ways, the result of a perfect storm -- a veteran team dominated by seniors who had come of age on court together, led by a masterful coach who had convinced them that anything and everything was within their grasp. And perhaps the final ingredient was the very absence of expectations. The Patriots were at least six-point underdogs in nearly every tournament game. So they played with total abandon; they played for fun."

Mason coach Larranaga did a masterful job of motivating his players while also keeping them relaxed. There is no better example of that than the pregame speech Coach Larranaga gave yesterday.

Coach Larranaga did something I've never seen before in the history of pregame speechs, he read a motivational poem that left Walt Whitman rolling in his grave. As bad as the poem was you could tell the Mason players loved it. And when Larranaga read the last line about Florida "leaving sooner than later" you could tell the enthusiasm from the Mason players was genuine. Especially when contrasted with the wooden "don't judge a team by the name on their jerseys speech" given by Gators coach Billy Donovan.

The World is Flat

Seth Davis has been pimping this concept pretty consistently this March, even before Mason made their run. In short this is the idea that the talent gap in college basketball has narrowed because so many talented guys are jumping to the NBA earlier and earlier. Ignoring the fact that Seth Davis stole this term from Tom Friedman, a better explanation for Mason's run would be there is more talent out there for the mid-majors to find. While it is true that the most talented players are still leaving college early for the NBA there where several teams this year which were stocked with NBA talent, notably UConn and Villanova.

Or to put my agrument another way, it's not so much that the power teams have gotten shorter (metaphorically speaking) but that the mid-majors have gotten taller (talent-wise). Through a combination of better scouting, overseas players, an increased number of professional jobs (i.e. European basketball leagues and NBDL) and better coaching the mid majors have more talent available to them than every before. As a result, there has been more talent in college backetball recently than at any other time.


Preview of NFL Draft: First take

It's the first day of April, which means when not fooling John it's time to turn our attention to the NFL draft. Word of warning, I don't watch a considerable amount of college ball so I'm going to focus on what position the Bucs should draft instead of telling which you which player the Bucs will pick in the first round.

Every mock draft I have seen has the Bucs either drafting a: offensive tackle, receiver, outside linebacker or corner.

To start out we can toss out the idea of drafting a receiver in the first round. Maybe if Matt Millen was running the team this would be a viable option, but the Bucs don't need to spend another first round pick on a receiver.

Drafting an offensive tackle is an appealing option, especially considering the dreadful play of Kenyatta Walker. But assuming Dallas does not match the Bucs offer, it looks pretty likely Torrin Tucker will compete with Kenyatta for the right tackle spot. Which leaves Anthony Davis starting at left tackle.

Davis was actually pretty servicable last season. According to Football Outsiders.com, the left side of the Bucs line was their strength (ranked 8th overall in the NFL). And considering how deep the pool of offensive tackles is this year it makes more sense to wait until the second (or third) round to draft a left tackle. Of course, if the Cowboys match the Bucs offer or Winston Justice is available when the Bucs are on the clock all bets are off.

If the Bucs draft a corner they are doing so to provide depth for this year and a replacement for Barber and Kelly in the coming years. I'm all for finding a future replacement for our aging corners, but if the Bucs end up signing Charles Woodson (and talk is they will) then there will be less of a need to draft a corner in the first round. So while I wouldn't rule out drafting a corner with the first pick, it's the next option which makes the most sense for the Bucs.

The Bucs have plenty of starting talent at the linebacker position but, besides Barrett Ruud, have little young talent. Smart, athletic linebackers have been the key to the Bucs defense since Hardy Nickelson. There are two outside linebackers which the Bucs have a shot at drafting Chad Greenway (Iowa) and Ernie Sims (Florida State). Of these two, I like Greenway better for two reasons.

First, Greenway (from what I've read) is better in pass coverage. The Bucs defense places more of an emphasis on pass coverage ability with its linebackers, especially when they drop into the Tampa 2. Sims had the better combine and has great sideline to sideline speed but it doesn't seem like he has the intagibles to replace Derrick Brooks.

Speaking of Brooks, the second reason I don't like Sims are his prior run ins with the law. Now maybe such behavior is simply par for the course at Tallahassee, but resisting arrest is never a good charge to have on your rap sheet.

Of course, this could all change in following weeks. Not only is this a deep draft but it is still fairly fluid. Reggie Bush is a lock to Houston, but after that is anybodies guess. The guys over at the Cowboys Blog already made this observation but there is much more disparity among mock drafts this year than in previous years. Which means I still have absolutely no idea who the Bucs will end up drafting.