The annual lifeline for football fans that is the NFL Draft kicks off tonight, and it’ll likely be a short night for my Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They have the #1 pick, which means they’ll get things rolling, then, barring some trading insanity, sit back and watch until Round 2 kicks off tomorrow. Depending on who you talk to, there’s either zero drama to who the Bucs are taking or it’s a total mystery and anything could happen! But it’ll happen quickly, and my rooting interest will be done for the night.
Not that I won’t be watching the whole thing, because, well, it’s the NFL, and we’ve had nothing substantial since free agency opened back in February. This is the jolt that sustains us through the start of training camp. The draft will give us months of analysis, second guessing, and arguments, none of which really mattering because, in most cases, we’re a few years away from knowing if these guys will be making much of a difference to their teams. But that won’t stop us from gnawing the only bone we have.
Having the #1 pick is exciting, even if it meant a total slog of a season last year to get it. Then again, this is Tampa Bay we’re talking about. They’ve had the #1 pick four times before, but only twice in my time as a fan. The first was in 1986, where they did their homework, heard Bo Jackson say he absolutely would not play for us, and promptly drafted him anyway. Then watched him go play baseball while we had a big empty space where our first round pick should have been. Just two years later, we were #1 again, and showed future Hall of Famer Steve Young the door so we could draft Vinny Testaverde. Now that looked like a slam dunk, until Testaverde couldn’t stop throwing it to the wrong guys, lobbing 35 interceptions his first full season as the starter and never really earning the fans’ trust or patience afterward. Two times having the entire class of rookies open to them, and two times coming away with absolutely nothing to write home about.
But that’s the crap shoot that is the draft. Nobody is a sure thing until they put on the pads and play the game. The guy who lit it up in college can look like a deer in the headlights, and the guy who was merely solid can turn into your franchise quarterback. Nobody knows. Which doesn’t stop anyone from pretending that they do, but hey, we have to fill these long, lonely, football-less months somehow.