Looking ahead to the draft
The last decade or so has not been that exciting for Buccaneer fans when it comes to the NFL draft. Success breeds late draft picks and hence no interest in the top few players. And the last three seasons has seen most of our selections heading Oakland's way in return for Jon Gruden (thanks again for the SuperBowl trophy by the way) so again, no interest in what Chris Berman and the gang have had to say early on.

But 2005 will be different. No more payoff picks to the Raiders and thanks to our spectacular 5-11 season in 2004, we have the 5th overall selection. Even during the season finale against the Cardinals, I was secretly hoping that the Bucs would lose and thanks to that defeat, we now select half-a-dozen slots higher than we would have done if we'd won that meaningless game in the desert.

I have been asked by Alison Davies of Nuneaton, why I keep making reference to Mel Kiper and John Davies on the draft links on the front page.
Mel KiperJohn Davies
The simple answer is how much the two happen to look like each other. I mean, check out the pictures. This view was confirmed by everybody who was seen the Fantasy League draft video from 2004.
Although the Bucs have extra picks from the Keenan McCardell trade, the only area worth really focusing on is the 5th overall selection and who the Bucs will be selecting, trades aside. Picking ahead of us are San Francisco, Miami, Cleveland and Chicago. And from all accounts, there are around half-a-dozen players worth drafting at that stage.

How to be Mel Kiper
I've found the reason why some people consider this permed wonder to be such a draft genius. The guy simply writes a mock draft every two days between January and April 23rd and swops the players and teams around in each one.

Then he can quite rightly claim to have "predicted" every selection live on TV and take the associated plaudits from the likes of Chris Berman.

Then again, who would want to be regarded as a draft guru? The UK's version was Ceri Dovey, the man who once claimed in Extra Point that he would prefer Ryan Leaf to Peyton Manning because of his greater potential.
There are two quarterbacks being considered early, Aaron Rodgers from California and Alex Smith from Utah. There are three top notch running backs, Cedric Benson from Texas and the Auburn duo of Ronnie Brown and Carnell "Cadillac" Williams. And then there are the two top receivers, Michigan's Braylon Edwards and USC's Mike Williams who had to sit out the entire 2004 season having been declared ineligible by the NCAA last year.

The 49ers need help everywhere, but taking a quarterback would be good for us. Miami are looking running back and Chicago, in spite of signing free agent Muhsin Muhammad, could go receiver or running back. Cleveland also need help in a lot of places but drafting a quarterback of the future would be very nice of them come their turn.

So where do the Bucs look, running back or receiver? Brown or Benson are both real quality franchise backs who would mean a chance to say goodbye to Hummer Pittman and being able to utilise the likes of Mike Alstott and Charlie Garner in their best way (ie: not very often at all). But all accounts out of One Buc Place have Jon Gruden enamoured with Mike Williams - picture a receiving corps of Clayton, Galloway and Williams and you can see why Joe Jurevicius thought he would get more playing time in Seattle.

The consensus on the various draft boards has San Francisco taking Rodgers, Miami taking Benson, Cleveland selecting Smith and Chicago going for Braylon Edwards. This would leave the Bucs with the choice of Williams or Brown. But you know someone lower down will do a deal to move up in some form on draft day so the Bucs may be left with one or other and not a choice come April 23rd. Who would you prefer?

My choice is Ronnie Brown right now as we need a decent running back. But what do I know - as Phil Jones will happily tell you, I'm the man who drafted Quincy Carter in the 3rd round of the Bucs UK Fantasy League draft last June.

Paul Stewart, April 2005