Why the Bucs pick No. 7 in the 2018 NFL Draft

The last time the Bucs had the No. 7 pick in the NFL Draft, they selected WR Mike Evans in 2014.(TIMES ARCHIVES)
The last time the Bucs had the No. 7 pick in the NFL Draft, they selected WR Mike Evans in 2014.(TIMES ARCHIVES)
Published January 2

It's been a common question in the two days since the Bucs' season ended with a win against the Saints to finish with a 5-11 record: Where will Tampa Bay pick in the 2018 NFL Draft?

The answer is No. 7 overall — two spots later than they would have had they lost to the Saints. Some fans cheered for the win, others mourned the damage to the draft position.

What's cool is that the Bucs could have picked as low as No. 9 with a win, but get two big assists from their old pal John Lynch, now the 49ers general manager. San Francisco's late surge — winning five of the last six after a 1-9 start — closed out with a 49ers win against the Rams on Sunday, which gave them a 6-10 record, moving the Bucs up a spot.

If two teams finish with the same record, the NFL uses strength of schedule as a tiebreaker — the team whose opponents combined for fewer wins picks first. That's 16 opponents with 16 games each, so there are 256 games that contribute to a team's strength of schedule, and the Bucs and Bears ended up ridiculously close, with identical 5-11 records.

The tiebreaker was tied entering Week 17 — Tampa Bay and Chicago's opponents were both 134-106. It came down to the 49ers (who played the Bears) beating the Rams, which meant the Bears' opponents went 143-113, while the Bucs went 142-114. Bucs pick 7th, Bears 8th. So a criteria with 256 outcomes is decided by a single game.

What's crazier still is that the Bucs had the second-toughest strength of schedule in the NFL — they just had the grand luck to get in a tiebreaker with the only team tougher. They would have lost the same tiebreaker with the other 30 NFL teams.

In the first round, the 5-11 teams go like this: Broncos, Jets, Bucs, Bears. The order rotates each round, so in the second round, it's Jets, Bucs, Bears, Broncos; in the third, Bucs, Bears, Broncos, Jets, and so on.

Right now, that means the Bucs have these picks: 1st (7th overall), 2nd (38th overall), 3rd (69th overall), 4th (104th), 5th (135th), 6th (166th). The NFL will soon add compensatory picks, starting after the third round, and those will push the Bucs' later-round picks down a bit.

The Bucs also have the Steelers' sixth-round pick — acquired for safety J.J. Wilcox and a 2019 seventh-rounder before this season. They gave up their 2017 seventh-rounder to grab DT Stevie Tu'ikolovatu last year, but should pick up a compensatory seventh-rounder near the end of the draft.

Speaking of sevens, the Bucs have picked at No. 7 overall four times before: WR Mike Evans in 2014, S Mark Barron in 2012, T Charles McRae (!) in 1991 and LB Hugh Green in 1981.

The overall top 10 for this year's NFL Draft: 1. Browns, 2. Giants, 3. Colts, 4. Browns (from Texans), 5. Broncos, 6. Jets, 7. Bucs, 8. Bears, 9. 49ers, 10. Raiders.