What is the supplemental draft and how does it work?
Thursday's supplemental draft has sparked some intrigue in part because the NFL is eerily quiet right now but more so because there are a couple of a interesting candidates available.
The player who has drawn the most interest, as you might know, is BYU running back Harvey Unga, a big, physical runner who projects as a short-yardage back or fullback at the next level. Unga has drawn some comparisons to Vikings rookie Toby Gerhart, drafted out of Stanford in April. The Bucs, who have a legitimate need for depth in their offensive backfield, are taking a long look at Unga, as are most other teams.
But how does this supplemental draft business work?
First, the draft is reserved only for very few players who, for a variety of reasons, are no longer eligible to play college football this fall but were unable to declare for the general April draft. Unga, for example, withdrew from school because of a violation of the institution's strict honor code after the draft.
Unlike in the April draft, there's certainly no live national broadcast. And there's definitely no live audience at Radio City Music Hall, either. Instead of fanfare and loud analysis, think silent auction. The supplemental draft works in a very similar fashion.
Teams submit a bid before the start of the draft, basically indicating which round's pick they wish to use to select a given player. Some teams won't submit a bid at all as this is totally optional. If the Bucs see Unga as a fifth-round selection, just for instance, they would submit a bid to that effect. If no team submits a higher bid than the third pick in the fifth round, the Bucs would be awarded the player.
Here's the catch: You lose that pick in the following year's draft. And for a team that has made it crystal clear that it intends to build through the draft, such a pick could be deemed too valuable to use in this fashion. Remember, it might be some time before a player drafted now can contribute as he will have missed the entire offseason. But an argument in favor of making a play would be the fact that the talent level in next year's draft is expected to pale in comparison with this year's, which was one of the deepest in memory.
It's purely a judgment call. But don't be surprised if the Bucs make a late-round bid for Unga in an effort to shore up their backfield with the sort of hard-charging, bruising back they don't currently have.
UPDATE, 9:38 a.m.: We've heard from a prominent player agent this morning who says he's learned from scouts that Illinois defensive tackle Josh Brent will be selected before Unger on Thursday. Brent had been ruled academically ineligible for the fall and would have been unable to play for the Illini. Something to keep in mind as the draft approaches.