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NFL draft's new format will impact strategy, could help Bucs

When it gets under way tonight, this NFL draft will be like no other. And not just because it is one of the deepest in years or because it has an impressive amount of defensive talent.

What is unique is when and how this draft will play out. A revamped format aimed at increasing the television audience will also have an unintended impact.

Gone is the Saturday-Sunday format. The first round unfolds tonight, followed by the second and third rounds Friday evening and the remaining rounds Saturday morning and afternoon.

And as intriguing as the first round will be, the beginning of the second round will be equally fascinating because teams will have stared at their draft boards and fielded phone calls for a mind-numbing 18 hours.

"I'd love to have that first pick of the second day," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "You can sleep on it."

The format could particularly benefit a team such as the Bucs, who own the third and 10th picks in the second round. Because teams will have that extra time after the first round, they're expected to be more prone to make offers to trade up, positioning themselves to draft the top players left over from the first round. Considering the depth of this draft, some of those players could be prospects who wouldn't normally be available early in a second round.

That means teams that own picks early in the second round are sitting on valuable commodities, raising the possibility of a flurry of deals Friday.

In "the last couple of drafts, we (had) a lot of movement," Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland told reporters in South Florida. "I think the more time you have time to think about it, the more time we have time to make calls. … I think you can anticipate that."

Despite the months of preparation that go into the draft to ensure decisions are made with clarity, coaches and executives will have so much time to consider possible moves between the first and second rounds that they might be more inclined to make them. Open-minded teams such as New England, which has three second-round picks, will be among those to watch.

"I think the second round will now be like the first round," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "In the past, you kind of rolled into that (second) round. Now, you actually stop and have the whole night to sit there and think about it and talk to other teams and develop a new strategy."

One of the usual first-round trends is a run on players at a certain position when the standouts at that position begin to dwindle. This year there's a chance of a run on offensive linemen during the first round, which would push players projected to be drafted earlier into the second round.

The Bucs have options given their picks in the second round (Nos. 35 and 42), perhaps exchanging one for a later second-round choice to net another mid-round pick. With a league-high 12 selections, the Bucs can trade up into the latter portion of the first round.

There will be no shortage of behind-the-scenes negotiations.

"You're giving clubs behind us 24 hours, in some cases, (to ask) 'Is this a place I want to be and how bad do I want to be there?' " Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said. "It also gives me 24 hours to say 'That sounds good, but I like a player, and I want to pick them. …Or you know what? I like the offer, but I just got an offer from another club that I like a little better.' I'll have time to battle that back-and-forth."

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@sptimes.com.

NFL draft's new format will impact strategy, could help Bucs 04/21/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 21, 2010 9:47pm]
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