Bucs Draft Needs: Linebacker
Be sure to join us for the 98.7 The Fan and Fan Interference Draft Day Parties at Buffalo Wild Wings in Ybor City Thursday May 8th and Friday May 9th! Party and shows start at 7:00 and go through the night.
After spotlighting a slight need in the secondary on Monday, here we’ll focus on probably the biggest need on the defensive side of the ball for the Buccaneers as we count down the top 5 needs for the Bucs leading up to the draft.
The Bucs look pretty good on defense, but looking at Lovie Smith’s track record, it wouldn’t shock me one bit to see him want to add a young body to the linebacker corps.
Lavonte David is a star in the NFL and is set at weak side linebacker for the Bucs for years to come. The question for the Bucs is whether Mason Foster is a good fit at middle linebacker or if Lovie Smith would ideally like to move him to strong side linebacker and draft a more athletic middle linebacker. The Bucs still have Jonathan Casillas and the newly acquired Dane Fletcher to provide depth and be contributors on special teams.
Here’s a list of linebackers the Bucs could realistically consider throughout the draft starting May 8th:
Khalil Mack – Buffalo – Mack is one of the elite talents in this draft and likely will be drafted before the Bucs are on the clock. If he is available, Mack can step in and play strong side linebacker for the Bucs while shifting down to defensive end in passing situations. Mack’s intensity and ability to rush the passer will be heavily coveted by most teams at the top of the draft.
Ryan Shazier – Ohio State – If Shazier slips to the top of round 2, I could definitely see the Bucs considering him if they feel he can play middle linebacker for them. Shazier is an extremely athletic linebacker with instincts similar to Lavonte David. Shazier struggles some in traffic which might be why he is limited to 4-3 weakside linebacker in the NFL.
Kyle Van Noy – BYU – This big linebacker could be a great fit at strongside linebacker for the Bucs if he slips to the 3rd round. Van Noy is a physical player who plays with good acceleration and speed.
Telvin Smith – FSU – At the top of round 3, Smith could be a very intriguing option. Smith has a nice frame, but his 218 lbs is undersized for even the undersized linebackers in the NFL. Smith is very athletic, explosive, and plays with great speed. Even though he is undersized, Smith is very physical and will not shy away from a big hit. Smith is a tremendous leader and can be very vocal on the field. Smith can play outside or inside linebacker.
Jordan Tripp – Montana – Another potential 3rd round pick for the Bucs, Tripp is a typical small school overachieving linebacker who is a tremendous leader and hard worker. Tripp has an excellent frame (6’3” 234 lbs) with the speed and athleticism to match. Tripp might be the type of small school linebacker that Lovie Smith falls in love with and grabs in the 3rd round.
Lamin Barrow – LSU – The Bucs have shown extensive interest in Barrow this off-season from meeting with him at the senior bowl to meeting with him at the combine. Barrow absolutely looks the part of a big time linebacker, but is more of an athlete than football player. He does not explode through tackles, but rather is a “grab and hold on” tackler. Barrow’s athleticism and speed makes him a good fit in pass coverage at middle linebacker to cover the deep middle of the field in Lovie Smith’s defense. Look for Barrow to end up as a 5th round selection.
Ronald Powell – Florida – Powell tore his ACL twice in 2012 both in spring practice and during the fall. If he checks out healthy and can stay healthy, Powell might end up as one of the steals of this draft. Powell was a 5-star athlete coming out of college and possesses the strength and athleticism to be worth a late round developmental pick for a team like the Bucs. Since most late round picks are question marks anyways, Powell’s potential might be well worth the risk late in this draft.
Dede Lattimore – USF – USF had a brutal year offensively in 2013, but their defense was pretty good led by Lattimore. Watching every one of Lattimore’s games at USF, I think he is a physical tackler and leader. He is always around the ball. I thought he was always better against the run than the pass, but his 4.58 40-yard dash time at his pro day might argue that Lattimore might be much better against the pass in the NFL. As a 5th or 6th round pick, I believe Lattimore will be in the NFL for a long time.
The Commish’s Best Fit for the Bucs: Ronald Powell (6th Round)
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