2010 Draft Prospects – Linebacker

Returning Linebackers:

Niko Koutouvides – undisclosed; made $627,000 in ’09

Lee Robinson – minimum

Adam Hayward – 1 year $550,000

Geno Hayes – 2 years ($470,000 and $555,000)

Barrett Ruud – RFA

Matt McCoy – RFA

Quincy Black – 1 year $550,000

Rod Wilson – RFA


* Angelo Crowell – free agent (“earned” nearly $3 million from the Bucs in ’09)


Heading into the offseason, I think there’s only one starting LB that the majority of Buccaneer fans feel is a sure thing to return as a starter next year.  That guy is Geno Hayes.  He’s far from a finished product, but we’ve seen enough to get excited about his potential at WLB.  The other two starters shouldn’t feel as secure with their roles.

Quincy Black’s first season as a starter was met with mixed reviews.  He didn’t make the impact that was expected in a system that allowed him to be disruptive.  Is he too much of a tweener?  Should we be content with leaving the position alone and seeing what he turns into?

Then there’s Barrett Ruud, the MLB who took a lot of heat for the league’s worst run defense.  Yes, we all know that Chris Hovan and Ryan Sims need to be replaced up front.  That absolutely is going to happen, but does it need to or should it stop there?  Hovan and Sims aren’t the only reasons Ruud was making tackles further downfield than he should have.

I feel that in the position he is currently occupying, Ruud lacks the strength and aggression we need to become an elite defense.  He has excellent coverage skills for a Tampa 2 MLB, but he doesn’t shed blockers as well as you’d like or keep the short gains from becoming big plays.  I’m not saying that Barrett is soft, but he’s not the initiator, the intimidating force that I think we need in the middle of this defense.

I rarely agree with or praise Raheem, but his statement about needing to get bigger at linebacker is 100% spot on.  The fact that he even commented on it tells you they’re seriously thinking of upgrading/upsizing in the middle.  Everyone else is getting bigger, stronger, and faster.  Why must we settle for just fast?  Why not get bigger, stronger, and stouter in the middle AND improve SLB at the same time.  I’m tired of the “well we run the Tampa 2, and the MLB must be a Gemini, enjoy long walks on the beach, and prefer Coke over Pepsi.  Get some damn players in here and work with what you’ve got.  Football doesn’t need to be that complicated or restrictive.

Hell, I’ll sacrifice a little speed for guys who can consistently knock ball carriers backwards.  Whether it’s done with Rolando McClain or someone else later on in the draft, I feel the Buccaneers need to move in the direction of a replacement at MLB.

Then the question is, what do you do with Ruud?  Do you trade him?  Ask yourselves this question – Is he going to get any better?  Not a lot of immediate yeses I’d guess.  Can you move him out to SLB, or is that too “disrespectful”?  I’m not asking him to be Derrick Brooks, but is he made to be the leader of this defense?  I think putting him on the strong side allows him to effectively utilize his coverage skills and gets us (hopefully) a little more imposing in the middle.  Hell, I’d even consider him on the weak side if it weren’t for Geno Hayes.  If Raheem wanted to dabble with the 3-4, he could play both Ruud and McClain inside.

Do you keep and build around a low ceiling LB who wasn’t given long term security, or do you get something for him before letting him walk as a free agent and roll with either Black or Crowell at SLB?  A third round pick sounds about right.  Is he a possible Gary Brackett replacement in Indy?  There are more than a few possibilities here, but will the Bucs make a bold move?


Here’s how I rank the draftees:


Outside Linebacker:

1) Sergio Kindle, Texas (6-4, 255)

one of my favorite players and one of college football’s top athletes; sideline to sideline player; great blitzer; quick change of direction; great edge rusher; collapses the pocket; gets great initial pop on blocker when rushing passer; consistently takes great angles to QB; closes extremely well; doesn’t always get the most out of his talent; loses focus, misses assignment; sloppy breakdown at times; sky is the limit in the right system but looks to be a much better player when standing up (LB)


2) Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri (6-0, 240)

experienced and productive; really nice speed; pursues and closes well; playmaker; consistent tackler; hard hitter; effective blitzer; versatility to play inside and out in multiple schemes, but I think he’s best as a 4-3 WLB or SLB; looks really comfortable in coverage; big personality (in a good way); a better player in space than in traffic; could be more physical, needs to if he’s going to play inside; diagnoses well but doesn’t always finish; tends to float and lose focus at times; takes too many bad angles and overpursues too much for a guy with his talent


3) Ricky Sapp, Clemson (6-4, 245)

a slight looking DE; projects as a 3-4 OLB; I like him there where he can focus on what he does best, rush the passer; consistent burst off the snap; impressive speed and agility; relies mostly on speed/quickness as a pass rusher but doesn’t always take same edge speed rush; plays well in space; should wow at the combine; pretty consistent tackler; not a ton of production; partial ACL tear in ’08; often overmatched vs. run


4) Navorro Bowman, Penn State (6-0, 228)

looks like an NFL player; plus game speed, quickness, and athleticism; very reliable tackler; looks really good going forward but is slow to adjust; a WLB who has occasionally plays inside; not terribly big; coverage isn’t his strong suit; history of off field problems; really only a two year player


5) Darryl Washington, TCU (6-2, 226)

leader of one of the nation’s best defenses; played inside in TCU’s 3-4, but I think outside in a 4-3 might be his best LB fit as a pro; good straight line speed; nice range, sideline to sideline player; diagnoses plays well and closes quickly; plays aggressively; tackles well; not stout against the run; often handled 1 on 1; coverage skills need work, tends to float in zones and look out of place; not a ton of starting experience or production; I wonder if he might actually have a future as a safety


6) Eric Norwood, South Carolina (6-0, 250)

another guy I like; experienced and productive DE/LB; better off at LB; accomplished pass rusher; adjusts well on the move, can change direction with minimal steps; underrated in space, good instincts and reactions; well built, but I wish he was taller; doesn’t have great timed speed but I like his game speed; skill set will limit him schematically


7) Koa Misi, Utah (6-2, 245)

under the radar; great game speed; really athletic edge rusher; a college DE who shined at OLB at the Senior Bowl; nice backpedal and looks comfortable dropping into coverage; quick in pursuit; experienced; undersized; not real stout against the run, but moving to 3-4 OLB would help


8 ) Dekoda Watson, FSU (6-1, 232)

leader; plus position speed; quick in short spaces; really good first step; big hitter; pretty consistent tackler; impressive coverage skills and is reliable in space; sideline to sideline speed; I like him as a T2 fit on the weak side; football-rare Tommy John surgery; better player than where he’ll be drafted; I think he’ll be an instant special teams contributor; can be overpowered; attacks well but doesn’t always hold up


9) Roddrick Muckelroy, Texas (6-2, 235)

leader; tough, hard nosed player; shows discipline, sticks to assignments; doesn’t have the speed of a lot of his teammates, but he simply makes plays; experienced and productive; WLB-MLB versatility at Texas, but is probably best as 4-3 WLB; seems to read plays well, wish he closed quicker; lacks sideline to sideline speed; doesn’t shed terribly well; probably maxed out size-wise, and that’s going to hurt him


10) Rennie Curran, Georgia (5-11, 220)

great straight line speed; really quick and explosive; reads, reacts, and closes very well; effective blitzer; navigates well through traffic; seems like he’s in on every play; loves to initiate contact; wrap up tackler; very productive at Georgia; gives 100%; looks like a cornerback; size will be biggest problem at the next level


11) AJ Edds, Iowa (6-4, 245)

productive; good all-round game; seems disciplined; impressive coverage skills, specifically footwork and hips; reliable tackler; seems like he diagnoses well but isn’t quick to close; seems like a backup SLB and special teams player


12) Thaddeus Gibson, Ohio State (6-1, 240)

14) Perry Riley, LSU (6-1, 240)

15) Cameron Sheffield, Troy (6-2, 249)

*O’Brien Schofield, Wisconsin (6-2, 238) – tore his ACL at the Senior Bowl


Inside Linebacker:

1) Rolando McClain, Alabama (6-4, 248)

leader; instinctive player; very much a student of the game; really good size; high effort; has good range; great run stopper; wrap up tackler who doesn’t miss many and more often than not drives the ball carrier backwards; tremendous ability to diagnose plays; better coverage skills than given credit for; I think he’s more scheme versatile than others do; not quick or sudden; would like to see him get under more blocks


2) Brandon Spikes, Florida (6-3, 243)

another big, productive, hard hitting LB; vocal leader; superb physical traits; explodes into his opponent; at his best moving forward; little stiffer than McClain and likely to struggle more in coverage (especially vertically); exhibits limited recovery speed; often struggles trying to take angles when moving laterally; can’t recall him standing out as a blitzer; lacks some discipline


3) Pat Angerer, Iowa (6-1, 233)

a new favorite of mine; not terribly athletic or possessing any eye-popping measurables; simply makes plays; non-stop motor; hits hard; good instincts; impressive read and react skills; really like his comfort level in pass coverage, especially zone; at worst would be excelled depth behind Ruud if they don’t want to move him outside or trade him


4) Sean Lee, Penn State (6-2, 234)

typical productive, tough PSU LB; instinctive; hard worker; sound tackler, consistently wraps up; reads play action well; takes good routes to the ball; looks better when he’s chasing action rather than it coming to him; only minor quickness; OLB/ILB versatility; missed ’08 with torn ACL; looks small; how much of his success is due to talent around him?


5) Micah Johnson, Kentucky (6-2, 254)

another one I really like; big, strong dude, nice upper body; powers through blockers; very active; good lateral speed and agility/movement; reads run and shuts down lanes; has the talent to be a high level player; interested to see how he does with NFL coaching; has been inconsistent; struggles in coverage


6) Jamar Chaney, Mississippi State (6-1, 244)

inside/outside flexibility; really quick for a MLB; doesn’t seem to penetrate well; more of a catcher but plays disciplined, stays in position; shows good awareness in pass coverage; has the speed to play vertical coverage; put together pretty well, but I wish he was a couple inches taller; isn’t overpowering as a head on guy


7) Darryl Sharpton, Miami (6-0, 230)

not of huge fan of his at the next level; plays hard, but I think he lacks the size and speed to make a difference in the NFL; some inside/outside versatility; not sudden; slow to adjust


8 ) Boris Lee, Troy (6-0, 245)

9) Kion Wilson, USF (6-2, 235)

10) Reggie Carter, UCLA (6-1, 224)


My round for round favorite – Rolando McClain



Late sleeper – Micah Johnson

There’s a good possibility he falls to the 5th round given the overall depth of this draft, and he’d be considerable upgrade in the middle from a physicality standpoint.


Most likely to be a Buc – Sean Weatherspoon

If he somehow lasts until we pick a second time, there’s a great chance he becomes a Buc.  We know the Bucs are interested in him, and projecting any of these other linebackers is guesstimation at best.



I think that if you get a defensive tackle like Jared Odrick and a huge ceiling guy in Chad Jones at safety in round two to go along with McClain in round one, all of a sudden we’re looking a hell of a lot better on defense; even moreso if Ruud is at SLB instead of Black.  If you trade Ruud you use that 3rd round pick along with the one we already had on offensive skilled position players.  Some combination of Mardy Gilyard, Dezmon Briscoe, Demaryius Thomas, Dexter McCluster, Anthony Dixon, Toby Gerhart, and Joe McKnight with those two picks would give Josh Freeman a couple desperately needed weapons.

All that said, I don’t have a lot of confidence that McClain is going to be the pick.  The only way I see it happening is if they trade down from #3, and even then it’s no sure thing.  I still think the DTs go 1-2, but if the Rams go QB, Suh isn’t getting past Detroit or whoever trades ahead of us to get him.  I think if McCoy is there for the Bucs at #3, he’s the pick.  I have a hard a hard time seeing Dominik passing on the “ideal” DT for this defense.  If he’s not there, Dominik is looking to deal down and will have his pick from any number of guys – Morgan, Spiller, Bryant, McClain, Okung, Graham, Price, or maybe still even Haden or Berry.


Assuming the Bucs were able to deal down from #3 and get another 2nd to go along with the 3rd for Ruud, this would be one hell of a start to the draft:

1 – Rolando McClain (LB, Alabama)

2a – Jared Odrick (DT, Penn State)

2b – Chad Jones (S, LSU)

2c – Kyle Wilson (CB, Boise State)

3a – Mardy Gilyard (WR, Cincinnati)

3b –Dezmon Briscoe (WR, Kansas)


One way or another, I think an upgrade/upsize in the middle is a matter of when not if.