Tampa Bay Buccaneers Draft Needs: Linebackers


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With the draft less than a month away, I’m going to look at some positions of need for the Bucs that can be addressed in the 2014 draft.

Despite a hefty free agent spending spree, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers still need depth, and potential starters, at some positions.

With the top free agents gone from the open market, the best way for the Bucs to address these needs is through next month’s draft.

As of right now, the Buccaneers linebacking corps consists of Lavonte David, Mason Foster, Jonathan Casillas, Dane Fletcher, Danny Lansanah, Ka’Lial Glaud and Damaso Munoz.

We all know where David and Foster fit in the Bucs defense: David playing the WILL while Foster playing in the middle. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, David is the prototype of an elite WILL linebacker, highlighting what Bucs fans already know.

However, the question is what the Bucs do about the SAM position. Last season, Casillas had the most starts at the SAM, while former Bucs players Dekoda Watson and Adam Hayward also played the position before leaving in free agency.

Casillas played well in 2013. He had 35 tackles in 12 games before he missed the remainder of the season due to a knee injury. The Bucs resigned him to a one-year deal last month.

The one-year deal he signed with the Bucs seems to suggest that they don’t see Casillas as their future SAM, plus the fact he’s coming off an injury may have limited the contract length.

Outside of Casillas, only Fletcher has seen a significant amount of playing time in the NFL. Glaud played sparingly for the Bucs last season, as did Lansanah, while Munoz has spent the last three years in the CFL.

So with that in mind, it may be in the Bucs best interest to explore whether they want to draft a SAM linebacker who can line up alongside David and Foster to form an elite linebacking corps.

A little over a week ago I asked on Twitter if our readers thought that drafting either Khalil Mack (Buffalo) or Anthony Barr (UCLA) with the seventh overall pick would make sense, but it was met with mixed reviews. If they pass on either player at seven, they won’t get the chance to draft either player later (unless the Bucs execute a trade).

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The Bucs do have bigger needs than linebacker, but I don’t think drafting either Mack or Barr at seven is completely out of the realm.

Having said that, the Bucs have some options in the second round or later that could draw their attention. Remember, Lavonte David was a second round draft pick.

Ryan Shazier (Ohio State), Kyle Van Noy (BYU), and Jeremiah Attaochu (Georgia Tech), are all projected by CBS’ Draft Ranking to be second round or earlier picks. Shazier is from Plantation, FL, and CBS compare his skillset most favourably to David. Van Noy is considered a tweener by most and may fit better in a 3-4 scheme, but his overall style of play can’t go unnoticed. The same can be said for Attaochu.

Other targets could include Trevor Reilly (Utah), Telvin Smith (FSU), Jordan Tripp (Montana) and Carl Bradford (ASU), who all project to be third round picks. If the Bucs want to go a little outside the box, they could look at CJ Mosley of Alabama, but he is primarily a middle linebacker, a position the Bucs already have settled.

I don’t anticipate the Bucs taking a linebacker late in the draft – I imagine those picks will be used on lineman, corners, receivers and building more depth.

Finding a SAM linebacker isn’t the most important thing on the Bucs draft agenda, but it’s a position of need still. There are still some unknowns surrounding the players currently on the roster. Munoz has never played in the NFL but was a very reliable player in the CFL, while Glaud and Lansanah have yet to be tested. Fletcher will likely see playing time on defense, primarily because of his ability to get in the backfield, but is likely to see the most of his time on special teams.

The Bucs may have already decided that Casillas will be their SAM this year, and that’s not a terrible decision – Casillas is a good player. However, right now, he does not appear to be the long time answer at the position.