The 19 undrafted free agents brought in by the Buccaneers are all trying to make a name for themselves. Luke Rhodes is one of those, and his skill set is something that might help him stick around.
Once the draft comes to an end, there is absolute chaos that unfolds. Teams are blowing up the phones asking the players that they believe to have talent that may have been missed to come sign with their teams. It’s not unfamiliar for talent to slip through the draft, and great Buccaneers have come from being undrafted such as Michael Bennett (who should still be on this roster) and Shelton Quarles have made tremendous impacts in Tampa. This year the Bucs were able to bring in the fifth best crop of undrafted free agents according to Chad Reuter. Luke Rhodes is a linebacker that Reuter highlights in his article, who he believes can make this squad.
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Rhodes is a two-time team captain, three-time first-team All-CAA, and four-time all-conference linebacker that dominated in his years at William & Mary. The standout was able to manage 341 tackles, 20 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks. Rhodes stands at 6’2″ and weighs around 236 pounds. He had a successful pro day, completing 29 reps of the 225 pound bench press, and ran a 4.64 second 40. Rhodes was even the lone FCS player up for the Butkus award, which is annually given to the nation’s top linebacker. Here’s an expert’s take on Rhodes in his draft profile.
"StrengthsOutstanding, athletic build with good muscular definition throughout. Former high school running back who possesses some straight line speed. Vocal leader elected captain two years in a row. Has strength to hold his ground in the hole. Plays with awareness in pass coverage. Stuffs cut attempts and continues his flow.WeaknessesRunaway freight train once he gets to top speed. Too stiff to stop suddenly and change directions. Missing agility to make tackles at challenging angles consistently. Too much time wasted on keys and takes too long to find the ball. Will flow past his run fit at times. Needs to improve hands to be better as take-on linebacker. Doesn’t play the game downhill enough."
Rhodes was linked to the Bucs’ prior to the draft after Mark Duffner, our linebackers’ coach, took a liking to him. “The Tampa Bay linebackers’ coach (Mark Duffner) has been calling me. He played at William & Mary. He has probably called me once a week,” Rhodes said in a recent interview with the Altoona Mirror. Based upon that statement, the Bucs’ have an obvious admiration for Rhodes, and they could possibly think he could make a spot on their 53 man roster. Although Rhodes does not possess skills that jump off the grid, he is a solid linebacker who is respected for his solid strength in tackling and his awareness in pass coverage.
The presumptive starters for the 2016 season are Kwon Alexander, Lavonte David, and Daryl Smith. These starters are known to have qualities similar to Rhodes, which helps his cause on making the squad. After them, the Bucs’ depth at the three positions is up for grabs. Jeremiah George, Josh Keyes, and Adarious Glanton are all returning linebackers from the previous season, but only George has made a true name for himself with a successful year on special teams.
Not only will Rhodes have to fend off the returning players, but the Bucs’ have brought in three other rookies that he would have to beat out, especially the 6th round draft choice, Devante Bond. It will be no easy task for what Rhodes wants to accomplish, but based upon the statement of interest from Coach Duffner, there is certainly a chance. If there is one undrafted free agent that gives the underdog vibe, it has to be Rhodes, and who doesn’t like an underdog?