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2010 NFL draft: linebackers

The situation

Two of the Bucs' better defensive players are linebackers. Middle linebacker Barrett Ruud led the team in tackles for the third straight season with 205. He signed a one-year restricted free agent tender Wednesday but has no assurance of a long-term future with the club. Weakside linebacker Geno Hayes was a bright spot last season. He had a team-high 14 tackles for loss and registered 144 stops in his first season as a starter. He was seen as a backup during preseason, when safety Jermaine Phillips was working as a linebacker. Strongside linebacker Quincy Black didn't have the hoped-for impact as a first-year starter. He'll be more suited to the style of defense that coach Raheem Morris is implementing, but Black figures to have competition after the re-signing of Angelo Crowell, who spent last season on injured reserve. Beyond that, the depth basically consists of Adam Hayward, special-teams ace Niko Koutouvides and newcomer Jon Alston.

What they're looking for

Whereas this time last year, the Bucs were looking for bulkier linebackers suited to run former coordinator Jim Bates' scheme, they are now playing a system that more resembles their traditional Tampa 2. That means they like their linebackers lean and fast, though they would like to get a bit bigger on defense. Another desired quality at linebacker is the playmaking ability they once enjoyed with Derrick Brooks, Shelton Quarles and others. They could use depth, but this position doesn't figure to be one they address in early rounds.

Fitting the bill

They probably aren't in play for the highest-ranked linebacker prospects, such as Alabama's Rolando McClain and Missouri's Sean Weatherspoon. Though the Bucs haven't been linked to him, Florida State's Dekoda Watson is a mid-round prospect who fits their linebacker profile. He has a slender build and is considered undersized by some at 240 pounds but has tremendous speed and would be a good gang tackler. He is similar to Bucs weakside linebacker Geno Hayes, another FSU product. Miami's Daryl Sharpton (6 feet, 236 pounds), likely a middle linebacker, could find a place in Tampa Bay's system.

Top 10 prospects

Player, vital STATS Comment
1. ILB Rolando McClain, Alabama, 6-4, 249 Two-time All-SEC and '09 All-American
2. OLB Sergio Kindle, Texas, 6-3, 250 Projects as a 3-4 OLB
3. ILB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri, 6-1, 239 Pure playmaker in the middle
4. ILB Sean Lee, Penn State, 6-2, 236 Team captain; seven pass breakups in '09
5. ILB Donald Butler, Washington, 6-1, 248 15½ tackles for loss last season
6. OLB Ricky Sapp, Clemson, 6-4, 252 College DE projects to pro OLB
7. ILB Brandon Spikes, Florida, 6-3, 249 Has drawn interest from Tampa Bay
8. OLB Koa Misi, Utah, 6-3, 251 Junior college transfer said to have upside
9. OLB Eric Norwood, South Carolina, 6-1, 245 Solid rusher had 29 career sacks
10. ILB Daryl Sharpton, Miami, 6-0, 236 Plays fast; 106 tackles last season

Best guess

Look for the Bucs to draft a linebacker in the middle or late rounds who can develop and provide depth. A middle linebacker is likely with Ruud's long-term status in doubt.

Stephen F. Holder, Times staff writer

Where: Radio City Music Hall, New York

TV: ESPN, ESPN2, NFL Network

Picks: 255 (including 32 compensatory picks awarded to 19 teams)

Round 1Rounds 2-3Rounds 4-7
Today: 7:30 p.m.

Pick time limit: 10 minutes

Friday: 6 p.m.

Pick time limit: 7 minutes, 5 minutes

Saturday: 10 a.m.

Pick time limit: 5 minutes

Bucs' picks

Round 1: No. 3 (third overall)

Round 2: No. 3 (35th overall); No. 10 (42nd overall, from Chicago for Gaines Adams)

Round 3: No. 3 (67th overall)

Round 4: No. 3 (101st overall)

Round 5: No. 3 traded to Cleveland for Kellen Winslow; No. 22 (153rd overall, from New England for Alex Smith)

Round 6: No. 3 (172nd overall)

Round 7: No. 3 (210th overall); No. 10 (217th overall, from Jacksonville for Luke McCown); No. 18 (225th overall, from Pittsburgh for Byron Leftwich); No. 25 (232nd overall, from Baltimore for Marques Douglas); No. 46 (253rd overall, compensatory)

2010 NFL draft: linebackers 04/21/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 22, 2010 5:37pm]
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