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Bucs draft preview: linebackers

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Bucs Draft 2008,When: Today (Rounds 1-2) and Sunday (Rounds 3-7)

Bucs picks (round-overall): 1-20, 2-52, 3-83, 4-120, 5-154, 6-none (Michael Bennett trade), 7-none (Jake Plummer trade)

Top 10 linebackers

1,Keith Rivers, 6-3, 235, Southern Cal

Great speed and character; should be the first off the board.

He is the latest in what is becoming a tradition of Tennessee linebackers in the NFL. After recording 140 tackles for the Vols last season as a junior, including 8½ for loss, he decided to declare for the draft.

He is expected to become the 11th Tennessee linebacker drafted since 1999 and likely will join Al Wilson as the second to go in the first round during that span.

"It pulled a lot of weight," Mayo
said of the school's history of
developing pro players. "Coming
out of high school, it's everyone's dream to play in the NFL. I was like, 'Well, shoot! I can go to this school, get a good education, play in a great atmosphere and have a great coach and hopefully at the end of the day, I'll have a chance in the NFL."

He could go as early as No. 15 to the Lions.

3,Dan Connor, 6-3, 233, Penn State

Another cookie-cutter player from Linebacker U.

4,Curtis Lofton, 6-0, 238, Oklahoma

Moving up the board; likely a second-round pick.

5,Tavares Gooden, 6-1, 233, Miami

One of the few Hurricane players who played every down last season.

6,Bruce Davis, 6-3, 252, UCLA

Natural off-the-edge pass-rusher who also played some end.

7,Jonathan Goff, 6-2, 245, Vanderbilt

Lacks the wow factor but a steady pro.

8,Geno Hayes, 6-1, 226, Florida State

Another athletic Seminoles linebacker, but undersized.

9,Wesley Woodyard, 6-1, 227, Kentucky

Under the radar on Wildcats defense.

10,Jordon Dizon, 6-0, 229, Colorado

Brings everything on every play.

Thumbs up

Philip Wheeler,
6-2, 245,
Georgia Tech

Led the Yellow Jackets with 89 tackles, including 8½ for loss; very athletic player who lacks ideal speed to
be a first-day pick
but should be
good enough to
compete for
a starting job in the NFL.

Thumbs down

Ali Highsmith,
6-0, 226, LSU

One of the leading tacklers in the SEC improved his game as a senior, but he has been in a free-fall because of his lack of speed; ran a 4.82 40-yard dash at the NFL combine; does a decent job in pass protection, and his production will convince a team to take a chance on him.

Under the radar

Shawn Crable,
6-5, 241, Michigan

Led the Big Ten with 28½ tackles for loss to go with 6½ sacks; was one of the most productive linebackers in the nation, but his size makes him a tweener. Some see him as a defensive end in a 4-3 set; others believe he could play inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. He's an interesting prospect at either position.

GM Bruce Allen's scorecard

Allen's best pick is an easy one: Barrett Ruud, a second-rounder from Nebraska in 2005. Ruud needed two years to take over at middle linebacker for Shelton Quarles. He had a Pro Bowl-type season in 2007 but wore down late. Certainly, he was better than the first linebacker Allen drafted, Marquise Cooper, a 2004 third-rounder from Washington who is no longer with the team. Last year, the Bucs selected New Mexico linebacker Quincy Black in the fifth round and Portland State linebacker Adam Hayward in the sixth. Both are special teams players, but Black has a chance to be a starter.

IMPACT ON THE BUCS

The Bucs suddenly have a bit of a logjam at linebacker. They signed Teddy Lehman and Matt McCoy as free agents and brought back Leon Joe. Factor in the two linebackers the Bucs drafted last year and Ryan Nece, who was relegated to special teams duty, and there isn't much room for another at that position. The starters appear set with Cato June, Barrett Ruud and Derrick Brooks. But special teams always benefits from linebackers and defensive backs.

Bucs draft preview: linebackers 04/25/08 [Last modified: Sunday, April 27, 2008 9:32am]

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