Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL draft: Assessing Bucs at linebacker

Breaking down the Bucs

Who's back: Lavonte David, Adam Hayward, Mason Foster, Jacob Cutrera, Najee Goode, Dekoda Watson. David, the team's second-round pick last year, was a wonderful pickup. He led the team in tackles. Foster continued to play middle linebacker, finishing second in stops. Cutrera, Hayward, Goode and Watson combine to make linebacker one of the more competitive units on the roster. They'll be among the candidates competing for the vacant starting job on the strong side.

Who they picked up: Jonathan Casillas. A free agent from the Saints, Casillas' experience has been mostly on special teams. But the Bucs see him as someone who can contend for the strong-side job. Entering his fourth season, Casillas posted 94 tackles in his previous three seasons with the Saints.

Who left: Quincy Black was having his most productive season when he sustained a career-threatening neck injury against the Chargers last year. Black was injured while tackling San Diego running back Ryan Mathews. It's unclear whether Black will play again. He was released last month with an injury settlement from the Bucs.

Top five in the draft

Arthur Brown, 6-0, 241, Kansas State — An inside linebacker and transfer from Miami, he is dependable in coverage and strong at the point of attack in traffic, too.

Jarvis Jones, 6-2, 245, Georgia — He can play inside or outside. He is considered a good tackler. He started one year for the Bulldogs.

Manti Te'o, 6-1, 241, Notre Dame — He was an All-American who was productive playing against top-notch competition for last season's national runnerup

Alex Ogletree, 6-2, 242, Georgia — A DUI arrest in February is a factor. The junior had 111 tackles and 11.5 for losses in 2012.

Kevin Minter, 6-0, 246, LSU — The playmaking inside linebacker had 130 tackles and 15 for losses for the Tigers in 2012.

Stephen F. Holder, Times staff writer

Overall draft assessment

Linebacker is a position where the Bucs have invested numerous draft picks in recent seasons. The selections of Lavonte David (2012) and Mason Foster (2011) have paid off, and enough players are in the fold to fill the remaining roster spots. If the Bucs use a draft pick at this position this year, it likely would be a late-round pick, unless they see an ideal fit at middle linebacker, where Foster is not the perfect fit.

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