NFL Draft 2011: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Need Linebackers

Tom EdringtonSenior Writer IMarch 3, 2011

Tyrone McKenzie could be the Bucs next middle linebacker.
Tyrone McKenzie could be the Bucs next middle linebacker.

There is no great mystery for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when it comes to this 2011 NFL draft.

This team needs a pass rush, and it needs to stop the run. It doesn't take Dick Tracy or Sherlock Holmes to figure that out. It's there on film for all to see.

The good news is there is depth at the defensive end position. The Bucs will get someone who fits their need, a talented someone. Haven't been invited over to see the draft board yet, so your guess is as good as mine. 

Today it's time to talk about linebackers. Raise your hand out there if you think Barrett Ruud is "the guy" at middle linebacker. Don't see too many hands waving. You get a mixed bag when you read the national stuff. Some guys look at his stats and see a lot of tackles and declare that the Bucs can't live without him. He calls the defensive signals, he's the guy.

Or so they think.

The film doesn't lie. There should be a category for "knock backs." How far does a guy get driven back when he tackles someone? If you've seen Barrett Ruud, he's just not a physically big guy.

Now, that being said, there were some impressive guys at the combine, but we've said it and a lot of others who make a living drafting players have said it—don't place that much stock on what happens at the combine.

Fact is, players SHOULD do well at the combine. They practice and prepare for it; they realize that it's a four-day job interview, basically. All the combine should do is reinforce what teams have seen on film—that's it. Otherwise, it's just a bunch of guys in shorts running around, trying to be fast and agile, jump high and see how many times they can bench-press 225 pounds.

Back to the Buccaneers and the need for linebackers.

Before we discuss a couple of prospects, want to ask the question: Is there already a hard-hitting, run-stopping MLB in the house? There might be. Tyrone McKenzie, who played at South Florida, was drafted by the New England Patriots in the third round of the 2009 draft and suffered a knee injury that ended his rookie season before it started.

McKenzie is 6'2", 243 and was a physical force for the South Florida defense. You know the Patriots do their homework, and to take him in the third round tells us the guy can play. I have a sneaking suspicion that he could play middle linebacker for the Bucs and play quite well.

Just a thought. Time will tell.

There were two linebackers at the combine who had eye-popping speed and the kind of size that has "run-stopper" written all over them.

Martez Wilson from Illinois is 6'4", 252. That's really, really good size. Now add the fact the guy ran 4.49 and you'd figure he's already on a lot of draft boards.

Another guy who caught a lot of attention was Dontay Moch from Nevada. This guy ran 4.4 at 248 pounds, about 6'1".

Haven't seen either play a down. I would love to see how they look on tape, and no doubt a lot of scouts have seen them. They won't be a surprise on draft day, but there is talent out there.

Hate to sound like a broken record, but guys SHOULD do well at the combine. They should run fast. They should look good.

Will the Buccaneers take a linebacker with their second pick next month?

Wouldn't bet against it.