ESPN’s Mel Kiper discussed the linebacker options after the first round in the 2011 NFL Draft in regards to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs have had one of the weakest run defenses in the NFL the past two seasons, and have two starters heading into free agency. Mike (middle) linebacker Barrett Ruud and Sam (strongside) linebacker Quincy Black both are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents if a new collective bargaining agreement is reached. If they sign elsewhere that could put the Buccaneers in the market for inside and outside linebackers.
“Well in terms of the linebacker position it is not a good year for inside,” said Kiper. “Outside there is always going to be the combo guys. Dontay Moch from Nevada he fits the 3-4. When you think of Tampa Bay and what they may be looking for on the outside is Mason Foster from the University of Washington would be a fit for them. [North Carolina’s Bruce] Carter would be as well coming off the injury. Lawrence Wilson from Connecticut as well is another guy to think of at that point. Jonas Mouton out of Michigan would fit into that particular mold. Akeem Dent is an inside linebacker out of Georgia that is moving into that third or fourth round mix. Colin McCarthy out of Miami is in the third or fourth round. It is not a lot but there are some guys if you catch lightning in a bottle you might find the right player.
“Carter’s stock has fallen a bit from where it was. None of the juniors came out early. Only three junior linebackers came out. It is just not a lot of talent at that position. Carter fits their scheme but he’s dropped into the third or fourth round right now. Wilson, I like as fourth or fifth-round pick. Foster is maybe a third-round pick. Ross Homan out of Ohio State is maybe a third-round pick. He’ll fit that mold of what they’re looking for. There are some 4-3 outside linebackers that you can look at there. Opinions on all these guys are going to vary. I think Carter’s stock as dropped a little bit. I think Foster from Washington is on the rise. Homan has been up a bit then down and then up so he’s been back and forth, but there is not a ton. You have to do some very astute scouting to find an outside linebacker in that third or fourth round that come in and be a factor for you right away.”
One inside linebacker that has caught Kiper’s eye is Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson. Kiper believes he could be selected in the top half of the second round.
“Martez Wilson is certainly a super talented kid,” said Kiper. “He played outside and he played the middle. He had the injury as a sophomore and came back from it and started to really get after the quarterback and do can do a lot of good things for you. I think when you look at Wilson once he’s had some more experience and can master the position, he’s a guy that has a burst, can rush the quarterback, and was really productive. He had all that hype coming out of high school, was a very sought after player coming out of high school, and finally this year I felt this year he took it to a new level after being a relative disappointment early on and then he had the injury and then he comes back from it and plays lights out football with great workouts. I think he’s the best in a bad inside linebacker group. One of the weakest positions in this draft, and he’s the best. He’s got a chance to be an early to mid second-round pick.”
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