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Column: Drafting The Bucs 2018: LB

Tampa Bay’s Linebacker core is arguably their strongest position, will they look to add to it, or address other key team needs?

With respect, as we continue our series heading towards the latter part of the month of April, with the combine fast approaching, we can address the linebacker class, quick, fast and in a hurry.

Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander and Kendell Beckwith, those three names alone are enough to have any NFL roster salivating for a chance to acquire strengths like these brought by such young talent on the outside or the inside.

“Getting Younger” is always something front offices speak about when you look to the draft to fill crucial team needs. Veterans are just as important, but when you have a strength of your team well under the age of thirty, playing with intensity and a desire to get better as the years progress, it allows scouts and general managers to focus on other needs, whether they be on the offense or the defense.

We’ll take a look at three prospects here, two in the later rounds of the draft, one that is such a dynamic talent, that turning his card in early would not come as any sort of a shock, even for a team like the Buccaneers, as they can add further strength to a very healthy group.


Roquan Smith (ILB/OLB, Georgia, 6’1, 225 lbs.)

Smith is arguably one of the ten best players available in this year’s draft. He is a freakish athlete, considered by some to be a tick undersized, but he plays with such sideline to sideline quickness, you watch him and you are in awe of the player.

He spent four years at Georgia disrupting many a passer and making life very difficult for conference quarterbacks and Heisman winners alike, as he was a presence in the playoff game this past year against the Oklahoma Sooners.

Roquan racked up 137 tackles, 85 solo and 52 assisted with six and a half sacks, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

You see those numbers and you just stand in awe of the player. Does he need to become a part of Tampa Bay’s roster? Absolutely not. Can you find a place for him along with the three beforementioned names? Yes. He has such an ability to get to the Quarterback or to stop the run that you wouldn’t be shocked to see his card turned in very early on draft day, whether it be the Bucs, or any other storied NFL franchise.

As I stated when we first began, you’d be very hard pressed to find a roster with a core of linebackers as strong as our beloved Buccaneers, and if you haven’t had a chance to watch his tape, set aside an hour or so and go back through his 2017 Senior season, it’ll be time well spent.

Malik Jefferson (ILB/OLB, Texas, 6’3, 238 lbs.)

Jefferson is a very enigmatic prospect for several reasons. If you’re a fan of Big Twelve football, there have been many a conversation about where this gifted athlete will see his card turned in on draft day. Several scouts have him mocked later in the first round and other conversations see him falling into the middle of day two.

The combine will be a very interesting time as we’ll all have time to lay eyes on the athletic ability of many of the prospects spoken about here at the Scrum Sports or heard about on NFL and college radio. It’s potentially possible that Jefferson will test very well.

His 2017 campaign saw him record 110 tackles, both solo and assisted, to go along with ten tackles for loss and four sacks. He had a solid 2016 season as well and was a stalwart body on the Longhorn defense.

There are questions about his work ethic, as he went through a major coaching change when Charlie Strong left Texas for sunny Tampa and the South Florida campus. Sound coaching and a willingness to take a chance on this premiere athlete can be just what the doctor ordered for an organization like Tampa Bay as adding a name like Jefferson in the third of fourth round can add a solid talent to a deep roster.

Josey Jewell (ILB/OLB, Iowa, 6’2, 230 lbs.)

Jewell, in the same vein as Jefferson, has the chance to be a very good value as a day two pick for any NFL team. He had a stellar 2017 season at Iowa, helping the franchise as they heckled conference opponents on their way to a bowl birth.

Jewell had 136 tackles, solo and assisted as references earlier, four and a half sacks, two interceptions and 13 and a half tackles for loss in 2017. He produced well in 2016 and 2015 as well and when you look at his numbers over those years, the questions arise as to why he isn’t being spoken about as a late first round pick.

The combine will be crucial for Jewell, scouts and coaches alike as we get answers about his medicals. Jewell fought through injuries in 2017 and teams will look to see how he fares as there have been questions about his ability to recognize plays quicker.

As he’s often talked about as a mid day two pick, this is another name to keep an eye on a potential fit for Tampa Bay, whether it be as a rotational guy to fill a team need, or whether he can develop and eventually filter into a starting role for the Bucs.

Again, take all of this information referencing these talents with a grain of salt. Would it be nice to see Roquan Smith on the field in front of our beloved Pirate Ship? Certainly. Can you imagine the fan reaction for Jefferson if he records a sack at a game with Charlie Strong in attendance? What a story.

We began this column talking about the linebacker core and we are very excited to see what the Bucs 2018 campaign will bring as we seek to amass many more tackles, sacks and takeaways. We have needs that we need to address much more than our strengths, but there is always reason to do our due diligence for every position on the roster.



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