SAN FRANCISCO CA - JANUARY 09: Mike Ball #5 of the Nevada Wolf Pack is pushed out of bounds by Luke Kuechly #40 of Boston College during the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park on January 9 2011 in San Francisco California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
It's the day before the draft and the rumors are flying wild. The latest popular selection for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at #5 is linebacker Luke Kuechly out of Boston College. He's been featured more and more in mock drafts over the past two days, including in Todd McShay's latest mock draft. I gave my thoughts on Kuechly a few days ago, and while I really like the linebacker, I don't think the Bucs are particularly likely to select him. I base this on one facts: neither Greg Schiano nor Mark Dominik have valued linebackers in the past.
Under Mark Dominik, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have drafted all of two linebackers: Dekoda Watson in the seventh round in 2010, and Mason Foster late in the third round in 2011. In free agency, the Bucs have not invested in linebackers either. They gave Quincy Black a decent but not spectacular contract after the 2010 season, while they re-signed Adam Hayward that same year on a pretty modest salary. They were content to let Barrett Ruud walk out the window for relative peanuts, and they failed to make a competitive offer to any linebacker this offseason, despite a glaring need at the position.
But with old school, defensive-minded head coach Greg Schiano in town this surely must change? Well, no. Schiano didn't exactly value linebackers in his days at Rutgers either. Of the 31 four-star recruits (according to Rivals.com) he got to commit to Rutgers, only three were linebackers and stayed at linebacker during their college career. None of those three players was drafted. In fact, during his tenure at Rutgers, only one linebacker was drafted: Raheem Orr in 2004 - who played all of two games in the NFL. Rutgers did produce one outstanding NFL linebacker in Gary Brackett, but Brackett wasn't even recruited by Schiano: he was a walk-on at Rutgers. While Rutgers surely built its success around defense, they didn't build it around their linebackers.
Could the Tampa Bay Buccaneers still select Luke Kuechly in the first round, or any other linebacker high in the draft? Of course. But history tells us that it isn't exactly likely.