Today in "which player will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pick": Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley.
Why he's a realistic choice for the Buccaneers
Middle linebacker is an important position in the Tampa 2, and C.J. Mosley is the best middle linebacker in the draft. The Bucs have Mason Foster there, and the team has made it clear that they believe in him as a middle linebacker, but Mosley would likely represent an upgrade and could be seen as the best available player once that seventh pick rolls around. While middle linebackers are generally not taken that highly, Mosley's outstanding abilities in the passing game (both in coverage and as a blitzer) could make him worth a high selection.
That's not the most likely scenario for the Bucs, though. There are better overall players they can select, and ones that don't have the injury concerns that seem to cling to every single Alabama product, including Mosley (though he denies his injuries are issues). But if they can trade back, he'd be a very realistic target. Moreover, there's a chance he falls to the second round because of those injuries -- and he could be a steal at that point, if the Bucs feel comfortable with his medical history.
Why he fits the Buccaneers
With Lovie Smith back in town, the Tampa 2 is coming back, too. Not as a dominant scheme played on every down, mind you, but it will be a significant enough part of the scheme to place a premium on a middle linebacker who can run to the deep middle -- that is a key part of the scheme, after all. Lovie Smith has noted that Mason Foster can do that, and he certainly can, but Mosley would represent a definite upgrade in that department.
Moreover, there's an argument to be made that Mosley is simply one of the best football players in the draft. Unlike most prospects, he's well-rounded both in terms of physical talent and already-developed skills. You can plug him into any NFL scheme and he'll do fine, both in the run game and in the pass game. That's rare, especially at the top of the draft. Most defenders available there would require some time to adjust to a three-down role, including the pass-rushers. Mosley may not have as much explosive, rare talent as someone like Khalil Mack or Anthony Barr, but there are also far fewer question marks to answer with Mosley.
Overall, the question is how high you're really going to pick a middle linebacker in this day and age, especially with three-down linebacker Lavonte David already on the roster. Luke Kuechly was a better middle linebacker prospect, and he even fell to the ninth overall pick. Mosley doesn't quite have the athleticism or range of Luke Kuechly, but he's a more physical overall player, more of a thumper in the run game, and a better blitzer. He's not Brian Urlacher, either, but he's a very good inside linebacker who can do everything well, and who should hold down that position for years to come.
What others say about him
Greg Cosell on Ross Tucker's Football Podcast (4/16/2014)
"A guy who I think can play any linebacker position in a 4-3 and that's C.J. Mosley, who I think is one of the best overall players in this draft, and I think that he's a plug-and-play, you can put him in any package right from day one. I think he's a complete linebacker with multiple scheme and position utilization. I think he's a really terrific football player.
"I think he can play 4-3 weak! He's a run-and-chase player, too. I think he can do anything.
"Without question [he's a three-down player], because [in 2012] he primarily played only in their sub-packages. So he's done all this. He can run with tight ends, he can run with running backs. There were games I watched and plays I watched this year where both he and Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, the safety, were pursuing and you couldn't who's faster."
Where Mosley falls in the draft will likely depend on positional value. Teams don't value middle linebackers too highly. Still, he grades out as one of the 10 best players in this class. Few players are better at their position than Mosley is at inside linebacker. Furthermore, no inside linebacker in this class is even close to Mosley. He should make an impact as a rookie in the NFL.
"I think the standard is Luke Kuechly, who came out a couple of years ago and has been a dominating NFL player," Jeremiah said on "Path to the Draft." "I don't put (Mosley) quite in that category, but he's very, very close. "He's a much better player than McClain," Jeremiah said, referring to Rolando McClain, the former Alabama linebacker and eighth overall pick in 2010. "His instincts set him apart from everybody else in this draft class. Sometimes he's so good that he's kind of boring. You don't see those 'wow' plays because he's where he needs to be and makes a lot of tackles."