Meeting the Bucs in Mobile

We all know who the likely first-rounders are, but which prospects are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers interested in? Bucsblitz.com has learned which players the Bucs have shown interest in so far, either during private meetings or after-practice conversations. Find out who they are and how they fit into the Bucs' draft plans in this premium feature.

The following players have either been seeing talking to official from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or have told Bucsblitz.com they've spoken to Bucs officials during the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama (This article has been updated with one more player meeting as of Friday morning):

TE MARTIN RUCKER (6-5, 247) — MISSOURI

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Led NCAA tight ends with 84 catches, which also broke Missouri's single-season receptions record. Made seven different all-American teams.

PROJECTION: Second round.

MP'S TAKE: I can tell you this — Bucs head coach Jon Gruden was taking copious notes on Tuesday every time Rucker caught the football. During workouts he showed great hands, above-average speed and quickness and solid blocking ability. You might not think the Bucs are in the market for a tight end, but they may be if they lose both Anthony Becht and Jerramy Stevens in free agency. That would leave them with only Alex Smith, who himself is in the last year of his contract in 2008. The Bucs could select Rucker to protect themselves if their entire roster of tight ends is gone by the spring of 2009. He's talented enough to be a first-round guy.

WR DONNIE AVERY (5-11, 183) — HOUSTON

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Caught 91 passes for 1,456 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2007. He was also a second-team All-Conference USA kickoff returner. He had 13 catches for 346 yards against Rice.

PROJECTION: Second round.

MP'S TAKE: This is another receiver with returner ability, which fits in with the types of receivers the Bucs have met with this week in Mobile. I've watched him work out three times and I came away impressed with his route running, his attention to detail and his coachability. He's been one of the rare receivers this week that doesn't repeat mistakes once he's been corrected. At least twice the 49ers wide receivers coach has held Avery as the right example to the rest of the receivers. He's shown above average hands and is said to have 4.3 speed. His size could be an issue, but the Bucs have enough big receivers to roll the dice on someone like Avery — just not in the first round.

QB COLT BRENNAN (6-3, 190) — HAWAII

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: He broke 31 NCAA records, including most career touchdowns. The Bucs were set to meet with him at 6 p.m. EST Wednesday.

PROJECTION: Third round.

MP'S TAKE: You have to give Brennan credit. He knows there are questions about his ability to translate his success in Hawaii's spread offense to the NFL and he's answered every one of them. He also dropped a hint that he has a West Coast offense background, having worked with the same SoCal coaches that tutored Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart in high school. Brennan does not throw effortlessly like some quarterbacks, and I can see that arm strength will be a concern no matter where he goes. But, God help me, he kind of reminds me of a young Jeff Garcia. But he's a developmental pick. I don't think he's going to help himself enough during this process to move into the first round by draft day. And where would the Bucs put him on the depth chart? The questions abound.

DB LEODIS MCKELVIN (5-11, 186) — TROY

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Led the Trojans in all-purpose yardage (1,022 yards) despite not having taken an offensive snap all last season. Had an 18.3-yard average on punt returns and three touchdowns. Also considered one of the best lock-down corners in the nation (according to his team bio).

PROJECTION: Second round.

MP'S TAKE: So why don't you know about this guy? He played in the Sun Belt Conference. But he's put together a nice week in Mobile and is proving that he can fit in with the talent from some of the nation's elite programs. You have to like a corner that can run a 4.4 40-yard dash, had 48 solo tackles his senior year and can returns punts AND kicks. That's one-stop shopping, and he's worth keeping an eye on going into the scouting combine.

LB WESLEY WOODYARD (6-1, 215) — KENTUCKY

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The two-time All-SEC linebacker had 139 tackles his senior year for the Wildcats.

PROJECTION: Unclear.

MP'S TAKE: Why is his projection unclear? Well, Scout.com lists Woodyard as its No. 16 outside linebacker. Another service does not list him among its Top 50 outside linebackers. A few things are clear. First, he has 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash. He's a sure-handed tackler. And he's having a great Senior Bowl week of practices. If any player needed the boost a good Senior Bowl can give them, it's Woodyard. It's also clear that the Bucs are looking for linebacker help for down the line, perhaps after Derrick Brooks retires. Woodyard's size lends itself more to the weak side than the strong side.

WR ANDRE CALDWELL (6-0, 203) — FLORIDA

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Caldwell finished his Florida career with the all-time receptions lead (185). He also finished third all-time in receiving yardage (2,349). Holds two Top 20 spots in SEC receiving history. Started 11 games in 2007 and averaged 69.18 yards per contest. Scored six touchdowns in five of his final seven games of the season after battling early injuries. Caldwell has explosive speed (4.1 in the 40), but during his early practices at the Senior Bowl he's shown the ability to gain separation, track down errant passes and run precise routes.

PROJECTION: Second round.

MP'S TAKE: I like what I've seen out of Caldwell so far. One thing scouts are going to take a hard look at is Caldwell's injury past, which includes a broken leg. They'll also take a look at his size. He's not an exceptionally tall receiver, but in the past two days I've seen him be physical with cornerbacks and safeties. That's a good sign. I'm interested to see his time at the Combine next month. If it's still around 4.4, he could leap into the first round.

DT MARCUS HARRISON (6-3, 310) — ARKANSAS

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: He rebounded nicely from a torn ACL in early 2007 to become the top tackler among the Razorbacks' defensive linemen. He missed the first game of the season due to an off-the-field incident involving an arrest for possession of ecstasy. In his final college season Harrison had 72 tackles, had 5 ½ tackles for loss, 1 ½ sacks and 7 quarterback hurries.

PROJECTION: Fifth or sixth round.

MP'S TAKE: He's a bit quicker than you would expect and he takes on blockers well. He's one of three defensive tackles that the Bucs have spoken to so far, and they're all in the same mold — 300-pounders who are adept at stuffing the run. That's Harrison's forte. He might be worth a late-round pick — if the Bucs had one. They don't this year, so Harrison would have to shoot up draft boards to be a consideration, and this is a deep draft at the position.

OT CHRIS WILLIAMS (6-3, 317) — VANDERBILT

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: A first-team all-SEC selection in 2007, observers consider Williams the best offensive lineman in modern-day Vanderbilt history. He was the Commodores' first all-first team selection in 23 years. He allowed just one quarterback sack during the season.

PROJECTION: Second round.

MP'S TAKE: Williams moved to right tackle today for the South team and he gave up a horrible rush in one-on-one drills against Titus Brown, who used a brilliant spin move to get by Williams. Just before that I heard a scout say, "Right tackle — the dumping ground for tackles that don't quite have the elite speed for pass protection." I'm not sure he was referring to Williams, but his speed in the 40 will be a question until the Combine. His listed time is two-tenths of a second slower than Michigan's Jake Long. He's a specimen, though, and he's highly regarded by most scouts. I'm just not sure where the Bucs would put him if they selected him.

RB JUSTIN FORSETT (5-8, 183) — CALIFORNIA

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Forsett learned plenty from backing up Marshawn Lynch, a first-round pick last year. Led the Pac 10 in touchdowns with 15 and was an all-Pac 10 first team honoree. Had a big game against Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl with 140 yards and two touchdowns.

PROJECTION: Seventh or undrafted free agent.

MP'S TAKE: His size is going to be a hindrance during the draft process. So is his speed (only 4.54). It's a good thing he's here in Mobile because the things he does well he can put on display. He has good quickness, hits the hole well and blocks better than you think. He took on linebackers well during drills on Tuesday. He told me he wants to show he can be a complete back. His stock would certainly go up if he had a great game. Running back is going to be a need in some regard, but unless he falls out the draft completely, I don't see the Bucs getting him at this point.

DE LAWRENCE JACKSON (6-5, 268) — SOUTHERN CAL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Jackson finished off his college career with 60 tackles (17 for loss), plus 10 ½ sacks. He made a bushel of postseason all-America teams.

PROJECTION: First or second round.

MP'S TAKE: Some scouts have told me this is the weakest crop of defensive ends in recent Senior Bowl history. So Jackson should stand out this week. What jumps out at me are his 17 tackles for loss as an end. Gaines Adams certainly isn't going to become a great run defender, so the Bucs will eventually have to identify a successor to Greg Spires and Kevin Carter on the left side. Jackson could be that guy. The question is will he drop into the second round? Given that his 40 time, at the moment, is about a tenth of second slower than the top prospects at the position, he very well could.

DT ANDRE FLUELLEN (6-2, 279) — FLORIDA STATE

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Despite injuries he managed 21 tackles, including two for a loss and two sacks his senior year.

PROJECTION: Fourth round.

MP'S TAKE: As I watched Fluellen during workouts on Tuesday I overheard a scout raving about his quickness. And he certainly has an above-average first step that allows him to get penetration on interior linemen. His career statistics aren't impressive, but stats don't matter anymore. Fluellen is a player that could really benefit from a great week here in Mobile, and he appears to be turning some heads. He's played both the three-technique and the nose at Florida State, so he can fill both positions for the Bucs. Thing is, the Bucs have a tackle just like him in Jovan Haye and I think they need someone with more bulk.

RB CHRIS JOHNSON (5-11, 198) — EAST CAROLINA

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: He had a whale of a senior year for the Pirates, finishing with 2,960 all-purpose yards (1,423 rushing, 528 receiving, 1,009 kickoff returns).

PROJECTION: First or second round.

MP'S TAKE: I didn't know much about Johnson coming into this game but I'm becoming a fan. He had absolutely no problem taking on bigger linebackers during blocking drills, though one linebacker did sidestep him. He looks more like a one-cut runner to me, but once he makes that cut and hits that hole he accelerates fast. He's not the thickest back in the game, but he appeared plenty tough. And his work as a returner is a real asset. If he drops into the late second round, he could be a possibility for the Bucs, who have to address both needs.

LB XAVIER ADIBI (6-2, 219) — VIRGINIA TECH

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: He maxed out his senior year with a career-high 108 tackles, 12 of which were for a loss. That led to a berth on the all-America team.

PROJECTION: First round.

MP'S TAKE: He may be the second quickest outside linebacker in the draft (4.47 is his best), but what is really impressive are his bench press (390 pounds) and his back squat (590 pounds). So the guy can not only fly, but he can put a big hit on people. He stuffed West Virginia RB Owen Schmitt on a run play and looked smooth in coverage on Tuesday. This guy looks like he could be a perfect fit on the weak side of a Cover 2 defense. The Bucs won't get him, at least not at this point. They have too many other needs to address to take this undeniably talented linebacker in the first round. Now, if he drops into the second, keep him on your radar.

WR LAVELLE HAWKINS (5-11, 185) — CALIFORNIA

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: In just three seasons at Cal he finished 10th all-time in receptions (136) and 11th in receiving touchdowns (12). He caught 72 passes in 2007 for 872 yards.

PROJECTION: Fourth round.

MP'S TAKE: There is some serious disparity here. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. had Hawkins as his No. 1 wide receiver at one point during the fall. But now he's a second-day talent. He's even harder to judge after you see him play. At the Senior Bowl he has had fantastic workouts. He's caught everything in sight, including two deep balls on Wednesday with defenders draped on him. At least one North team cornerback said he's the hardest receiver on the team to cover. Plus he can also return kicks, giving the Bucs extra value. He's listed with 4.48 speed, but I think he's faster and he could creep up draft boards with a great Senior Bowl game and a great Combine.

DT JASON JONES (6-4, 270) — EASTERN MICHIGAN

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Finished off his career at EMU with 43 tackles (19 ½ for loss) and 3.5 sacks.

PROJECTION: Third-fourth rounds.

MP'S TAKE: Jones sees himself as a 4-3 end and that may be a good fit for what the Bucs need. They'll eventually need to find a successor at left end, where run stopping is more important than pass pressure. Jones proved at EMU that he could get in the backfield, as he finished with 50 tackles for loss in three years as a starter. He's running in the low 4.7s, which is among some of the better 40 times at the position. At times in Mobile he's been dominated, but at other times he's shown up. That inconsistency may show up on tape. Considering he played in the MAC, a third- or fourth-round pick sounds about right. The Bucs like defensive line projects, and Jones might be a solid investment.

DL WALLACE GILBERRY (6-3, 264) — ALABAMA

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Gilberry finished his four-year career as a starter with 60.5 tackles for loss, including 27 tackles for loss and 10 sacks as a senior, according to his bio on the University of Alabama's Web site.

PROJECTION: Third-fourth rounds.

MP'S TAKE: This guy definitely has a nose for getting into the backfield, but he played as an end in the 3-4 at Alabama and it's unclear if he's be a good fit for the Bucs in their scheme. He's tried some outside linebacker at the Senior Bowl to mixed results. He doesn't seem quick enough to be a pass-rushing end in a 4-3, nor bulky enough to be a run-stuffing tackle. He looks to me to be more of a 3-4 end or outside linebackers, but I don't think his skills are a good match here.

Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. An award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he appears frequently on Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.


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