THOMPSON'S TAKE: He's undoubtedly the most athletic of the three USC linebackers, and he's a physically strong player who has experience as a DE in the 3-4 alignment. But there is no doubt that he's at his best when he's playing outside linebacker. Cushing is a stud at his position, but there is one red flag that pro teams will examine carefully--he's already had both knee and shoulder surgery while in college. Cushing plays so aggressively that his body takes a real pounding, much like the Colts' Bob Sanders who is spectacular when he's healthy, but who has been sidelined with injuries periodically during his career.
POSTINS' TAKE: He certainly has the pedigree, having played at USC. And his quickness is a plus for the Bucs, who most certainly will stay with the Cover 2 under new head coach Raheem Morris. The fact that he plays strong side (at 255 pounds) is intriguing, as starter Cato June enters the final year of his three-year contract. The understanding among most observers is that June would eventually replace Derrick Brooks on the weak side. But both players' deals are up after 2009. Brooks may retire, and June will either have to be extended or re-signed. Cushing offers an intriguing replacement for June in either scenario. But here's the thing – the Bucs have invested so many mid-round picks at the position the past two years, taking Cushing with a first-round pick – and right now that's what he's considered – would be admitting those investments probably won't pan out. I still anticipate the Bucs going with an offensive player in the first round, so unless Cushing drops into the second round, I don't see it happening.
OG Tyronne Green
THOMPSON'S TAKE: At 6-foot-1 and 305 pounds, Green can certainly hold his own. Spend just a few minutes with him and you'll quickly learn that he's going to be one of those players who will be very attentive, doing exactly what is asked by the coaching staff and showing a great attitude while he's doing it. Green is a durable and athletic player for his size who may not be selected until the later rounds, but he has some upside since he's likely to be undervalued since he's only played on the offensive line for the past two seasons. Prior to that, he was a defensive lineman, so he knows how his opponents view the game from that side of the ball.
POSTINS' TAKE: Green isn't listed among the Top 5 guards in this draft, but the Bucs have had a good track record selecting offensive linemen the past few years, early or late in the draft. Thing is, the Bucs are well stocked. They have a young starting group that should be together for at least two more years, plus capable backups, including last year's third-round pick Jeremy Zuttah. Whoever the new offensive line coach is will get plenty of input here, but it's hard to make the case for the Bucs spending a pick in the first four rounds on a lineman.
LB Clay Matthews
THOMPSON'S TAKE: An undersized walk-on at USC, Matthews has just one year under his belt as a starter, but it was a season that put him in the same breath with Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing. Matthews also has experience as a pass-rushing DE and was a three-time winner of the Trojans' Co-Special Teams Player of the Year award. He's come from being a projected late-round pick in early evaluations during his junior year to no worse than a second-rounder at this point. His quickness and hard-hitting, all-out style of play impressed onlookers in Mobile. With a strong showing at the Combine and at his Pro Day, he could inch his way into the late first-round.
POSTINS' TAKE: Can I just type "see Brian Cushing here?" No? OK. The Bucs are overloaded at linebacker and Matthews is another outside guy, though he plays at 230 pounds. He's certainly a back of the draft guy, at least right now, but the Bucs have taken so many of them lately that it doesn't make sense. Is there something that makes this guy better than Quincy Black, Adam Hayward or Geno Hayes? The Bucs can't be concerned about depth here. If they're fishing for linebacker help, it means they're concerned that Black, Hayward and Hayes can't step in for any of the starters.
DT Ron Brace
THOMPSON'S TAKE: At 6-foot-3, 329 pounds, Brace is quick off the ball at the snap and can disrupt the action by hitting the inside gaps. But he's also strong enough to bully his way into the backfield. Brace has a balanced skill set, but is a bit more effective against the run.
POSTINS' TAKE: I was intrigued with this guy, thinking he was an end, until I saw his weight – more than 300 pounds! Geez, he's not rushing the passer, that's for sure. Brace is a three-star player from a Big East program who is going to plug the hole to stop the run and nothing more. He is the heaviest defensive tackle in the draft. Considering the Bucs' defense is based on quickness and versatility, spending a pick on Brace would be considered a waste. He's limited in what he can offer and the Bucs don't need limited talent. It makes you wonder why they're talking to him in the first place?