The 2012 NFL Draft is upon us and the consensus is that Boston College junior linebacker will come off the draft board in short order tonight. But just how high can Kuechly get drafted tonight? ESPN's Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have Kuechly going as high as ... fifth ... to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers!
The consensus seems to be that Tampa Bay will select either Alabama RB Trent Richardson or LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne with the fifth overall pick tonight. But the organization may take a good look at Kuechly, who has been flying up the draft boards given the low bust factor.
But do the Bucs even need a linebacker? The Tampa Tribune's Roy Cummings breaks it down.
The Bucs have what they believe is a starting caliber strongside backer in Quincy Black [ed. note -- no relation to A.J.] and a starting-caliber middle backer in Mason Foster, but they don't appear to have an every-down weakside backer.
Kuechly could solve that problem, because not only can he play weakside backer, but his presence also would offer the Bucs the opportunity to move Foster to the weakside spot, which is the spot he played most in college.
And it could be an immediate fix. Kuechly is one the few linebackers in this draft who scouts believe is ready to step in and run his new team's defense as its starting middle linebacker.
Cummings could see Tampa Bay selecting Kuechly over Claiborne but not Richardson, so whether Kuechly is gone after the first five picks seems to hinge on whether Richardson is still available. Tampa Bay ranked dead last in the league in rush defense and 21st in pass defense so Kuechly would give the Bucs defense a needed boost in both those areas.
Other draftniks have Kuechly going to Buffalo (10th), Kansas City (11th) or Seattle (12th) and it's sounding more and more unlikely that #40 will still be around after the first fifteen names are called. If Kuechly gets drafted in the top five or even the top 10, it would be a huge honor for the BC backer and would continue a great run of Boston College football players selected in the first round. Best of luck to Kuechly tonight.