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5 Players to Watch at the Combine, March 5

Posted Mar 5, 2017

A few players to keep an eye on when the defensive linemen and linebackers take the field at the NFL Scouting Combine on Sunday - presented by Florida Hospital.

1. DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee
Barnett has been linked to the Buccaneers this offseason, but as the weeks go by his stock continues to rise. In many recent mock drafts, he’s projected to be selected in the top half of the first round, which would put him out of reach for the Buccaneers at No. 19. Barnett’s production speaks for itself; he’s Tennessee’s all-time sack leader, surpassing NFL Hall of Famer Reggie White to capture the school record. As a pass-rusher who’s listed at 6-foot-3 and 259 pounds, it’s important for him to run well at the Combine.

MORE: COMPLETE COMBINE COVERAGE

2. DT Elijah Qualls, Washington

If the Buccaneers hope to target a defensive tackle early in the draft, Qualls could be an excellent value. He is expected to be available on the second day of the draft and is the quintessential run-stuffer, listed at 6-foot-1 and 321 pounds according to his bio on the University of Washington’s website. The bench press will be one exercise where he could significantly help his draft stock.

3. DE Taco Charlton, Michigan
Like Barnett, Charlton won’t make it past the first round. And like Barnett, his rising stock could result in him being selected before the Buccaneers make their first-round pick. He’s been linked to the Bucs, with ESPN’s Mel Kiper projected the former Wolverine to Tampa Bay in his first mock draft this offseason. But in Kiper’s most recent mock, Charlton doesn’t make it out of the top ten. It will be interesting to see what Charlton’s official measurements are. His draft profile on NFL.com lists him at 6-foot-6 and 272 pounds.

VIEW: FULL COMBINE SCHEDULE

4. DT Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, USC

Tu'ikolovatu will likely be a mid to late-round pick and, like Qualls, is a big-bodied run-stuffer. He’s listed at 6-foot-1 and 350 pounds and, at 26, has plenty of experience. The bench press will be important for him, but it’ll be worth-while watching the big man take on the 40-yard dash.

5. LB Hardy Nickerson, Illinois
Sure, his dad was one of the best Buccaneer defenders of all-time. But Nickerson's play during his collegiate career makes him a worth-while prospect without the family ties. He earned at least 100 tackles in each of his final two collegiate seasons and finished his career with 351 stops. The Buccaneers have two standout linebackers in Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander, but Nickerson could be worth a look in the later rounds of the draft.