Ranking the needs: Linebackers

We continue our pre-draft rankings of position-group needs with the linebackers.

Remember, the earlier the ranking, the greater the need.

New Orleans Saints: There’s some hope that Martez Wilson and Junior Galette can make an impact as pass-rushers. But the Saints might have a chance to get an elite pass-rusher in this draft. They also could look for help in the middle because Jonathan Vilma is nearing the end of his career.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The starting spot on the strong side is wide open after the release of Quincy Black. Lavonte David had a great rookie season at the other outside spot and he and middle linebacker Mason Foster give the Bucs the nucleus of what could be a very good linebacker corps.

Atlanta Falcons: Sean Weatherspoon is the leader of this defense. Akeem Dent started in the middle last year and Stephen Nicholas is the other incumbent. The Falcons could look for linebackers to provide competition for Dent and Nicholas.

Carolina Panthers: They’re set with Luke Kuechly in the middle and Thomas Davis and Jon Beason on the outside. They also brought in Chase Blackburn as an inexpensive and versatile backup. But, given the injury history of Davis and Beason, the Panthers could look to add some depth at linebacker.