As we have gotten closer to the draft, it seems more and more Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ fans are clamoring for LSU inside linebacker Devin White for the fifth pick in this year’s NFL draft. He is fast, exciting, and a great prospect. So, what does the history of linebackers selected in the top ten look like? Here are the last twenty years of linebackers drafted in the top ten. Players with a * at the end of their name have earned a nomination to the NFL Pro-Bowl.
The List (Notice Zero Tampa Bay Buccaneer Players)
Pick Team Player Position Year
8 Chicago Bears Roquan Smith LB 2018
9 Chicago Bears Leonard Floyd LB 2016
5 Oakland Raiders Khalil Mack * LB 2014
9 Minnesota Vikings Anthony Barr * LB 2014
9 Carolina Panthers Luke Kuechly * LB 2012
2 Denver Broncos Von Miller * LB 2011
7 San Francisco 49ers Aldon Smith * LB 2011
8 Oakland Raiders Rolando McClain * LB 2010
4 Seattle Seahawks Aaron Curry LB 2009
9 Cincinnati Bengals Keith Rivers LB 2008
10 New England Patriots Jerod Mayo * LB 2008
9 Detroit Lions Ernie Sims LB 2006
5 Green Bay Packers A. J. Hawk LB 2006
9 Chicago Bears Brian Urlacher * LB 2000
9 Detroit Lions Chris Claiborne LB 1999
At first glance, the list looks spectacular for linebackers selected in the top ten. In the last twenty drafts, eight have been selected to Pro-Bowl. Roquan Smith and Leonard Floyd are young and will still have an opportunity to prove themselves. Is this list deceiving?
Comparison for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It is when taken at face value. Many fans want the next Khalil Mack. He’s a game-changing talent that almost single handedly reinvigorated the Bears defense and made it a scary unit. Mack, Von Miller and Aldon Smith are outside linebackers. They are heat seeking missiles who rush the quarterback and disrupt opposing offensive lines. They require double teams as well. White does not fit into this category of player.
Kuechly, Mayo, Urlacher and McClain were middle linebackers in a 4-3 scheme while Barr is an outside linebacker in the 4-3. These players were drafted high AND succeeded because they filled a need for their team, and they were a fit for the scheme. White is a fit for the Buccaneers’ scheme but to what extent?
White played what LSU refers to as the “Rover” linebacker. A middle linebacker whose primary responsibility is to aide the defensive line against the run. This position is typically located three to six yards off the line of scrimmage and very suitable to defend against short crossing routes and when wide receivers sit down for short quick gains. White has done an exceptional job doing this. He posses the speed and range necessary to make plays from one sideline to the other. He is a first-round talent.
Unfortunately, or fortunate depending on how you look at it, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a higher need for a pass rusher. They need an edge player who can get to the quarterback and get there often. The inside linebacker positions should have Lavonte David starting with Kevin Minter and Deone Bucannon fighting to start at the other inside position. I would anticipate them drafting an inside player later in the draft to supplement this group as well but not with the fifth pick overall.
The pick is more valuable to the team with an edge rusher. The current situation at the defensive end position is highlighted by Jason Pierre-Paul and Gerald McCoy. McCoy does not even look to be a Buccaneer this season. So that leaves William Gholston, who has continued to under perform. JPP’s contract expires soon and he may not be able to be retained. White is not an edge rusher. Sure, his addition would beef up the middle of the defense but in a division where getting to the quarterback equates to success, his value for the Buccaneers is not at the fifth pick.
If the Buccaneers trade back only a few picks, say around the tenth pick, they may still be in line to draft a defensive end depending on who is there. If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were to draft an inside linebacker in the first round, they would have had to trade back to the middle or later in the first and White will not be there.
Lastly, I have not seen anyone compare White to any of the names above. Yes, there are plenty of great linebackers to compare him to but none of those warranted a top five pick. I have seen him most often compared to Myles Jack. Jack is a middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense. Jack came on last year but is still a sideline to sideline linebacker.
I do not think White will be a Buccaneer.