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Pewter Plank Mailbag: Is Lavonte David A Top 100 Player?


Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In yet another edition of Pewter Plank Mailbag, reader Daniel asks the following:

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As the NFL has rolled out its top 100 players for 2013, it has raised many questions as to the judgement of ability by fellow players. Some of the decisions on the list have been curious, and seem based on reputation and hype rather than the observations or scouts (or even fans).

Lavonte David was not one of the players named to the top 100 (unless we’re underestimating him and he’s near the top of the list, which has yet to be announced), but should he have been? The young Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker stood out in his first season in the NFL, showing a combination of speed and awareness that will make for an excellent read-and-react linebacker down the road.

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

So how does he rate heading into 2013? As we pointed out in our season recaps, Lavonte David was one of the best players in the NFL in terms of stopping the run. Here is what we had to say at the time:

"It was the linebackers who contributed heavily to this success, particularly the play of Lavonte David. Pro Football Focus scouts and charts the NFL season, and for David’s statistics, they recorded that he played against the run for 348 snaps, and made 51 run stops, which is 8 more than anyone else that played outside linebacker in a 4-3, and the only linebacker at any position with more stops was Derrick Johnson from Kansas City. Stops are defined by PFF as preventing the other team from achieving an amount of yards that would be considered a success based on the down and distance. The most interesting point to note is that because teams passed against the Buccaneers so often, and David played against fewer running plays, his Run Stop Percentage was through the roof. Among outside linebackers, no other player posted a Run Stop Percentage higher than 11.7 percent. The average player had a percentage in the 5 or 6 percent range. Lavonte David posted a 14.7% run stop percentage, meaning that on almost 15% of the run plays he faced, he single-handedly stopped the other team from achieving success."

So it’s clear that, as a run stopper, Lavonte David was one of the best linebackers (if not the best) in the NFL. He also had the most solo tackles of any outside linebacker, and second most in the entire NFL at any position, according to Pro Football Reference.

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

So where does he fall short? Lavonte ranks highly in two negative categories that reveal his weaknesses. According to Pro Football Focus, Lavonte allowed the most touchdowns in the passing game of any 4-3 outside linebacker. He didn’t allow a ton of big plays, but he was targeted in the red zone and victimized for touchdowns often.

He also ranks eighth highest in missed tackles at his position, with 13 on the season. He did so on almost 1100 snaps, as compared to Atlanta’s Sean Witherspoon and Carolina’s Thomas Davis who missed as many or more tackles on significantly fewer snaps played. But the fact remains that David missed more tackles than Von Miller, Erin Henderson and Jerod Mayo combined.

All of that said, David established himself as a leading outside linebacker in the NFL in 2012, and with players like Lance Briggs (who was pretty good last year) and London Fletcher (who was not very good at all last year) making the top 100, I believe there is definitely a place for Lavonte among the league’s best 100 players. In fact, I think it would be appropriate to take London Fletcher out of the top 100, and put Lavonte on the list in the mid 70’s, somewhere near fellow rookie Luke Kuechly (who I believe Lavonte outperformed in 2012).

So what do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, as well as any questions you may have for the next edition of Pewter Plank Mailbag!