The pick of a linebacker with the fifth overall pick has been hotly contested, but Devin White is already paying dividends for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Bleacher Report has been busy this offseason, covering all 32 NFL teams and dissecting their offseason. Kristopher Knox published an article naming a standout performer for each team during mini-camps, and for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he identified first round pick Devin White as a player already living up to expectations.
“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers used a fifth overall pick in the draft on former LSU inside linebacker Devin White. That’s traditionally been high for an off-ball likebacker. However, in today’s NFL, linebackers who can cover and tackle from sideline to sideline are coveted… and it’s the kind of defender White has appeared to be during the offseason” (Knox via Bleacher Report).
Taking White over Kentucky’s Josh Allen drew a ton of criticism as edge rushers are at a much higher premium than middle linebackers in the NFL, but so far White has proved the doubters wrong and looks like the future leader of the Buccaneers’ defense. A starter from day-one, White has been the running mate of veteran linebacker Lavonte David in defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ 3-4 defensive scheme.
Especially in Bowles’ scheme, he wants players who can occupy multiple spaces on the field, and White has the athleticism to play as a traditional middle linebacker in base formations, but can also stay on the field in dime packages without looking out of place amongst a heavy group of defensive backs. Running a 4.4 second 40 yard dash at the combine, White can hold his own against tight ends down the field and running backs out of the backfield.
As White continues to improve and adjust to the NFL, Bowles is sure to key in on White’s tendency to get over-aggressive and run himself out of plays. If White can learn to harness his athleticism and speed and maintain discipline to gap assignments, then there is no reason he cannot become a perennial Pro Bowler for the Buccaneers.
This rookie class has the feelings of a culture shifter, and led by White, the Buccaneers could be moving in the right direction. It speaks volumes to White’s work ethic and leadership that he was named a starter day-one and is already standing out even with the pressures of being a first round pick.