Some said picking an off-ball linebacker with the fifth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft was a reach, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did it anyway.
And with that, Devin White went from being a star with the LSU Tigers to the next player to be overly evaluated and judged for the Bucs.
In the three seasons that have passed since then, White has battled some injuries but also become a team captain, made it to one Pro Bowl, started 45 games, has 359 tackles, 15 sacks, and has scored twice.
And he won a Super Bowl.
Not a bad first three years in the league. But where does he rank among other 2019 NFL Draft picks? According to NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks, he’s the 8th-best in the class.
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“The tackling machine has been the centerpiece of a Buccaneers defense that has overwhelmed opponents with an array of blitzes,” says Brooks. “White’s sideline-to-sideline range and his big-hit mentality have helped Todd Bowles create a unit that leads to sleepless nights for offensive coordinators and quarterbacks around the league. With White averaging 120 tackles per season, while also flashing A+ skills as a second-level sack specialist, the Bucs have built a scheme around a unicorn in the middle of their defense.”
The only first-round player from 2019 that ranks ahead of White and was still on the board when Tampa Bay drafted him is Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Jefferey Simmons who was selected 19th overall and comes in fourth on the list.
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Of the remaining players ranked ahead of White, two (San Francisco 49ers Nick Bosa and Arizona Cardinals Kyler Murray) were drafted ahead of him, and four (49ers Deebo Samuel, Philadelphia Eagles A.J. Brown (drafted by Titans), Las Vegas Raiders Maxx Crosby, and Seattle Seahawks DK Metcalf) were all Day 2 picks or later.
I don’t know if you quantify White as a steal at this point in his career, but it’s hard to earn that label when you’re a top 5 pick in any NFL Draft.
Of course, there are those who would call being the eighth-best player a bust, despite having little to no better options the Buccaneers could have reasonably been expected to choose over White in 2019.
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Moving to a 3-4 base defense that season, it was important for the Bucs to get a running mate who could work next to Lavonte David, and potentially step into the top role eventually as well.
White may not be perfect, but he’s certainly filled that role well, and has claimed his spot near the top of his draft class because of it.