Bucs head coach Bruce Arians fired back at critics that suggested that Tampa Bay draft an edge rusher like Kentucky’s Josh Allen or Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat instead of LSU inside linebacker Devin White, who was the fifth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and one of the highest-drafted off-the-ball linebackers of all time.
“That value bullshit about linebackers – they don’t know our defense first of all,” Arians said. “We blitz up the middle a ton, and when you watch him come off the edge, he’s special. And we’re going to use that with Lavonte [David] more than we ever have in the past. I think our fans and everybody thinks we’re going to be in a 4-3 defense, which is not what we play. It’s not a guy sitting in the middle running sideline-to-sideline. He’s a very disruptive player and we build everything on disruption. So he yeah, he was the perfect fit of all fits for us.”
White was one of the best blitzing linebackers in college football, recording 8.5 sacks in three years at LSU, including 7.5 over the past two years. According to Pro Football Focus, White had 70 pressures on blitzes.
Aside from his blitzing ability, Arians said the Bucs were enamored with White’s speed to cover running backs like New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara and Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey, in addition to playing against mobile quarterbacks.
“He can do other things other than cover backs,” Arians said. “He can cover the great backs man-to-man. With all the spread that’s coming in now, there is no quarterback that is going to outrun him. I don’t worry about Kyler Murray as much now playing him in November, running around if we want him to be the spy because he could run him down and catch him. Those things that are evolving in the league now, you need speed. When you get it in those size and physicality, you’ve got something special.”
Arians indicted that White was the third-highest player on Tampa Bay’s draft board, following Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa. He said he knew that he wanted White six weeks ago and that viewpoint was reinforced during White’s top 30 visit to Tampa Bay when Arians said he would draft the 2018 Butkus Award winner if he were still on the board at No. 5.
Arians consulted former Tigers alumni that he had drafted in Arizona and on Tampa Bay’s roster trying to find something wrong with White, but he couldn’t.
“Our guys – Kendell [Beckwith], Kevin Minter, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann [Mathieu], and we talked to some other guys and I said, ‘Somebody tell me something wrong [about White],” Arians said. “There was never a negative. It always started with, ‘He’s a great kid and what he does in their community.’ Mike Caldwell, I think it’s his [niece’s] basketball coach, raved about him coming to their game and playing in the community with the kids. The tape speaks for itself. You knew you were going to get a great player. In my opinion, he’s one of the top three guys in this draft.”
Arians noted that White’s film speaks for itself in terms of his playing style and production, but raved about his leadership ability.
“He was younger than the guys at LSU when he was a sophomore captain,” Arians said. “Look, some guys have it. Other guys say, ‘Let me do my job and follow me.’ Alright, he’s going to do that, but he’s going to say, ‘Hey, man,’ and he’s going to hold some guys accountable, and that we need.
“When I looked at the board, and there were some really quality players, but for what we needed, and what his attributes are, he was a perfect fit. That doesn’t happen to you very often. And I mentioned to [the media] earlier that you don’t draft for need. But when need and the player match, man, you’ve got a home run. This is one of those home runs. This was a grand slam.”
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