We’ve written the past two days about ESPN’s ongoing survey of more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players to rank the top 10 players in the NFL at each position. Wednesday’s installment in the series ranked the league’s best linebackers, where Devin White and Lavonte David were both honored. The Bucs duo was recognized with a pair of top five rankings, including White earning the No. 1 spot.

“He’s a missile,” a high-ranking NFL official said. “So athletic and strong while doing whatever he wants.”

White, who continues to be one of the more polarizing players in the league, was recognized by NFL personnel and players as the game’s best linebacker. That is high praise for a player who wasn’t even ranked in ESPN’s survey a year ago. Although he struggled in coverage throughout the regular season, White elevated his game in the playoffs and grabbed a pair of interceptions. His performance against the Saints in the divisional round was one of the best I’ve ever seen by a linebacker.

Still, it’s humorous to watch the range of opinions on White. Pro Football Focus has routinely graded White much lower than consensus, recently listing him as the 25th best linebacker in the league entering the 2021 season. Contrast that with the results of ESPN’s survey ranking White as the best, and you have a discrepancy that doesn’t exist for most players.

The truth, as always, is somewhere in between. White is certainly not the best linebacker in the NFL right now, but after next season he may be. His immense talent and strong close to the 2020 season should have his stock trending up entering the year. Even if White doesn’t jump to No. 1 at his position, ranking him 25th is a stretch. I think he’ll be top five, easily.

David Still Elite

For now, David is still the best linebacker on the Bucs, although ESPN’s survey doesn’t agree. David still received exceptional praise, finishing fifth in the rankings. The only linebackers ranked above David were White, Fred Warner, Bobby Wagner and Darius Leonard.

“He’s still the bell cow of the [Bucs] defense,” an NFC personnel evaluator said. “Not the athlete he once was but he can still move. He’s the guy who’s never got enough due.”

“Zero drop-off with him. He just plays with Devin White, who was running around getting 15 tackles a game in the playoffs,” an NFC exec said. “But Lavonte can do whatever you need — run through the hole, make a play in the gap, a great blitzer and can cover.”

The Bucs are blessed to have two of the NFL’s elite linebackers, regardless of how you rank them. It’s one of the thinnest positions in the league, and Tampa Bay is hoarding half the premier talent.

On Monday and Tuesday’s rankings, Bucs DT Vita Vea slotted ninth among defensive tackles, while Shaq Barrett was just outside the top 10 edge rushers. ESPN’s series continues with cornerbacks tomorrow.

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About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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3 months ago

They r a solid duo indeed! Sideline to sideline all game long!

3 months ago

Let’s see what he does the 1st few weeks of the season. Enough of these stats. All of these guys need to prove it on the field while having a target on their back every week. If they perform under those circumstances and win it all again, they go down in history as one of the great all time teams.

3 months ago

I’m not overly impressed with the pencil necks at PFF.

Reply to  76Buc
3 months ago

This was ESPN….

Reply to  TCB2W!
3 months ago

This post referred to the much lower rankings by PFF.
PFF is vastly overrated – really, nobody should ever write another article again about those incompetents at PFF. They’re trash.

3 months ago

White is going to ask for an insane amount of money when he hits free agency.

3 months ago

Obviously, there were high hopes for Devin White when he was drafted with the 5th pick in 2019. His selection was fairly typically controversial around Tampa Bay with many fans at the time, though (It’s not as much fun to be a fan if you can’t debate with others sometimes! 😉)
It’s great to see him performing up to those high hopes already. He will be a star for many years to come.