February is here, and it’s time for PewterReport.com’s second Bucs mock draft of 2019.
Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht, director of player personnel John Spytek, director of college scouting Mike Biehl and the team’s scouts have been at the East-West Shrine Game practices in addition to the Senior Bowl practices as the Bucs prepare for the 2019 NFL Draft and begin to stack talent on the team’s draft board. Next up in the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in late February. Tampa Bay has the fifth overall pick due to the team’s 5-11 finish for a second straight season, which led to the firing of head coach Dirk Koetter.
Bruce Arians was hired to replace Koetter and brings a veteran staff of coaches with him to Tampa Bay, including defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who primarily runs a 3-4 scheme, but will adapt his defense to fit the talent on the roster. The defense needs more playmakers in the secondary, and could use some youth along the defensive line if the team moves on from six-time Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy, who turns 31 in February, and his $13 million salary. The Bucs could also use some immediate help at linebacker as Kwon Alexander and Jack Cichy are coming off torn ACLs, and Kendell Beckwith missed the entire 2018 campaign while attempting to recover from a broken ankle. Alexander has yet to be re-signed by the Bucs and is slated for free agency.
On the offensive side of the ball, more help is needed at running back where Peyton Barber was a one-man gang, while second-round pick Ronald Jones II struggled to earn playing time and didn’t do much with it once he got it after a very disappointing preseason that leads some to believe he might be a bust. The Bucs also need help along the offensive line where the right guard position is the weakest on the team, and aging and oft-injured right tackle Demar Dotson turns 34 this year. Will the Bucs re-sign underachieving left tackle Donovan Smith to a long-term extension, slap him with the one-year franchise tag, or not re-sign him at all this offseason?
Tampa Bay has a plethora of offensive weapons in the passing game, and Arians has said that Jameis Winston, who is entering his fifth-year option season, will be the unquestioned starter this year. But the Bucs do need a backup quarterback and it might be time to draft a developmental candidate after having veterans Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Griffin serve as Winston’s backups for the past two seasons.
Some of these needs will be addressed in free agency in March before the 2019 NFL Draft rolls around in April, but PewterReport.com offers up its second Bucs’ round-by-round draft projections to provide some help in those areas. Tampa Bay had only six picks in this year’s draft after trading J.J. Wilcox to Pittsburgh in 2017, as that deal involved giving away the Bucs’ seventh-round pick in 2019.
In January, Tampa Bay traded its 2019 sixth-round pick to Arizona for the rights to Arians and received the Cardinals’ seventh-round pick in 2019 in the exchange.
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Round 1: LSU ILB Devin White
6-1, 240 – Junior
Previous Pick: LSU ILB Devin White
WE HAVE A TRADE! Buccaneer general manager Jason Licht likes to wheel and deal during the draft, typically trading up in the second and third rounds, but also trading down in the first round. That was the case in 2016 when he slid down two spots in a trade with Chicago to select cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III with the 11th overall pick, and also last year when Licht moved from No. 7 to No. 12 to draft defensive tackle Vita Vea.
With the first five teams in the 2019 NFL Draft – including Tampa Bay at No. 5 – not needing a quarterback, the Bucs are in a prime spot to trade down so that a quarterback-needy team like the New York Giants (No. 6), Jacksonville (No. 7), Denver (No. 10), Miami (No. 13) or Washington (No. 15) could move up to select the first one – either Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, Missouri’s Drew Lock, Duke’s Daniel Jones or Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray. So let’s make a deal and have Licht and the Bucs move down two spots to No. 7 and pick up Jacksonville’s second-round pick, No. 38 overall, as the Jaguars can spare that due to having two picks in the third round.
Tampa Bay’s defense needs more talented playmakers for new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, and White is one of the most athletic and physical defenders in this year’s draft. With the likes of Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and Kentucky pass-rushing linebacker Josh Allen already gone, the Bucs opt for LSU inside linebacker Devin White for the second straight mock draft on PewterReport.com.
At first glance, linebacker doesn’t seem like a position of need with Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander, until you remember that Alexander is coming off a torn ACL and has yet to be re-signed. The Bucs are determining whether to re-sign him to a one-year prove-it deal, or a long-term extension, but are hesitant to do so now, and might wait until early March before the start of free agency to get an update on Alexander’s rehab.
Will he be ready for the start of training camp? Or will he miss camp and target the start of the season for his return?
Will Alexander return to his pre-injury form in 2019? Or will he need a year’s worth of playing to get back to his Pro Bowl level during the 2020 season?
Keep in mind that Kendell Beckwith, a player capable of playing MIKE or SAM linebacker in Tampa Bay missed all of the 2018 campaign after recovering from a broken ankle last offseason. Beckwith, the team’s third-round pick in 2017, had setbacks with his ankle upon returning to practice in October after missing training camp and the preseason, and his status for 2019 remains in doubt.
The same could be said for Jack Cichy, last year’s sixth-round pick who tore his ACL in the Cleveland game shortly after Alexander tore his. Those are three linebackers whose immediate future in Tampa Bay remains cloudy, underlying the need for another playmaking linebacker that could play and make an impact in Bowles’ defense, which will feature a 3-4 Under scheme.
White, who just turned 21 in January, was the leader of the Tigers defense over the last two seasons in which he was a first-team All-SEC linebacker. After being a second-team All-American in 2017 for recording 133 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, three pass breakups and one interception, White was the 2018 Butkus Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker. As a consensus All-American last year, White terrorized the SEC, leading the conference in tackles with 123 stops, 12 tackles for loss, six pass breakups, three sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
White’s LSU Career Defensive Stats
2016: 30 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 FF, 1 FR
2017: 133 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 3 PBUs, 1 INT
2018: 123 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 6 PBUs, 3 sacks, 3 FFs, 2 FRs
One of the fastest and most explosive linebackers in college football, White has drawn comparisons to Patrick Willis and Ray Lewis, and has rare sideline-to-sideline speed. When he hits, White brings the full force of his well-built 240-pound frame, and is also a dangerous blitzer.
“I’ve been a part of Ray Lewis,” LSU head coach Ed Orgeron told Rivals.com. “I’ve been a part of Patrick Willis, and he’s right there. He’s one of the best I’ve ever been a part of as far as middle linebackers go. He’s very talented, and I think he’s still getting better.”
White is a perfect fit for Bowles’ attack-style defense and can play on all three downs due to his speed and ability to blitz and drop in coverage. While he has to work on shedding blocks better at the next level, White has honed his instincts over the last two years and has a nose for the football. He also brings confidence and leadership ability to Tampa Bay’s defense.
LSU has a rich tradition for pumping out NFL-caliber linebackers with Tampa Bay having three of them in Alexander, Beckwith and Kevin Minter, who is also slated for free agency in 2019 after being a mid-season signing due to Alexander’s torn ACL. Other LSU linebackers in the NFL include Atlanta’s Deion Jones and Duke Riley, both of whom played with White, in addition to Seattle’s Barkevious Mingo, Detroit’s Kelvin Sheppard and Buffalo’s Corey Thompson.
White, a future Pro Bowler, is the third-rated player on Matt Miller’s Big Board on Bleacher Report and is featured in the Top 12 of many of the draft experts’ recent mock drafts. Bucs general manager Jason Licht has shown an affinity for acquiring LSU linebackers over the years, and White may be the most talented of them all and a player whose skill set aligns with Bowles’ attacking schemes. Check out his new highlight video below.