We’re in April and it’s time for our fourth PewterReport.com 2019 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft. The fifth and final PewterReport.com 2019 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft will be be published on Thursday, April 18.
Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht, head coach Bruce Arians, 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, the Senior Bowl practices, the NFL Scouting Combine, pro days and private workouts, and have hosted dozens of draft prospects at the AdventHealth Training Center at One Buccaneer Place as the Bucs prepare for the 2019 NFL Draft and begin to stack talent on the team’s draft board. 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.
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. Bowles and Arians want more speed on defense this year across the board.
The defense needs more playmakers in the secondary, especially at strong safety and cornerback, and could use some youth along the defensive line if the team moves on from six-time Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy, who turned 31 in February, and his $13 million salary. The Bucs could also use some immediate help at linebacker as Kwon Alexander moved in to San Francisco in free agency, Jack Cichy is coming off a torn ACL, and Kendell Beckwith missed the entire 2018 campaign while attempting to recover from a broken ankle.
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 may be the weakest on the team unless veteran Earl Watford can hold it down, and aging and oft-injured right tackle Demar Dotson turns 34 this year. Last year’s third-round pick Alex Cappa was slow to develop, but will get the chance to compete at both right guard and right tackle.
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. The Bucs re-signed Ryan Griffin and added Blaine Gabbert for depth behind him, but don’t rule out Tampa Bay drafting a quarterback to compete if the right player is there in the right round.
With less than three weeks away from the 2019 NFL Draft, PewterReport.com offers up its fourth Bucs’ round-by-round draft projections to provide some help in those areas. Tampa Bay has picks in this year’s draft after trading DeSean Jackson to Philadelphia for a sixth-round pick in March. 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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Because they don’t need 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 Missouri’s Drew Lock, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, Duke’s Daniel Jones or even Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray if he doesn’t go No. 1 overall to Arizona or No. 4 to Oakland. While we featured Tampa Bay trading down in the first round in our second mock draft and getting White at No. 7, that was before the LSU standout blazed a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Now White, who is one of the most athletic and physical defenders in this year’s draft, is viewed as a legitimate Top 5 pick and won’t get outside the Top 10. If Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and Allen already gone, the Bucs opt for White for the third time in a PewterReport.com mock draft.
At first glance, linebacker doesn’t seem like a position of need with Lavonte David leading the way as a team captain, in addition to Kevin Minter, who was re-signed and Deone Bucannon, who was added on a one-year deal to play the Moneybacker role in nickel defense. But David turns 29 this year, and Tampa Bay’s defense could use a tremendous leader to replace Kwon Alexander, one with speed and play-making ability to take over the Bucs defense for the long haul.
To say that White is an alpha male would be an understatement. He’s the type of leader than can change a culture, and that’s what is needed at One Buccaneer Place. White, who is an effective blitzer from inside or from the edge, has the ability to play all of the linebacker spots, whereas a player like Michigan’s Devin Bush is likely better suited at WILL linebacker rather than in the middle where he played for the Wolverines.
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. With the availability of Beckwith and Cichy in question heading into 2019, in addition to Minter and Bucannon only being signed for one year, this underlies 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. His 4.42 time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine was the fastest among all linebackers this year. When he hits, White brings the full force of his well-built 240-pound frame, and is also a dangerous blitzer.
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.
“First and foremost I tell them, the tape don’t lie,” White said at his pro day. “It’ll speak for itself. The type of player I’ve been for LSU the last three years, even when I wasn’t in the spotlight and I wasn’t playing I was a guy who was always cheering on the other teammate. I was a guy who played special teams and just came to work everyday with a relentless attitude, whether it was in the weight room or the film room or the classroom. I was a guy who never missed a class at LSU. I was here three and a half years and I’m proud of that. I was a guy who had over a 3.0 every semester. I’ve got four classes and then I graduate. My work speaks for itself.”
LSU has a rich tradition for pumping out NFL-caliber linebackers with Tampa Bay having had three of them in Alexander, Beckwith and Minter. 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.
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.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org