The week of the 2019 NFL Draft has arrived, and with it comes PewterReport.com’s FINAL 2019 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft.
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 have stacked the 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.
BUCS’ NEEDS ADDRESSED IN THIS MOCK DRAFT
The Buccaneers have seven picks to start the 2019 NFL Draft and could end up with another one if the team trades defensive tackle Gerald McCoy as they hope to do. McCoy won’t be traded straight up for a draft selection, but could be packaged with another Tampa Bay pick to move up in a round to get a desired targeted player.
As you will see in PewterReport.com’s final mock draft, the Bucs take advantage of the talent and depth on the defensive side of the ball with selections at inside linebacker, outside linebacker/edge rusher, defensive end, cornerback and defensive tackle. Tampa Bay needs a new inside linebacker to replace Kwon Alexander, and perhaps Kendell Beckwith, whose career is in jeopardy following a broken ankle that kept him out of the 2018 season. The Bucs signed Deone Bucannon and re-signed Kevin Minter, but only to one-year deals.
The Bucs have a need at the five-technique defensive end position where Will Gholston is limited as a pass rusher and fill a need there, and also at the three-technique defensive tackle spot if the team indeed moves on from McCoy, who is 31 and is due $13 million this season. Cornerback is also a need with Vernon Hargreaves III and Ryan Smith entering contract years. The Bucs are switching to a press-man coverage scheme and find a big, fast, physical cornerback.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Bucs fill a need at right tackle as Demar Dotson will be 34 this year and Caleb Benenoch has not shown much in the way of development. The Bucs also find a dual threat offensive playmaker that can help at wide receiver and running back.
BUCS’ NEEDS NOT ADDRESSED IN THIS MOCK DRAFT
Rarely do teams fill all of their needs in one draft, and that’s the case with Tampa Bay this year as a few needs aren’t addressed. The Bucs could use more talent at right guard, which has been a huge weakness over the last two years, but will have to let Earl Watford and Alex Cappa duke it out with promising youngster Ruben Holcomb for the starting job. Arians believes that better coaching from line coaches Harold Goodwin and Joe Gilbert will make the difference here.
Tampa Bay could also use another running back as Peyton Barber only signed a one-year deal, former Cardinals rusher Andre Ellington didn’t play last year due to injuries and Ronald Jones II, the team’s second-round pick a year ago, was a huge disappointment. The Bucs appear to be overconfident in this group, which also includes Shaun Wilson and Dare Ogunbowale, and will likely sign an undrafted free agent runner, perhaps North Dakota State’s Bruce Anderson, rather than draft one. Time will tell if the gamble of developing this young, unproven group of players with better coaching pays off.
The Bucs also don’t address the strong safety spot in this final mock draft. Tampa Bay has a plethora of candidates that could play the box safety, starting with last year’s fourth-round pick, Jordan Whitehead, in addition to Isaiah Johnson and M.J. Stewart, who was drafted in the second round last year, but was badly miscast as a nickel cornerback by former defensive coordinator Mike Smith. The recent signings of Kentrell Brice and Orion Stewart give the Bucs plenty of options to chose from at strong safety.
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Round 1: LSU ILB Devin White
6-1, 240 – Junior
Previous Pick: LSU ILB Devin White
White has been featured as Tampa Bay’s first-round pick in four of the five PewterReport.com mock drafts. In fact, PewterReport.com was the first media outlet to link White to the Buccaneers at No. 5, dating back to January 18. The only time White wasn’t the Bucs’ top pick was when we had a scenario where Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen fell to Tampa Bay at No. 5 in the third Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft. If White and Allen are both available at No. 5 on April 25, it will be interesting to see which way general manager Jason Licht goes with his selection.
If the Bucs trade down, it may only be one spot with the New York Giants, who would want to move up and grab a quarterback – perhaps Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins – as Tampa Bay would not want to lose out on the chance to select White, who is one of the most athletic and physical defenders in this year’s draft. He is viewed as a legitimate Top 5 pick and won’t get outside the Top 10 due to his blazing 4.42 time in the 40-yard dash, his play-making ability and his leadership qualities.
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.
“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.
“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.
Since PewterReport.com first linked White to the Bucs at No. 5 back in January, other media outlets have joined in, including ESPN’s Mel Kiper, NFL.com’s Charles Davis, Peter Schrager, Lance Zierlein and Bucky Brooks, and CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco, Will Brinson, Ryan Wilson and R.J. White.
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.