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SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL.
FAB 1. Bucs Like The Other Devin, Too
The Buccaneers are definitely interested in LSU middle linebacker Devin White, especially considering that Kwon Alexander, the team’s man in the middle over the last four years, left for San Francisco in free agency. Tampa Bay held a formal interview with White at the NFL Scouting Combine and would consider drafting him with the fifth overall pick in the NFL Draft, as PewterReport.com suggested in its first two mock drafts dating back to January.
But he isn’t the only Devin the Bucs are interested in.
Michigan middle linebacker Devin Bush is also regarded as a first-rounder – possibly in the Top 15 – and is another player the Bucs would consider drafting should general manager Jason Licht want to trade down in the first round and stockpile more picks, as he did in 2016 and last year.
White is the clear-cut top inside linebacker product in this year’s draft, but Bush isn’t far behind – literally and figuratively.
White measured 6-foot, 237 at the NFL Scouting Combine and ran a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash with 22 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, a 39.5-inch vertical jump, a 9-foot, 8-inch broad jump, a 7.07 time in the three-cone drill and a 4.17 time in the 20-yard shuttle.
Bush measured 5-foot-11, 234 pounds at the Combine and was right behind White with a 4.44 time in the 40-yard dash. Bush cranked out 21 reps of 225 pounds, had a 40.5-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot, 3-inch inch broad jump, a 6.93 time in the three-cone drill and a 4.23 time in the 20-yard shuttle.
Both Devins have compact, powerful builds and sideline-to-sideline speed. Both inside linebackers are consensus All-Americans, have high motors and attack the line of scrimmage in the run game, as well as being gifted blitzers.
So what separates them?
Bush might be an even more sound tackler and slightly better in coverage, while White might make more highlight reel plays, including turnovers with four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries compared to Bush’s none. White is also a bit more of an outspoken leader.
In two years as a starter at Michigan where he racked up 194 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 15 passes defensed, 10 sacks and one interception. He produced 95 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, nine passes defensed, five sacks and one interception as a sophomore in his first year as starter.
Last year, the leader of the Wolverines defense notched 80 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, five sacks and six passes defensed. Bush had to sit out Michigan’s bowl game to recover from a hip injury and prepare for the draft.
“It was a hard decision to make,” Bush told the Detroit Free Press. “Not being able to compete. Getting ready for that bowl game I was doing a lot of treatment. By the time it came around, I wasn’t cleared.”
That paid off with a solid Combine showing where he measured 5-foot-11, which dispelled myths that he was too small to be picked in the first round. In fact, Bush’s 4.44 time in the 40-yard dash solidified his first-round standing. That’s what the tape of the Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year and Big 10 Linebacker of the Year shows.
If Tampa Bay is on the clock with a trade down opportunity and the Bucs have close grades on White and Bush – as they should – don’t be surprised if Licht pulls the trigger to move down and acquire more picks. The Bucs could slide down as many as 10 spots to Washington, which needs a quarterback, at No. 15 because of the depth in this year’s draft, especially at defensive tackle and edge rusher.
And with White and Bush, there are two stud inside linebackers that would give the Bucs a long-term replacement for Alexander. Assuming Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa and Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen, who is going to the Bucs in PewterReport.com’s latest Bucs mock draft, are off the board, here are 14 legit draft prospects that Tampa Bay could draft to fill a need at No. 15 if Licht moved down that far.
LSU ILB Devin White
Mississippi State DE Montez Sweat
Clemson DT Christian Wilkins
Florida RT Jawaan Taylor
Michigan ILB Devin Bush
Michigan DL Rashan Gary
Florida State OLB Brian Burns
Houston DT Ed Oliver
Alabama OL Jonah Williams
LSU CB Greedy Williams
Washington CB Byron Murphy
Georgia CB DeAndre Baker
Boston College DE Zach Allen
Kansas State OT Dalton Risner
Considering that there will be a quarterback or two selected between No. 5 and No. 15, along with a wide receiver or tight end, there would likely be six to eight of the players listed above – possibly including Bush – available at No. 15 with a trade down with the Redskins. This year’s draft is flush with defensive linemen, but thin at inside linebacker. That’s why it might be imperative for Tampa Bay to come away with one of the Devins in the first round this year.
Don’t fret if it’s Bush instead White. There isn’t as much separating the two as one might think when looking at the tape.
“He’s where the NFL is going to right now,” NFL draft analyst Matt Miller told the Detroit Free Press about Bush. “A super athletic three-down player who can play different spots as a run and chase linebacker.”
The Bucs aren’t the only team that needs help at inside linebacker. Cincinnati, which has the No. 11 overall pick, needs a replacement for Vontaze Burfict, while Pittsburgh could use help at inside linebacker at No. 20. Bush certainly won’t fall past Baltimore at No. 22. The Ravens need a replacement for C.J. Mosley, and head coach John Harbaugh’s brother is Jim Harbaugh, who coached Bush at Michigan and will give his star linebacker a rave review.
Bush was elated to close the gap between he and White at the Combine and is ready to help an NFL team – potentially the Buccaneers.
That opportunity may come in Tampa Bay.