Devin White, inside linebacker, LSU
Vitals: 21 years old, 6 feet, 237 pounds
Stats: 123 tackles in 13 games as a junior in 2018, including 12 tackles for loss; three sacks; six pass breakouts; three forced fumbles.
Combine numbers: 4.42-second 40-yard dash, 22 bench-press reps, 39.5-inch vertical jump, 118-inch broad jump, 7.07-second three-cone drills, 4.17-second 20-yard shuttle
Trophy case: 2018 Butkus Award winner as nation’s top college linebacker. First-team All-American in 2018. Second-team All-American in 2017. Two-time All-SEC first team (2017, 2018).
Intangibles: Two-time defensive captain at LSU, sophomore and junior years.
Why the Bucs drafted him: As they transition to a 3-4 scheme, the Bucs are thin at inside linebacker, and the idea of pairing a rare talent such as White with veteran Lavonte David on the inside makes for a nice pairing to center the defense around. Inside linebacker is the most important position in the 3-4 front because those players must know all the assignments. It’s rare to see off-the-ball linebackers drafted so high. None of the players White has compared himself to — Luke Kuechly, Patrick Willis and Ray Lewis — were top-five picks. But White is a freakish athlete who also has an elite football IQ and leadership quality that stand out, especially for a player who started just two years at LSU and just turned 21 in February. You won’t find 4.4-second speed from a 240-pound linebacker often. All in all, he is arguably the best all-around linebackers in the draft. He has shown an ability to be successful as a pass rusher (70 pressures over two years as a blitzer) and in coverage (The stats website Pro Football Focus gave him a coverage grade of 91.6, second among linebackers).
Background: White arrived at LSU as a top-tier running back who ran for 5,000 yards in his high school career in Springhill, La., but he was able to transition his athleticism to linebacker. The adjustment came quickly as White earned playing time as a true freshman, making 30 tackles, including three for loss, then logging 133 tackles (14 for loss) and earned MVP honors as a sophomore while being named team captain. White comes from a long line of LSU linebackers with Bucs ties. He calls former Bucs middle linebacker Kwon Alexander a mentor. He played with injured linebacker Kendell Beckwith as a freshman at LSU. Off the field, White is an avid horseman. He owns seven horses, including one he had in Baton Rouge named Daisy Mae that he rode around campus.
Quotable: “I just think my ability to be a leader on the field (stands out). I think that becomes before anything else, because at the end of the day, the middle linebacker is the quarterback of the defense and you have to be able to get everybody lined up and you have to be able to run the show. You’ve got to do it on the field, you’ve got to do it at practice and you’ve got to do it off the field as well. I know that seperates me from a lot of people, because I feel like I have a special talent when it comes to being a leader.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at [email protected] Follow @EddieInTheYard.