Updated March 26, 7:30 a.m.
The NFL draft is a month away, and the 2019 Buccaneers are slowly taking shape.
From what we’ve seen so far, they are devoting what limited salary cap space they have to revamping the defense. As they should.
To this point, mock drafters have been all over the map in their predictions on what Tampa Bay will do with the fifth overall pick April 25. Over the past week, though, we’ve seen a sort of consensus emerge.
The popular pick: LSU linebacker Devin White.
A linebacker at No. 5?
So says NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks: “The sideline-to-sideline playmaker is a perfect fit for Todd Bowles' attack-style defense.”
And his colleague Lance Zierlein: “White gives the Bucs a speedy hitter in the middle of the defense.”
And CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso, who calls White, “the logical replacement to the vacancy created by Kwon Alexander signing with the 49ers in free agency.”
And his colleague Ryan Wilson: “He's a sideline-to-sideline thumper who will make life easier for both the front four and the secondary.”
And just in case you think NFL.com and CBS Sports are passing notes between cubicles, here’s Sports Illustrated’s Conor Orr: “New coordinator Todd Bowles was drawn to powerful, do-everything safeties in both Arizona and New York, but that player isn’t on the board right now.”
Even OG Mel Kiper, the analyst who floated Montez Sweat to the Bucs before everyone else thought it was cool, has jumped aboard the bandwagon: “White, a sideline-to-sideline linebacker who ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash at the combine, is one of my favorite prospects in this class.”
If the Bucs did pick White, he would be the first linebacker drafted in the top five since 2015, when the Jaguars drafted Dante Fowler at No. 3.
The next linebacker taken: Vic Beasley (by the Falcons at No. 8). Though Beasley’s production has slipped since what looked like a breakout 15.5-sack campaign in 2016, he has had the better career.
That’s fairly typical and is a lesson for general managers ahead of draft day: Don’t fall in love. Because you just don’t know. You really think you know. You swear you do. But you don’t.
As the early 21st-century philosophers Outkast once said, “You say it’s puppy love / We say it’s full grown / Hope that we feel this, feel this way forever / You can plan a pretty picnic / But you can’t predict the weather.”
For proof, revisit the past two decades worth of drafts. In that span, teams drafted more than 150 linebackers. As it turns out, they’re not very good at forecasting. (See? Should have listened to Outkast ...) A linebacker selection has gone on to have a better career than the next linebacker selection a little more than half the time, which echoes a trend economists Cade Massey and Richard Thaler identified in “The Loser’s Curse,” their 2012 paper on draft decision making. Massey and Thaler found that “Across all rounds, all positions, all years, the chance that a player proves to be better than the next best alternative is only slightly better than a coin flip.”
Flash back to the 2012 draft. Luke Kuechly was the first linebacker off the board. The Panthers certainly don’t regret taking the five-time All-Pro at No. 9. But 38 picks later, the Seahawks took Bobby Wagner, who has gone on to have a career that has rivaled Kuechly’s. Five picks after Wagner, the Titans selected Zach Brown, but knowing what you know now, don’t you think they should have taken a certain linebacker out of Nebraska? The one the Bucs took? The one who goes by … Lavonte David?
Yes, that’s hindsight. It’s also a reminder: White might turn out to be the best linebacker in this class. Or he might not.
Mock draft tracker
Will Brinson, CBS Sports: Montez Sweat, defensive end, Mississippi State (last update: March 25)
Bucky Brooks, NFL.com: Devin White, linebacker, LSU (March 25)
Charley Casserly, NFL.com: Clelin Ferrell, defensive end, Clemson (Feb. 25)
Walter Cherepinsky, walterfootball.com: Josh Allen, defensive end/linebacker, Kentucky (March 11)
Charles Davis, NFL.com: Montez Sweat (March 18)
Nate Davis, USA Today: Montez Sweat (March 25)
Luke Easterling, USA Today’s Draft Wire: Ed Oliver, defensive tackle, Houston (March 25)
Doug Farrar, USA Today’s Touchdown Wire: Josh Allen (March 25)
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com: Montez Sweat (March 11)
Kalyn Kahler, Sports Illustrated: Josh Allen (March 18)
Danny Kelly, The Ringer: D.K. Metcalf, receiver, Ole Miss (March 18)
Mel Kiper, ESPN: Devin White (March 26)
Todd McShay, ESPN: Montez Sweat (March 11)
Matt Miller, Bleacher Report: Quinnen Williams, defensive tackle, Alabama (March 25)
Conor Orr, Sports Illustrated: Devin White (March 25)
Steve Palazzolo, Pro Football Focus: Deandre Baker, cornerback, Georgia (March 18)
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Montez Sweat (March 18)
Rob Rang, NFL Draft Scout: Deionte Thompson, safety, Florida State (Feb. 25)
Chad Reuter, NFL.com: Josh Jacobs, running back, Alabama (March 3)
Peter Schrager, Good Morning Football host: Jawaan Taylor, offensive tackle, Florida (March 3)
Benjamin Solak, The Draft Network: Devin White (March 18)
Mike Tanier, Bleacher Report: Devin White (March 3)
Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports: Devin White (March 25)
Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports: Devin White (March 25)
Lance Zierlein, NFL.com: Devin White (March 25)
Past Mock Draft Mondays
Contact Thomas Bassinger at [email protected]. Follow @tometrics.