With the fifth pick, the Bucs held a fairly safe position in this year’s NFL draft, and they hardly drew criticism with the choice of LSU linebacker Devin White. It would have taken a lot for Tampa Bay to misfire, even though the franchise has a long history of doing just that.
But some fans are applying John Tortorella’s famous “Safe is Death” adage to the situation. Should the team employed a higher-risk philosophy to net a player with potentially higher reward? To figure out if Devin is dynamic, or White is just alright, we convene The Roundtable.
Bucs got their man
Rick Stroud, Bucs beat writer @NFLStroud: It’s rare, and maybe not always smart, when they entire NFL knows which player you will pick months before the draft. Maybe it just made too much sense. Bucs lost Kwon Alexander to the 49ers in free agency. They have no linebackers besides Lavonte David with any real production who is not on a one year contract. And Devin White is worthy of a top five pick based on the GMs I talked to at the league meetings. It’s as much about the tone he will set on defense as the plays he will make. Todd Bowles needed someone to be the quarterback of the defense. But this is not a totally out of the box pick. It feels safe. Maybe too safe. Why so I think somehow Josh Allen will be at NFL Honors accepting the Rookie of the Year from the AFC champion Jaguars? An edge rusher with that kind of production in the SEC is rare. But I get it. They fell in love early. Nobody could change their mind.
Bucs needed impact linebacker, they got one
Eduardo A. Encina, Bucs/pro sports enterprise writer, @EddieintheYard: Devin White was the Bucs’ main target all along, and they showed it by selecting him when edge rusher Josh Allen, tackle Ed Oliver and linebacker Devin Bush were all still on the board. You’re not going to find many 237-pound linebackers with 4.42 speed who drop back in coverage and blitz the passer like White can. But what stands out is the intangibles. He seems to have a big personality, and matching him with low-key leader Lavonte David at inside linebacker is a nice pairing of yin and yang. He was an unquestioned leader at LSU. He’ll have to prove he’s a NFL player before grown men fall in line. But having David at his side will definitely help.
Not the player you wanted but could be the player the Bucs needed
Thomas Bassinger, sports data reporter, @tometrics: At No. 5, the Bucs could have chosen Josh Allen and Ed Oliver, but they didn’t waver. Devin White was their guy all along. That’s quite a statement. Allen could have helped revive an underwhelming pass rush. Oliver could have filled the void left by the imminent departure of Gerald McCoy. Is No. 5 early for an inside linebacker? Yes, but it was a need, and the Bucs didn’t reach for him. White stands out among his peers where it matters most: He’s fast, competitive, rangy in coverage and can barrel through the line of scrimmage to harass the quarterback. Tackling is a concern that shouldn’t be minimized. He’s replacing Kwon Alexander, who in his four seasons in Tampa Bay was second in missed tackles to only Jacksonville’s Telvin Smith.
White is all right, as wrong guys go
Martin Fennelly, columnist @mjfennelly: I wanted the Bucs to get an edge rusher, namely Josh Allen, who went to the Jags two picks after the Bucs. With White, the Bucs are essentially replacing Kwon Alexander, who walked. What does it say that the Steelers got the same guy as White, Devin Bush, five picks later than the Bucs? That being said, White is apparently a remarkable athlete and person. He wowed on his first teleconference. Tampa Bay will like him. A lot. He will go sideline to sideline and use his speed to make great tackles — six yards downfield. Drew Brees’ ribs can rest easy. White is not what the Bucs needed. Jason Pierre-Paul better bring it.
He’ll lead, they will follow
Ernest Hooper, columnist/assistant sports editor, @hoop4you: The tape and the measurables reflect the athletic gifts White can deliver, but it’s his leadership and character that make him the right pick. If he fulfills his promise, he’ll be that vocal, spirited leader that’s been missing on the defensive side of the ball for Tampa Bay. Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David provided a quieter brand of leadership. White, especially with David’s tutelage, will be a much-needed fire brand.
The best darned player on an 8-8 team
John Romano, columnist @romano_tbtimes: For a team that has had so many misses in recent drafts, it was probably too hard to pass up a safe pick like White. He’s a solid citizen and a solid player. He could be the kind of leader this defense has been lacking for a very long time. Having said that, I’m not sure he moves the needle enough. The Bucs need someone who can put fear in opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators. They’ll respect White; I’m just not sure they’ll fear him.