Over the next few days I'll try to give you a view of the Bucs' draft picks and a few of the notable undrafted free agents (whenever the Bucs get around to publishing a list of those). Today we look at Lavonte David, the Bucs' second-round pick out of Nebraska.
Strengths: David is an instinctive linebacker who can make plays all over the field. Has the tools to be the best coverage linebacker in this year's draft. David is a smooth athlete whose change of direction is great. Has added power to his frame since the season ended.
Weaknesses: In his two years at Nebraska, David had some issues taking down stronger running backs and tight ends in the open field. Often had to hold up the ball carrier and wait for help tackles. Struggles to get off blocks at times.
Combine quotable: (On getting stronger) I'm really working on getting stronger, more physical. That's a big part of my game that I'm going to try to work on, and I'm going to try to take it to the next level.
Asked about NEB David v. NC Brown. Like David more. Even though not big played with a physical toughness that Brown lacked. Quicker reactor— Greg Cosell (@gregcosell) April 1, 2012
Really liked LB David on film. Explosive element to his movement. Tough + physical even though not strong + powerful. 4-3 WLB, 3-4 ILB.— Greg Cosell (@gregcosell) April 21, 2012
LB David really intriguing. At times an explosive quality to his movement. Quick reactor with burst. Sideline-to-sideline range.— Greg Cosell (@gregcosell) March 31, 2012
Bucs really helped defense with Barron + David. Both will start from day 1. 2 excellent players. David an explosive lateral playmaker.— Greg Cosell (@gregcosell) April 28, 2012
Player I like more I watch is LB David. Explosive element to movement. Physical despite size. 4-3 WLB or 3-4 ILB like D. Washington/Timmons.— Greg Cosell (@gregcosell) April 10, 2012
Impression: He's undersized, but is instinctive. Might be limited to more of a cover two type scheme only, but looks like a starting caliber weak side guy to me early in his NFL career.
ESPN Scouts Inc. (Insider):
What he brings: David lacks elite size but he plays with great leverage, both as a tackler and taking on blocks. He brings great versatility on third down to hold up zone and man coverage, which should help considering the NFL's trend to pass-happy offenses.
How he fits: This is an adequate linebacker group without a lot of big explosive plays, especially on the outside. In fact, the Bucs have thought about moving MLB Mason Foster outside to give them more athleticism. But now, David can play outside and probably allow Foster to stay inside. His biggest contribution early will be in sub packages as a cover/space linebacker.
Conclusion: A few years ago, when there were more Dungy disciples coaching around the NFL, David's stock would be higher. He is an excellent fit as the weakside linebacker in a Cover-2 scheme: he can play seven yards behind the line, flow to the play, and drop into coverage. Now that 3-4 schemes are more stylish, David won't be in many teams' draft plans, which will make him slide down the draft board, possibly even out of the first round.
The team that ultimately drafts David, however, will know exactly what they are getting: a dozen productive tackles per game, a little bit of big play ability, and a hard worker who takes his craft seriously.