We talked about Robert Ayers as an underrated player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers yesterday, but there’s another underrated player on the team. Fox Sports’ Cameron DaSilva thinks Lavonte David is the fifth-most underrated player in the entire NFL.
David is the perfect example of a new-age linebacker in the NFL. He’s not the biggest player at the position, but he is one of the fastest. He also knows how to make plays and find the football. In his fourth season as a starter in 2015, he had a career-high 147 tackles, 13 passes defensed, three interceptions and one forced fumble. He was a machine at outside linebacker and a huge part of the Buccaneers’ improved defense. Carolina's Luke Keuchly and Seattle's Bobby Wagner get most of the attention at linebacker, but David is right up there with them as a top playmaker.
David actually had a down season for his standards, especially at the start of the year, but he finished in strong form and should once again be a key factor on Tampa Bay’s defense, as he has been every year of his career. The long-term contract he received last year was much-deserved.
I’m not sure if David is underrated, though. He’s certainly one of the very best linebackers in the NFL, but every time I see his name mentioned, it’s in that context — with perhaps a caveat about the past year. He’s been named a first-team All-Pro once, has been named to a slew of different top 100 lists, and has made a Pro Bowl. He probably should have gotten a few more accolades, but that’s in part a result of the way those awards treat the linebacker position, prioritizing pass rushers over 4-3 backers like David. In all, I don’t get the impression that anyone really underrates him.
At most, he may fly under the radar, but that’s more because of Tampa Bay’s low profile than anything else. Because when people say him play, he jumps off the screen. And when people sit down to make lists and think about the entire league, he’s always on them.