A the end of the third round of the 2017 NFL draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded their fourth- and sixth-round picks to get LSU linebacker Kendell Beckwith—who wasn’t on most Bucs fans’ radars.
To get a little more info, we can always look to pre-draft scouting reports, and most of those claim some form of: two-down, thumping linebacker who lacks speed and won’t be able to cover. Also recovering from an ACL injury.
That’s not a great endorsement, but perhaps the Bucs saw something the rest did not. As NFL teams sometimes do. One indication for what they think is quotes from anonymous scouts. Bob McGinn of Packers News asked a bunch of those guys about Beckwith before the draft, and here’s what he got.
“He’s a dinosaur with an ACL,” said one scout. “He’s going to get discounted (by the knee). He’s got the speed but he’s more of a one-dimensional run thumper.” Finished with 263 tackles (24 ½ for loss) and 7 ½ sacks. “More of a scrape linebacker,” said another scout. “Not a downhill, two-gap, blow-you-up type. Duke Riley, the other linebacker, did most of the calls. Pretty good on the edge when they rush him sometimes. Football’s football, but he has other things that are important to him. Like his horse, his car, his family.” From Clinton, La. “First and second down only,” said a third scout. “If you play zone coverage he can survive just breaking up on things. But if they get him matched up in man coverage it won’t be pretty. It’ll be like (ILB Benardrick) McKinney when Houston played New England.”
Which..is basically what everyone thought. Beckwith is a two-down linebacker who might be able to add a little bit as a blitzer and/or stand-up edge rusher on passing downs. Don’t ask him to cover, though.
Is that worth trading up for toward the end of the third round, particularly when Beckwith is recovering from an ACL injury which is always a risk for a player’s future? I have no clue—at least the Bucs got a good deal on that trade up.
Beckwith brings one thing the Bucs didn’t really have at linebacker: size. The team’s worst-kept secret is that they want to get bigger in the front seven and run more 3-4 looks on defense, and Beckwith certainly fits that goal.
Beckwith also adds some quality to special teams and, perhaps most importantly, is likely to win the strongside linebacker job once he’s healthy. The latter’s a somewhat limited role these days, but about 40-50% of the snaps is still significant and valuable. It might be higher if they ramp up the 3-4 looks and he grabs an OLB role.
The Bucs may have been better off picking a different kind of player, but Beckwith does give the Bucs a lot of insurance. If Kwon Alexander gets injured, they’re not entirely screwed. They’ll have a competent middle linebacker behind him, though they’ll have to figure something out on passing downs.
For now, though, the Bucs will have to see how he recovers from his injuries before he can start competing for playing time. And that may take some time.