Coming into 2018, there was some talk about whether or not the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the best linebacker group in the division. One which could match-up against most linebacker groups in the league, even.
Now, Kendell Beckwith has missed a full year with an ankle injury, Kwon Alexander missed more than half the season after tearing his ACL against the Cleveland Browns, and the team is on the verge of moving to a base defense requiring the use of four linebackers.
Standing tall at the AdventHealth Training Center is one Lavonte David. The lone shining beacon of starting NFL talent currently residing in the 2019 Bucs future. Beckwith is at least under contract, but I doubt anyone would believe missing his second year following an impressive rookie year was a positive thing.
With hope remaining Alexander might be back in Tampa this upcoming season, there is still at least one open spot and up to three. Whew!
Let’s look at this year’s combine linebackers.
2019 COMBINE LINEBACKERS
|OTARO ALAKA||TEXAS A&M|
|DAKOTA ALLEN||TEXAS TECH|
|BRYSON ALLEN-WILLIAMS||SOUTH CAROLINA|
|JEFF ALLISON||FRESNO STATE|
|AZEEZ AL-SHAAIR||FLORIDA ATLANTIC|
|TE'VON CONEY||NOTRE DAME|
|TYREL DODSON||TEXAS A&M|
|TERRILL HANKS||NEW MEXICO STATE|
|DAVID LONG||WEST VIRGINIA|
|GERMAINE PRATT||NC STATE|
|DRUE TRANQUILL||NOTRE DAME|
|ANDREW VAN GINKEL||WISCONSIN|
BEST IN CLASS: JOSH ALLEN, KENTUCKY
When the NFL first released their list of participants, Allen fell into the linebacker group. Yes, he should be an EDGE defender. But for the sake of the league’s initial list and this series, he’s classified as a linebacker. Which is fine, unless you’re triggered by guys not be labeled as EDGE guys.
Beyond this possibility, Allen is projected as a bonafide star from day one. Honestly, I’m not as high on him as most, but I still think he’s very good and can be very good in the NFL.
Fits best at the next level standing up as a versatile linebacker rather than with his hand in the dirt, but he can certainly do both.
Chances are he’ll be gone before pick five ever comes up, making him almost certainly not a future member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
MOST TO PROVE: MACK WILSON, ALABAMA
This isn’t so much about Wilson’s ability. I think most would agree he’s a solid NFL talent with the potential to be a starter right away.
What’s in question here, is whether or not he’s drafted in the first-round, which is not guaranteed. Of course, as we’ve seen in plenty of drafts, nothing is.
Still, with a solid combine performance, Wilson can cement himself as a first-round favorite this April. The difference between being a day one pick and a day two pick are pretty significant, so Wilson should come in looking to turn some heads when the festivities get underway in Indianapolis.
MOST LIKELY BUCS DRAFT PICK: DEVIN WHITE, LSU
There shouldn’t be much surprise here. LSU has been a linebacker factory lately, and White is the next man up to represent the school’s linebacker lineage.
White has been mocked to the Bucs quite often, and it’ll likely continue to happen until the future of Alexander is known. Even then, he will still likely be a popular pick for the Bucs for the reasons mentioned above.
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com has a grade on White which identifies him as an instant starter, which just so happens to satisfy my personal criteria for drafting a player in the Top-5.