In ESPN’s continued endeavor to rank the top 10 players at each position via 50 league insiders, both Devin White and Lavonte David received high praise in the linebacker rankings.
Executives, players, and coaches voted on White as the best linebacker currently in the NFL, while David top the No. 5 spot. The pair joins teammate Vita Vea, who ranked 9th on the interior defensive lineman list. White narrowly beat out Bobby Wagner of Seattle and Fred Warner of San Francisco.
“He’s a missile,” a high-ranking NFL official said. “So athletic and strong while doing whatever he wants.”
White cemented his rise with an excellent second half of the season and a stellar postseason, highlighted by a game-sealing interception of Drew Brees in the NFC Divisional round. He served as a vital catalyst when rushing the passer and working sideline to sideline in the run game.
His spot might be a surprise to some, as the third-year pro’s play has been notably divisive among talent evaluators. Pro Football Focus graded White as the NFL’s No. 1 pass-rushing off-ball linebacker of 2020, but the No. 101 and No. 92 player when it came to coverage and run defense ability.
Ultimately, this ranking shows White has garnered major respect from his peers, and expectations will be sky high as he enters his third pro season.
David showing up in the top 5 while entering his 10th pro season will be unsurprising to admirers who have long called the Tampa stalwart underrated in the national discourse. Still thriving at 31, David showcased his vital skillset throughout 2020.
“Zero drop-off with him. He just plays with Devin White, who was running around getting 15 tackles a game in the playoffs,” an NFC exec said. “But Lavonte can do whatever you need — run through the hole, make a play in the gap, a great blitzer and can cover.”
His fellow players around the league even lamented about the lack of recognition surrounding David’s game.
“He still doesn’t get his respect,” A Pro Bowl defensive player said. “He looks exactly the same.”
As the Buccaneers gear up for a title defense, it’s obvious that more eyes than ever before will be glued to the NFL’s best linebacker duo. The team will need even more consistent high-level play from both White and David if it hopes to make more noise come January.