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Rookie IDP Debate: Devin White vs Devin Bush

In the world of IDP dynasty fantasy football, it’s very rare when a draft class delivers two future studs at the linebacker position but that is exactly what happened in the 2019 NFL draft. Devin White and Devin Bush both finished their collegiate careers as ultra-productive LBs for their respective teams and turned that into both being selected in the top 10 of the NFL draft. It doesn’t take long to realize when you start playing in IDP leagues that LB is king and there’s a massive point advantage when you stack elite level LBs on your dynasty teams. Linebacker is much like the RB position in the regard that landing spot and situation is everything. Luckily for dynasty owners in 2019, we were gifted two elite level LBs who landed in perfect positions to produce for our dynasty teams for years to come. 

Devin White 

6’1” 240 lbs21 years old 

Devin White left LSU with 114 solo tackles and 8.5 sacks in 34 career games played. Devin White was an all-around LB for an LSU defense that finished 25th in yards per game allowed in 2018 after finishing 11th in 2017. Devin White was a huge reason the Tigers defense was as good as they were the past two seasons. Devin White showed up to the NFL combine in Indianapolis ready to prove himself and that he did, White ran a 4.42 forty-yard dash as well as a 4.17 twenty-yard shuttle and capped off this performance with a 7.07-second three-cone drill. The production in the toughest conference in college football combined with the way he tested landed Devin White as the 5th overall selection in the NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers had a huge hole in their defense after free agent Kwon Alexander left for San Francisco leaving behind 380 combined tackles and 7 sacks in his three and a half seasons with Tampa Bay. The young rookie White will now pair with veteran LB Lavonte David who can teach him what it means to be a true pro as there aren’t many players in the NFL who do that much better than David does. 

The player comparison I have seen that I agree the most with for Devin White is Myles Jack of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Myles Jack is fifteen pounds lighter than White, but they have similar play styles, and both play a game that is reliant on their speed and how fast they can get to the ball. Devin White posted a 13% missed tackle rate in college, most of this is because of his speed and how fast he gets to the ball he occasionally gets himself out of position or tends to overrun a play. The missed tackles don’t concern me and really shouldn’t concern dynasty owners, Kwon Alexander racked up 78 missed tackles since being drafted which is the most in the NFL for a LB during that span. There are some similarities between the LSU linebackers mostly how good both were in coverage. Dynasty owners have felt the impact of Alexander in the pass game as his 6 interceptions and 22 passes defended in his short career continued to keep him as one of the most coveted dynasty IDP assets. Devin White has a similar impact in coverage, White led the SEC with 16 coverage stops for a LB in 2018 and he seems to diagnose plays in the pass game much more efficiently than he does against the run. If you watch Devin White play the last two years you will easily see how comfortable he is sitting in a zone defense and diagnosing where the QB is going with the ball and his athleticism helps him get to the receiver to limit the amount of yardage gained on a play on a consistent basis. 

The former LSU Tiger also proves how effective he can be as a pass rusher, White ranked first among all power 5 LBs with at least 100 blitzes in pass rush productivity according to Pro Football Focus. Devin White recorded 8 sacks on 70 pressures in his college career while also recording 26 tackles at the line of scrimmage or for loss which was twice as many as Devin Bush. 

Like any other prospect, there are pros and cons. I have to be very honest with you, there’s not much to hate about Devin White’ game. The pros are obvious, and I have touched on them in this short breakdown, but overall White offers a rare skill set of sideline to sideline speed that doesn’t come along very often. Devin White is the prototype for new breed LB in the NFL, White is an every-down LB who should play every defensive snap as long as he’s healthy. The Buccaneers rookie doesn’t take plays off and makes finding a mismatch for opposing offenses extremely difficult with his ability to possibly even cover slot WRs. The only improvements I see for White are his diagnosis of run plays specifically on inside runs. The future IDP stud LB tends to get to the running gap too quickly forcing him to have his pad level a bit too high to be able to read and react to a runner’s vision. As good as White is against the pass, he struggles a bit on the mental breakdown of the game against the run. This might not be too concerning for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, during the Kwon Alexander era he never finished higher than 58th of 100+ qualifying LBs in run defense grade. Devin White should easily learn to be much better than that with some NFL coaching and him being a key piece to the Buccaneers new 3-4 defensive scheme. The sky is truly the limit for the former LSU Tiger and I personally am very excited to see him play on Sundays.

Devin Bush Jr.

5’11” 234 lbs.21 years old

Growing up the son of an NFL player isn’t always the easiest, but Devin Bush Jr. made the most of it after seeing his father play safety in the NFL, Bush Jr. committed to play football at the University of Michigan where he made his name as an inside linebacker. Devin Bush recorded over 91 solo tackles and 10 sacks as a Michigan Wolverine and was named 2018 Consensus All American, 2018 Big Ten Linebacker of the Year and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Devin Bush showed up to the combine much like Devin White did with a lot to prove and he didn’t disappoint one bit. The former Michigan star tested very well posting a 4.43 forty-yard dash, 40.5” vertical, 6.93-second three-cone and lastly a 4.23 20-yard shuttle. Devin Bush Jr. put together a solid showing in Indianapolis and the Pittsburgh Steelers who had a glaring need at inside LB traded up to draft him 10th overall in the 2019 NFL draft. The Steelers are hoping to finally fill the need in the middle of their 3-4 defense that has been missing since the unfortunate career-ending injury to Ryan Shazier. The former Steelers defensive leader posted three straight 87+ tackle seasons before his injury and the Steelers have been missing this key piece to their defense since.

Devin Bush is the epitome of a Steelers LB in every sense from his aggression he plays with to his leadership style, The former Michigan Wolverine most famously known for destroying the logo of the Michigan State Spartans in a pre-game warmup before a rivalry game has a nastiness about him that is very rare these days. The Steelers in recent years have lacked toughness and nastiness to their defense and even though the offense has carried them recently they are hoping the arrival of Devin Bush can return them to some of the Steel Curtain days. Devin Bush is already getting great reviews in training camp from both his coaches and teammates for his ability to be versatile and learn quickly. Keith Butler returns as the Steelers defensive coordinator and while the team failed to make the playoffs, he did a great job with the defense a year ago and adding a dynamic rookie like Devin Bush should only make things easier. Devin Bush really jumps off the tape for me as a run defender, his 85.2 run defender grade the last two seasons according to PFF is no fluke. The reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year really is a strong gap defender and vastly different from Devin White he squares his shoulders in the hole and tracks the ball carrier to make the stop. Devin Bush is a sound tackler as well he has only missed 11 tackles in his college career and rarely is out of position despite the unbelievable speed he plays at.

The NFL players comparison I liked the most for Devin Bush was Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith, pre-injury of course. While Smith has somewhat returned to form after his devastating knee injury in his last game at Notre Dame, he’s not quite the monster he was in college. Devin Bush has many of those characteristics and plays similar from his run defense to his coverage skills. Devin Bush racked up 10 coverage stops in 2018 and like Devin White also diagnoses plays very quickly in the passing game specifically when he’s dropping into zone coverage, something the Steelers love to do with their linebackers.

The newest Pittsburgh Steelers LB also has proved himself as a pass rusher which is ultimately what may have sold the Steelers on him because we all know how much the old school Steelers defenses liked to get after quarterbacks with their linebackers. Devin Bush Jr. ranked only 2nd to Devin White in pass-rush productivity among all power five LBs in 2018. While at Michigan, Bush managed to rack up at least 4.5 sacks in each of the last two seasons from his inside linebacker spot.

It becomes difficult to break down the positives and negatives of a player’s game when you are watching highlight tape, I believe you get more from watching a full game. Luckily, I was able to watch a few live games of both the Devin’s in 2018 to make a fair assessment before I spent an off-season just watching them make highlight play after highlight play. Devin Bush is scary fast, and he plays like it, he will never come off the field for the Steelers and he shouldn’t his intelligence on the field is something not too many players have at the age of 21. While at Michigan and playing for Jim Harbaugh the young defender learned a lot and it shows during the games. Devin Bush is a natural born leader and his versatility will only make his teammates and coaches love and respect him more. I can just picture him getting into pre-game fights with AFC North rivals now. The speed factor and his coverage skills are the most intriguing things Bush brings to the table along with his ability to be a sure tackler and not make many mistakes when he is tracking down a ball carrier. The only real negatives I see with the future IDP stud is his inconsistent play and injuries, in four of twelve games in 2018 he managed to have 2 solo tackles or less. The slight dip in production from his sophomore to junior season is also a bit concerning but I think he fits the pro game much better than college and he should have no problem being a nightmare for opposing offenses as soon as this year.

So, the big question, you’re on the clock in your leagues’ rookie draft who do you take? For once I think there’s no wrong answer here and that’s beautiful if you think about it. This one is truly a matter of preference; I think both players are potential studs and fit this new mold of the LB evolution in the NFL. did an interesting study on the linebacker position, in the year 2000 eleven of thirty-six LBs were 249 lbs. or more, in 2009 nine of thirty-five LBs were 248 lbs or more and finally, in 2019 only two of thirty-seven were 245 lbs or more. This was very eye-opening to me because as the offensive philosophies have changed and most in the dynasty community are aware of the high-powered passing attacks so have the defenses but most IDP players don’t take the time to notice this. Speed is one thing you can’t coach, and we see it over and over again as less talented players get over-drafted because of their speed, this has now crossed over to the defensive side of the football. Look no further than the 2019 NFL draft where five linebackers in this class ran a 4.5 or better at the combine, that is insane to think about. Football is all about creating mismatches both offensively and defensively and as long as players like Devin White and Devin Bush Jr. keep coming around we will all have the luxury of enjoying watching the most amazing athletes in the world play football for a long time and most importantly score points for our dynasty fantasy football teams.

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