The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had three different players win the Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in their 43-season history: Lee Roy Selmon, Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks. They've also had two different running backs named Offensive Rookie of the Year, with Warrick Dunn getting it in 1997 and Cadillac Williams following up in 2005.
But the Associated Press has never bestowed the Defensive Rookie of the Year honors on a Buccaneer, despite the franchise's myriad accomplishments on that side of the ball. Perhaps that will change in season number 44.
Back in June, we discussed this very topic on Buccaneers.com, specifically centered around first-round draft pick Devin White. We see White's immense and wide-ranging talents, his clear path to playing time and his possibility of a robust stat line by season's end and believe that adds up to a player with a chance to win that prestigious award. NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein takes it a step further.
According to Zierlein on NFL.com, White is the favorite to win the 2019 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
Zierlein also sees a combination of talent and a favorable situation in putting White at the top of his list of eight candidates. The analyst praises the Buccaneer rookie for his "speed, work ethic and football IQ," and believes that Tampa Bay's new defensive scheme and the personnel in front of White will work perfectly with his skill set.
"With Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh up the middle for the Bucs, expect opposing running games to spill outside, which will play right into White's blazing chase-and-tackle speed (he ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine)," Zierlein writes.
As we noted in June, any candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year is going to need some eye-catching stats, preferably sacks and turnovers, though a large number of tackles definitely helped Carolina's Luke Kuechly win the award in 2010, when he led the NFL in that latter category. Zierlein considers this too and believes White has a good chance to meet that criterion, suggesting that, "White has the talent and traits to fill up a number of stat columns on a regular basis, which will only strengthen his case."
Before beginning his rankings, Zierlein also broke down the history of the award and noted that inside linebackers and edge defenders are the two positions most likely to produce DROTY winners. As he pointed out, six inside linebackers won the award between 2004 and 2012, including Kuechly. Unsurprisingly, Zierlein's list of eight candidates includes two inside linebackers, four edge rushers and two defensive tackles. After White, his next two options are Buffalo defensive tackle Ed Oliver and San Francisco defensive end Nick Bosa.
White's first-round pedigree was also a factor in Zierlein's ranking, as he notes that the Indianapolis Colts' Darius Leonard was the first non-first-round pick to take the award home since 2006.