Lavonte David is quickly putting together a stellar NFL career, and his fellow players around the NFL have taken notice.
On Wednesday, NFL Network continued its countdown of the "Top 100 Players of 2015" by revealing the players ranked in the 51-60 range. David, who led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with 146 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles last year, came in at #56. The annual Top 100 list, which was first introduced in 2011, is based solely on votes from current NFL players.
This is the second straight year that David has been considered among the league's elite defenders heading into the season. He debuted on the Top 100 list in 2014 at #35. Only two players placed higher on the list in 2014 after not being included in 2013: Buffalo defensive tackle Kyle Williams (#32) and David's defensive running mate in Tampa, Gerald McCoy (#28).
The Bucs have now had two players listed during the first half of this year's Top 100, as second-year wide receiver Mike Evans was revealed as #75 two weeks ago.
In just three NFL seasons, David has already racked up 429 tackles, 10.0 sacks, six interceptions, 18 passes defensed, six forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries. His tackle total in that span ranks second only to Luke Kuechly's 473, and his total of 40 run stuffs from 2012-14 trails only the 51.5 tallied by Houston's J.J. Watt. No other player has more than 24 stuffs in that span.
The best photos of Lavonte David during the 2014 season shot by the Buccaneers' team photographers.
While his best showing in the Pro Bowl voting thus far has been the alternate status he achieved last year, David has already bagged the more exclusive honor of first-team Associated Press All-Pro. That accolade came after a 2013 campaign in which he became the first NFL linebacker to record at least six sacks and at least five interceptions in the same season, since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.
While Pro Bowl balloting tends to favor 3-4 linebackers with gaudy sack statistics, Buccaneers Head Coach Lovie Smith is fond of referring to David as the best 4-3 outside linebacker in the league. With 50 more names to be revealed, we'll find out soon if the rest of the NFL agrees.