The PFF 101, No. 5: Lavonte David

Tampa Bay's Lavonte David jumps 77 spots from his 2012 finish in the PFF 101 and earns a place among the Top 5.

| 3 years ago

The PFF 101, No. 5: Lavonte David

2013-101-feat-davidTampa Bay is a team used to seeing prototypical 4-3 weakside linebackers doing their thing. In
Derrick Brooks they watched a player who defined the position for over a decade and is now in the
Hall of Fame, and Lavonte David is his heir apparent.

Like Brooks, David is a smaller linebacker but lightening quick and makes up for that lack of size with how fast he can read the play, react to it and blow it up. David ended the season with a +26.4 grade, dwarfing the next best conventional 4-3 OLB’s +14.4 mark (setting aside Von Miller for the moment because of the unique way in which he is deployed).

David’s M.O. is to play with speed and play the game in the backfield, showing an ability to close on the football that we haven’t seen from anybody playing his position for a long time. He graded positively in every facet of the game that PFF grades; as a pass rusher, in coverage, against the run and in disciplinary terms when it came to penalties. In a similar tale to that of Gerald McCoy in front of him and Revis behind him, David got little help from the rest of the Tampa Bay linebacking corps.

While David was setting things alight, Mason Foster, the only other Bucs linebacker to play more than 270 snaps, was struggling, especially against the run. David notched 32 combined tackles more than Foster, despite playing a position that traditionally yields fewer, and made 45 more defensive stops from those tackles, showing that he was playing closer to the line of scrimmage than Foster was.

When it came to Run Stop Percentage David was the best ranked linebacker at his position, making a defensive stop against the run on 13.5% of his snaps, more than 3% better than the next placed linebacker.


Best Game: Week 7 vs. Atlanta (+5.0)

In this game against the Falcons David was actually beaten in coverage for a touchdown, (his only one of the year) and yet still finished with his highest grade of the season. How? He made nine defensive stops in the game (no other Buc had more than two), three of which were drive-killing plays on third down. Twice he made stops behind the line of scrimmage wrecking plays before they could ever get going.

Look at the speed with which he destroys this running play. He crowds the line before beating the block of an offensive lineman quickly and still beats the running back to the corner, forcing the play back inside to his help, shutting it down.



Key Stat: Made 83 defensive stops, 21 more than the next best 4-3 OLB.

If there’s one number that shows the kind of player David is, it’s this one. Not all tackles are created equal. A tackle 10 yards down field on 3rd-and-7 isn’t a particularly useful play, but one at the line of scrimmage on 3rd-and-2 is. Defensive stops include any tackle that constitutes an offensive failure on the play. Short of the required distance on third and fourth downs, fewer than 40% of the required yards on first down, and so on.

David had 21 more stops than any other player at his position. In fact, he more than doubled the stop total for all but seven other 4-3 OLBs. David was making plays closer to the line of scrimmage than anybody else and did it without sacrificing his position in coverage, finishing just behind Carolina LB Thomas Davis at the top of the coverage grades for the position. In short, David was the perfect WLB in that 4-3 scheme in 2013, and may well have been every bit as good as Gerald McCoy in front of him.

Like McCoy, David can count himself extremely unlucky to have had such a fine season and yet still be overshadowed by at least two defenders, struggling just to place on the podium for the PFF Defensive Player of the Year standings. That being said, David had an outstanding season, and well deserves his spot at No. 5 in the PFF Top 101.


101–91  |  90–81  |  80-71
70–61  |  60–51  |  
40–31  |  30–21  |  20–11

10. Marshawn Lynch, SEA
9. Andrew Whitworth, CIN
8. Lesean McCoy, PHI
7. Evan Mathis, PHI
6. Richard Sherman, SEA

5. Lavonte David, TB


Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam 

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN and NBCSports.

  • Jason Williams

    Isn’t this the same guy who cost Tampa their Week 1 win against the Jets?

    • PRBucFan

      Yup but who doesn’t have a bad play? Even though the call was questionable at best.

      Best OLB in the game, thanks PFF

    • Christopher

      Give me a break. The rule is asinine. In real time I saw nothing wrong, & I’m always ready to call a late hit out of bounds. The rule is a QB can skirt along the sideline unencumbered, as long as it appears he’s getting out of bounds. In a close game with Geno Smith going for the 1st down, David gave him a shove IN BOUNDS….which is against the !@#$ rules.

  • Rick S.

    David is really good, but how is he better than Von Miller? PFF rated Miller as the #1 4-3 OLB on their insider stats and he was ahead of the #2 David (40-26).

    • klaus

      they wrote in the description of davids ranking that he’s tied for no. 1

      • Wyzel

        Miller played half as many snaps due to suspension and injuries, but still is there any linebacker as disruptive as miller?

  • Haleywood

    That was horrible wk 1 losing partly due to that play and it seemed to set the scene for close losses the rest of the year but I blame the continued close losses on Schiano and now we have Lovie! You have to at least wonder if that play was partially responsible for #54 playing like a man possessed the rest of the year..? I haven’t seen OLB play like that since Brooks in his prime! Him and McCoy were fun to watch and I can’t wait for this season. As for any comparisons between David and Miller it’s hard because they are utilized differently. That said, Von is an excellent player and when he’s playing at his peak he probably scores in the top 10 on this list.