A high-intensity, straight-forward linebacker who could immediately contribute on special teams.
If there’s one position the Buccaneers might be least worried about for 2021, it’s likely linebacker. After establishing themselves as the best duo in the NFL at the position, Devin White and Lavonte David return for multiple seasons to come while Kevin Minter serves as a reliable backup.
That said, Tampa has shown interest recently in seeking younger depth, as well as core special teamers. Chapelle Russell joined the team as a seventh rounder last season, just like Jack Cichy in 2018. Overall, GM Jason Licht has selected a linebacker in six of the seven drafts he’s directed, so it’s not unrealistic to expect a seventh straight year.
Could Auburn’s K.J. Britt be that linebacker?
K.J. BRITT’S COLLEGIATE CAREER
Hailing from Oxford, Ala., Britt fielded more than 30 offers, including from the University of Alabama, but decided on Auburn in 2017, per 247Sports. The former 4-star prospect entered the fray from the start as a true freshman, suiting up in every game as a backup and special teamer.
He repeated this feat in 2018 before becoming a full-time starter the following season, immediately making an impact with 69 tackles, 10 for loss, and 2.5 sacks in 12 starts. He earned second-team All-SEC for his play and looked poised to duplicate his performance in 2020 before a thumb injury thwarted those ambitions and limited him to two starts.
He earned and accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl, where he was named top linebacker on the American team in a vote from the running back and offensive line groups at the practice player-of-the-week awards ceremony. He was also one of Pro Football Focus’s top performers in the actual game.
PRO DAY DATA AND ANALYSIS
Auburn held its Pro Day on March 18, and Britt participated in most drills. He posted numbers that reflect his throwback style. He’s a stoutly built, downhill pursuer who thrives between the tackles.
He measured at 6’ ½” and 235 pounds with 31” arms, and he benched 24 reps at 225 pounds, but his smaller size doesn’t keep him from throwing down in the trenches. He’s got a strong nose for the football, and he gladly takes on lead blockers and runners in the hole.
However, his flaws are exposed in space, and his testing didn’t do much to dispel those concerns. He vertical jumped 32 ½”, broad jumped 9’ 10”, and ran a 4.75 unofficial 40-yard dash. His range really came up short when facing the spread offenses of the SEC and when asked to cover a lot of space in run support and pass coverage.
K.J. Britt is a LB prospect in the 2021 draft class. He scored a 4.68 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 1137 out of 2137 LB from 1987 to 2021. https://t.co/abCJXpehS7 #RAS via @Mathbomb pic.twitter.com/N5tisrXqrh
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 14, 2021
As such, he profiles as a two-down run stuffer in a traditional 4-3 defense, but his skill set does translate well to special teams.
WHAT HE BRINGS IN 2021
Ultimately, Britt would primarily be an addition to special teams. The Buccaneers often asked Cichy, Minter and Russell to log special teams snaps, and they’re now currently without two of those three.
Britt’s aggressive mentality and athletic profile fit that need well, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get immediately involved if drafted. Unless injuries really decimate the linebacker unit, Britt would likely see little-to-no snaps on defense behind White, David and Minter.
The hope would be that Britt establishes himself a special teams stalwart who works himself into the primary backup role at linebacker.
Ultimately, if the Bucs have to replace David or White, they’ll look for somebody with a higher ceiling than Britt. The former two are acclaimed for their elite range and pursuit skills while staying on the field for all three downs, and Britt just doesn’t look like he’ll ever meet that threshold based on physical traits and college tape.
That said, depth and competitive mentality is always valuable so Britt could certainly become a worthy contributor.
Linebackers like Britt are a dying breed, as the league continues to gravitate toward fast, versatile chess pieces who can play all around the field. Fold in the fact that his production was merely good and not elite in college, and you see a player with late Day 3 written all over him.
Britt looks like someone worth a flier in the 6th or 7th round.
ON THE CLOCK…
Let’s hear it, Bucs Nation. When it comes to K.J. Britt, what would you have the Buccaneers do?