As you should know by now, our attention has now shifted to the 2016 NFL Draft as it relates to the prospects. From now until the draft takes place, we hope to profile as many draft prospects as we possibly can for you. Most of these player profiles will be centered around prospects the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have interest in.
Since the defensive backs are working out today, it’s appropriate to look at a corner. Today, D.J. White.
#28 – D.J. White/CB Georgia Tech: 5-11, 188
– Scrappy, physical corner despite smaller frame
– Great reactive athleticism and body control
– Patient corner, waits for WRs to come to him without committing – complacency can bite in off
– Plays aggressive downhill
– Best when used to jam/press receivers at the line of scrimmage
– Plays for ball around receiver, not through (penalty)
– Smooth hips
– Explosive jumper, strong lower half
– Good play recognition in front of him, not behind him
– Low understanding of field positioning/zones
– Does tend to be grabby, might draw NFL flags
– Low tackler, ankle grabber
– Misjudges ball in flight
– Looks lost when playing off
– Lacking elite top-end speed, only average in college
– Questionable angles in open field
– Slow changing direction, bad stop/start ability
– Takes on blocks with poor vision
– Plays too far off on money downs, needs to station at the chains – particularly with slow closing burst
– Voted team captain in 2015. Totaled 38 tackles, 2 INTs, 8 PDs, 1 FF
– Played in 48 career college games
– Forced at least 1 fumble each year (5 total)
– Honorable Mention All-ACC in 2014 with 66 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 4 INTs, 8 PDs, 1 FF
Right off the bat, White has a questionable rep in Cover 3. He opens his hips and bails deep at the snap, but with a vertical stem from the WR, that’s his man. The WR sets up his stem well just behind the safety, playing a flat zone on the RB, meaning White has coverage on the WR. A gutsy throw from the QB, and the receiver is free in space. White is left to chase down the ball from behind on a play that should have seen him play the receiver tighter in zone. We’ll see later how this play could have been different if White was given different responsibilities.
However, on the very next play, White shows a short memory, a valuable trait for a CB. He shows some very fluid, tight hips and nice body control to mirror the receiver and follow him downfield. He’s hand-fighting and playing aggressive as they run out of the frame. However, this is not the end of the play for him.
The deep ball sees him caught on the wrong side of the WR, with both him and the safety making a play on the ball. He plays around the WR and makes sure to chop the hands of the WR to force an incompletion (although the ball was already deflected by the safety). You have to love this aggression and playing the ball in a contested situation.
Here, White flashes some nice patience. The WR plays directly at him, swimming his hips, but White doesn’t react. Corners are taught not to flip their hips until the WR commits to a side. When the receiver eventually doesn’t make a move and initiates contact, White eagerly gets physical right back at him. This is one of the pretty clear identifying characteristics of a cornerback who likes to get physical.
White (lined up initially off-screen right) is going to draw flags in the NFL if he has coverage downfield like this on receivers. However, note how he sells out to make a play and bat away the ball on what was a long third down. Key play from White.
In fact, White is so aggressive that he jumps across the line of scrimmage to press this receiver a yard behind the LOS. After backing off, he peeks into the backfield and sees the designed RB flare route. He puts his back foot in the ground and crashes downhill to make the stop. This is a classic example of a “see it go get it” mentality, which is valuable in cornerbacks.
White is lined up on the backside of this screen, which sees Will Fuller break into open field. White has the speed to chase down Fuller, and when he gets there, he attacks the ball causing a forced fumble. This is why you always follow plays from behind to try and make a stop.
Although White usually struggles with tracking the ball, this play was too impressive not to include. White flips his hips inside in the zone coverage, but has to do a complete 180 to match the fade route. He goes after the ball with a passion and makes the catch for a red zone interception.
It’s rare to see a cornerback look so at home in one coverage and yet so lost in another. That is the case with White, time and again. Although he may look like undraftable in off coverage, when it comes time to get in a receiver’s face and be physical, he shines. He is disruptive yet fluid in press coverage, with the ability to either jam the receiver off the line or work his hips back in coverage.
However, it’s even more rare to see a coaching staff so clueless as to how to use their talent. Georgia Tech’s secondary scheming did White no favors, consistently asking him to squat on the first down line and bail even deeper. Part of that has to be on the player to react and play up, but equal blame must go to the coaches for putting their secondary in the position to carry that out. It’s a night and day difference when White gets to play up on a receiver versus 5-7 yards off the line of scrimmage.
D.J. White really hasn’t been getting much run as a cornerback prospect in this draft, but his tape was quietly very solid. Any team that’s looking for a late-round option at press corner could do far worse than White considering the hips he’s shown.
Projection: Fourth Round
Games Watched: Tulane, Georgia, at Notre Dame