From now until the 2019 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
#40 Devin White/LB/LSU 6’1 240 Lbs
-Vice grip-like hands that allows him to wrangle ball carriers to the ground
-Possesses explosive lower that allows him to change directions quickly
-Rangy linebacker that flows sideline-to-sideline with ease
-Effective blitzer that fires downhill with tremendous explosion
-Makes up a ton of ground with speed, impressive closing speed
-Strong as an ox for the position with the ideal build
-Gets over the top of runs quickly with lateral mobility
-Scrapes quickly and gains ground moving downhill against the run
-Slow to get off blocks when linemen climb to second level on him
-Tends to catch blockers in the hole, rather than attack them downhill
-Can be moved with eyes in coverage due to aggression in zone coverage
-Not a physical tackler by any stretch, doesn’t strike with force consistently for position
-Slow to process, has a hard time sifting through traffic initially to find the ball
-Really struggles with contact balance playing the run
-Finished 3-year career at LSU with 286 total tackles, 8.5 sacks, 9 pass breakups, 1 interception, 4 forced fumbles and 4 fumble recoveries
-Winner of 2018 Butkus Award, given to nation’s top linebacker
-Named First Team All-SEC in 2017 and 2018
-MVP of 2017 LSU football team
-Named First Team All-American in 2018, and Second Team All-American in 2017
-Former 4-star recruit that was graded as the No. 3 athlete in the ESPN Top 300 in 2016 recruiting class; former standout running back in high school
In today’s NFL, teams need an athletic linebacker who can run, cover, and blitz. LSU star middle linebacker Devin White sure does fit that mold.
The junior All-American officially announced his declaration for the 2019 NFL Draft Monday morning with a video thanking a number of officials, coaches, teammates, teachers, and friends at LSU. With his decision to forego his senior season in the SEC, White is likely going to be the first or second linebacker off the board in April.
While at LSU, White was a tackling machine, racking up nearly 300 total stops in three seasons, including a career-high 133 tackles in 2017, which led to him being named First Team All-SEC that season, and Second Team All-American that season.
Despite all of the accolades White reined in over three years at LSU, there is plenty to be concerned with when it comes to White’s game. Yes, he’s athletic and makes plays left and right around the football, but the biggest concern with him, for me, is his inability to get off of blocks quickly when linemen get to the second level on him.
When linemen climb to the second level on him and get their hands on him, White really struggles to shed and find the football. He gets overpowered at times and doesn’t have the length to get the linemen off of him.
Against Georgia in 2018, White had a decent game, but he struggled early when the Bulldogs tried to establish the ground game. Take a look at the way the right guard chip blocks the defensive tackle and then climbs to the second level quickly to get his hands on White.
I’d like to see White click and close downhill here quickly to fill that initial hole opening up, but he waits, is slow to process what’s happening, and lets the lineman reach him. From there, he’s slow to get off the block, allowing DeAndre Swift to get past him for the big run.
When he’s not struggling to get off blocks, I really like the way White is able to get over top of runs with his lateral mobility and ability to scrape across the formation to make stops.
Against Ole Miss in 2018, White was really, really good against the Rebels in short yardage situations.
Here on 3rd and 1, watch White scrape from left to right – nearly tackle to tackle – slip off a block and how the strength to stop the running back short of the line to gain, forcing 4th down.
This is what I really like about White’s game. He’s a big, physical linebacker that is lite on his feet, almost gliding when moving laterally. That’s tough to find at the position, and White has it in bundles.
When he’s locked in, flowing to the football, and coming downhill with vengeance on his mind, he’s a major force defensively.
Here against Florida, look at the way White reads the hole opening up off tackle, and then has the athleticism and explosion to fire downhill, block up the lead blocker and make the tackle for loss. You can’t teach that. Plays like that are tantalizing with White.
Based on all 11 games that I watched of White, the tape against Florida in 2017 was some of his best work, including the last clip above.
The play that I keep coming back to though is this one, because it’s simply incredible and defies logic.
You can see he’s just a bit slow to process the read-option here and nearly bites on the Florida quarterback’s fake run up into the line. But watch the way he turns on the speed once he registers what’s happening.
That’s not even the best part. That power in his hands to throw the Florida running back – with a full head of steam in the open field – down with that much force on a high tackle is incredible. No, it wasn’t a horse collar tackle either. He got all shoulder pads.
As a blitzer, he really closes ground in a hurry, and has the motor to work through blocks even without having much of a pass rushing repertoire. While I know that this blitz against Florida is unimpeded, I want you to watch his lower half.
He has a false step to start his blitz, so that needs cleaned up. But look how quickly those legs start to fire like pistons, propelling him downhill with impressive speed and force for the sack on Feleipe Franks.
Overall, White is certainly a very good linebacker prospect due to his athleticism, comfort in coverage, and ability to blitz with effectiveness. He’s likely going to be the top linebacker in the 2019 NFL Draft class above Alabama’s Mack Wilson, but that doesn’t mean I believe he’s a top 10 worthy pick.
That’s not to say I don’t think he’ll go early in the first round, because I do, especially when you consider how valuable the linebacker position has become in today’s game. I am very concerned with his slow processing abilities and his struggles to get off of blocks once linemen reach him at the second level, but I believe he’ll be a strong three-down linebacker for many years in the NFL, and well worth the investment in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Projection: Mid Day 1