Thursday, April 09, 2015

2015 NFL Draft #64 - Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.
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Kevin White, WR, West Virginia - 6'3, 215 - Senior - 4.35 40
AutoZone Liberty Bowl - Texas A&M v West Virginia
Here is the thing - if you are going to spend a top pick on a player, you would prefer that he is obviously a special player to any one who observes his work.  It doesn't take a degree in Advanced Football Sciences to see what makes him special.  You would prefer he is just a freak of nature - a guy who does things that are marvelous to behold.  There are a couple such specimens in this draft, but you don't have to go very far down that list before you get a look at West Virginia's Kevin White.  He is truly a sight.
Now, let's be clear here.  Calvin Johnson is in his own world.  Calvin ran a 4.35 at 6'5, 239, with a 42.5 inch vertical leap.  He broke the mold for what is possible for a wide receiver and nobody knows if we will ever see another like him.  But, in this class, the guy capable of freakish feats is White.  White is bigger than his contemporaries (although DeVante Parker is close) and faster.  He can jump higher and when you watch him play, he is capable of some circus catches.  He is a junior college transfer who only played 2 years of major college ball, but in 2014 had 109 catches for 1447 yards and 10 Touchdowns.  He dominated his conference and his position and then dazzled in the spring combine.  To examine just how good he is on the field in full pads, I grabbed 4 games: Texas A&M, Texas, Baylor, and Oklahoma.
What I liked:  One look at the fade above - against Baylor's 6'2 corner Xavien Howard - tells you quite a bit how he wins with speed, strength, and hands.  He is impossible to press cover and even more impossible to man-on-an-island cover.  If you aren't going to give safety help, he will take very good college corners apart.  Below, witness his barbecue of Oklahoma's exceptional corner Zac Sanchez.  Sanchez tried tight coverage, but could not really slow down White and then certainly could not run with him as he just ran a simple go over his head.  Then, a few minutes later, Sanchez is sitting on the go, White stops, and then spins so fast that Sanchez cannot even pull his flag - let alone tackle him. He is as fast as it gets for a big receiver and therefore you cannot lose that leverage.  But, then he batters you with a number of curls and stops to make sure you play honest.  He is solid in the WR Screen game, too.  He blocks willingly and has very natural and impressive hands to the ball.
What I did not like:   A few things here:  1) I did not care for what you see below where on a couple of occasions (also with Diggs at Texas) he ran some inside routes and the corners actually beat him to the ball.  When you are that big, you must wall out the corner like you are boxing out for a rebound and stay between him and the ball because the QB is throwing it in a vulnerable lane if you get beat.  I think that is caused by 2) where he seems to have a very limited route tree.  I figure this is the West Virginia offense, but if you are going to run 3 routes the whole game, we shouldn't be shocked if corners are going to sit on them and jump a route.  Will this happen as much in the NFL?  I doubt it, but it is something to at least have on your radar.  He also seems to get frustrated when a corner gives him back the physical play, but the good news there is there are very few who will risk that because he is fast enough to blow by you if you miss.  Texas did a nice job of zoning him up and limiting the punishment and TCU also had a scheme that slowed him down.
Summary:  I would not say he is the best receiver in the draft, but he is absolutely the most jaw dropping and perhaps the one with the highest ceiling.  If one of this group turned into a superstar in 3 years, you would be wise to consider White for that job.  He is really special in terms of doing what football is all about - changing the game in one second with a move that leads to a wide open speedster running into the end zone.  He is very good, but you do wonder if he is as versatile at all aspects of his game as Parker or Cooper.  That said, he is also working from behind in terms of major college instruction and might continue to develop with physical gifts that are unfair.  You always want players who defy the Xs and Os by just doing something amazing and Kevin White can do a lot of that.  The question for teams making that decision is whether they believe he can be consistent at all of the little things to invest a Top 10 pick in him.  But, somebody is going to think that he is worth that, I assume.
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