2019 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Devin White
By Charlie Campbell
Summary: In 2017, White went from being a backup to one of the best linebackers in the nation. He had only 30 tackles with one sack and forced fumble in 2016, but he exploded onto the scene as a sophomore. His 2017 production exploded, as White was all over the field for the Tigers. He totaled 133 tackles with 14 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, three passes broken up and one interception. White didn't get the attention of other SEC linebackers like Roquan Smith and Rashaan Evans, first-round picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, but team sources say that White was as good if not better than either of them in 2017. That is a bold statement considering Smith was a top-10 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
White then totaled 123 tackles with 12 for a loss, six passes broken up, three sacks and three forced fumbles in 2018. He played well, but teams schemed for him more and tried to limit him with extra blocking attention and trying to move plays away from him. Still, White played really well for LSU.
As a linebacker, White is the complete package. He has excellent instincts and is very fast to read his keys to get in position to make plays. For a big and thick linebacker, White has shocking speed to get to the perimeter, and he eats up space in a hurry. That speed was given numerical proof at the combine when White ran a phenomenal 40 time of 4.42 seconds, a tremendous time for a big middle linebacker.
In the ground game, White is a very good tackler who wraps up ball-carriers and puts them into the turf with force. He has the size and mentality to take on blocks, hold his ground, shed the block, and get in on tackles. White is a superb run defender and projects to be a force to shut down and limit the offense's ground game.
In pass coverage, White is a skilled defender. He is very fast as a blitzer with excellent diagnosis skills. White reads plays quickly and covers a lot of ground in zone. He has the speed to run down the middle seam. On dump-off passes to the flat, White explodes into the ball-carrier and is very good at making tackles in space. His size and athleticism allow him to have the potential to play some man coverage on tight ends and backs out of the backfield.
White is worthy of being a top-10 pick in any draft class because he could be a difference-maker as a three-down starter in the NFL. He is a good fit in for either a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense. He should be a plug-and-play starter assuming he learns the playbook well enough as a rookie could be a Pro Bowler early in his rookie contract.
Player Comparison: Jonathan Vilma. White reminds me of Vilma when he was in his prime years for the Jets and Saints. Vilma was an excellent run defender and tackler while also being a thick linebacker who made plays in pass defense. Vilma (6-1, 230) and White are almost identical in size. Vilma went as a top-20 pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, and White could go in the same range in the 2019 NFL Draft.
NFL Matches: Oakland, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Denver, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Carolina, Pittsburgh
Oakland is the highest that White could hope to go as the team needs linebacker help. However, the Raiders signed veteran linebacker Vontaze Burfict and are more likely to look for a pass-rusher.
Jon Gruden's former team in Tampa Bay could also be a fit for White, as the Bucs lost Kwon Alexander in free agency. However, they signed Deone Bucannon to replace him and have Lavonte David returning, so they could look to address another position.
Detroit had bad linebacker play in 2018 and could target White in the first round. The Lions did draft Jarrad Davis in the first round two years ago, so that would be a lot of capital to have invested in non-pass-rushing linebackers.
The Broncos - 10th overall - and Bengals - 11th overall - are the prime landing spots for White, with those two teams probably being the favorites for his NFL home. Denver has missed great play from its inside linebackers since Danny Trevathan left for Chicago. This offseason, veteran Brandon Marshall was let go as well. The Broncos would have a hard time passing on White, who would be a great fit in their front seven with Bradley Chubb and Von Miller. The Bengals need linebacker help as well. The position was a real weakness for them in 2018, plus Vontaze Burfict was let go. White would make a lot of sense to Cincinnati in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Green Bay could consider adding an inside linebacker after losing Jake Ryan in free agency.
Even though the Panthers have one of the best linebackers in the NFL with Luke Kuechly, Carolina could consider White as a replacement for Thomas Davis with Shaq Thompson entering free agency after this coming season.
Pittsburgh also has to improve its inside linebackers, but the Steelers would have to trade up for White.
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