The New York Giants have not drafted a linebacker in the first round for longer than many Giants fans have been alive. The last time the Giants selected a linebacker in the first round was Carl Banks in 1984, a full thirty-five years ago.
A year ago they traded with the Los Angeles Rams for former first round linebacker Alec Ogletree, paying just a fourth round pick but taking on a massive contract in the process. And unfortunately, Ogletree has not been the solution for the Giants’ linebacking woes that many Giants fans hoped he would be.
But sitting at the top of the draft, the Giants might have the opportunity to draft a productive linebacker with an elite athletic profile in Devin White out of LSU. White has risen up draft boards throughout the draft process, capped by a fantastic workout at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine. But White is not without his faults, but would they be enough to scare the Giants away at sixth overall?
- Extremely athletic. Legitimate sideline-to-sideline ability.
- Has the ability to run with most receiving options.
- Thick, powerful build.
- Very active linebacker. Always in motion and in pursuit.
- Active communicator before the snap.
- Shows off explosiveness coming downhill.
- Flashes the ability to use his athleticism to beat blockers.
- Played a variety of linebacker positions and covered slot receivers.
- Too easily fooled by deception and misdirection.
- Too much wasted motion after the snap.
- Processing speed is a question.
- Too often takes bad angles as a tackler.
- Lacks a plan as a pass rusher.
- Gets hung up on blockers too often.
Note: It bears mentioning that White was arrested twice at age 17, before enrolling at LSU. The first was for having consensual sex with a 14-year old, resulting in a misdemeanor charge. The second was for “careless operation of a motor vehicle and flight from an officer.”
Numbers Of Note
Statistics from Dan Pizzuta
- White had 20.5 run stuffs per Football Study Hall, the third most among this off-ball linebacker class behind West Virginia’s David Long (30) and Utah’s Chase Hansen (27.5).
- White’s three forced fumbles rank second in this class behind Washington’s Ben Burr-Kirven (4).
- Per Sports Info Solutions, White allowed 69.9 percent of his 23 targets to be completed for 7.3 yards per target. The yards per target mark is the fourth-worst among the top-25 linebackers.
- However, his six passes defensed was tied for the most among this obLB class
- White blitzed on 22.7 percent of his pass snaps, per SIS, and had a pressure rate of 24.8 percent, both marks were among the position leaders.
What They’re Saying
“White has all the physical attributes to be a dynamic playmaker at the next level. His burst, play strength, size and aggressive mentality are exciting traits but he does need more work on the mental side of the game to make an impact. While strides were made when comparing his 2017 film to 2018, there are still too many processing errors that take him out of plays. In addition, White is inconsistent sifting through traffic and with his technique for taking on blocks. If he can become a better processor with better spatial awareness, White can be an every down star in the NFL.”
- Joe Marino (The Draft Network - Scouting Report)
Does He Fit The Giants?
First, let’s address the legal and character questions: NFL teams will be doing their due diligence in digging in to every prospect’s background and character. If White’s history is the result of bad decisions and not maliciousness, and he has matured past them as a young man, then they aren’t likely to be red flags for NFL teams. However, if there have been other minor incidents or warning signs that we don’t know about, the NFL will have to take that into consideration and every team decide how comfortable they are with the potential risk.
As I sit here, I don’t know, and I am not passing judgement. I would hope that he was just an idiot -- as 17 year olds tend to be. The only fair thing I can do is evaluate White based on the tape he has produced.
Athletically speaking, White should fit in any defensive scheme in the NFL, and if he doesn’t, that scheme should probably be revised. That being said, he might not be a seamless fit in the Giants’ defense as it stands now -- primarily because of the presence of Alec Ogletree.
White’s best fit in the Giants’ defense would be as the weak-inside linebacker, where he can use his athleticism in pursuit, in space as a coverage player on running backs and tight ends, or as a blitzer. However, that is the position played by Ogletree, who is not only the defensive signal caller but also very highly paid.
There is also the question of what kind of player you are getting in White. At first blush, he looks like a defensive coordinator put him together using a create-a-player, after entering a cheat code. Perhaps an inch or two below “desired” height, but by no means undersized, with explosive power, loose hips, and speed to burn, White has every physical tool you could ask for.
However, his mental game does not appear to be nearly as developed as his physical abilities. Far too often White is baited by the offense and taken out of the play or simply frozen while he sorts out where the ball is going. Compounding the issue is a habit of taking poor angles to the football, often running to where an offensive player is rather than putting himself where they will be.
White does flash the ability to use his athleticism to slip past blockers as a pass rusher, using his arms and loose hips to get past them in a blink. More often White comes downhill like he was fired out of a cannon when his number is called for a blitz. But like a cannonball, his only option when he hits an obstacle is to go through it. Similarly, too often he fails to truly stack and shed blockers, instead trying to rely on his explosive power and athleticism to bull them over, and he can wind up hung up on blockers as the ball carrier runs past.
And this is the question with White. While his athletic profile and flashes suggest an elite prospect and perennial All-Pro, his mental game is not there yet. The team that drafts him must be sure they can teach him proper technique taking on blockers and squaring to tackle, as well as coach up the mental aspect of his game. Luke Kuechley is still the gold standard for inside linebacker play in the NFL, and while he is an elite athlete, it is his sky-high football IQ and instincts that border on prescience that make him great. White DID show growth in that area over the last two years, and that might be enough to give confidence that he will get there. But if he doesn’t, he could be a player that always leaves his team wanting more.