The ILB crop this year is one that is not too impressive. You have two guys with legitimate star upside in the first round in Mack Wilson and Devin White. The debate of which guy is better is honestly a tough one to pin down. I am in the Mack Wilson crowd, and I do not have Devin White on the level of guys from last year, but he has some fantastic tools. If he pans out, this guy will be a legitimate star.
Weight: 240 lbs
Expected 40: 4.51
Courtesy of SportsReference.com, The Draft Network
Devin White will be the Ryan Shazier of this class if there is anyone. This guy has some of the most impressive athleticism for an ILB that I have seen in a long time. You thought Leighton Vander Esch moved well? Devin White is a missile compared to him, check this out.
Holy moly Devin White. Talk about sideline-to-sideline speed. pic.twitter.com/Uu0wbBJP6o— Fed Scivittaro (@MeshPointScout) October 6, 2018
Whew. That is speed and he catches a guy in Jordan Scarlett who himself is a straight burner. If Devin White has anything short of 4.5 speed I will be shocked. He is not a 4.3 guy like Ryan Shazier was, but I could see White realistically running in the high 4.4s. which would make the Steelers’ eyes pop I am sure. The way he sifts through this traffic to take an aggressive angle and then wrap up here is just how guys like him should use their athleticism. He knows how to maximize his range and does it well.
Devin White is such a tough evaluation because he doesn’t trust his keys. He ALWAYS plays the run on PA and leaves open spaces across the middle because of it. He’s got to watch the blocking and other indicators for this stuff. He’s a great run defender but raw above the neck. pic.twitter.com/ztcI8UbW0P— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) December 19, 2018
The biggest weakness of White is his inconsistency in trusting his keys. As a LB, you should look for indicators of a play, those all include either the guard to your side or potential receiver alignment. Reading off the guard is important, though, and here White fails to do so. Instead, he gets baited down the line with the play action and opens up a window for the quick slant over the middle. As an athletic LB that is good in coverage, like White is, not trusting your keys is not an ideal thing I would like to see.
White sometimes does have trouble shedding blocks in the second level, but since bulking up in the offseason, he has done it much better and has been more aggressive than ever. His downhill speed and run defense have gotten loads better because of his ability to truly filter down on through all of the traffic. That speed and range combined with those skills make him one heck of a prospect in the middle of a defense. He is a gamechanger out there in run defense due to that range.
I’m not overly concerned when linebackers aren’t great at stacking and shedding OL blocks (its usually more of a processing issue), but Devin White #40 is out here getting clamped up by WRs man pic.twitter.com/WeM4L9ax3S— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) July 20, 2018
Of course, here is the downside of him as a player as well. He doesn’t sift well through this at all, but it was in 2017, and he has shown great improvement there, so it is key to note that White is on an upward trend, even if progression isn’t linear.
This section was headlined already, but it mostly that he just needs to process the field better. He plays the run far too much and leaves the middle of the field open in coverage, otherwise he is a fine coverage LB and makes a huge impact there. He takes the most aggressive angles possible to the ball and gets clipped because of it. Like Shazier, he can make runs absolutely huge by doing so. White is also a shaky tackler, and while he has gone away from leading with his head much more lately, he now nips as ankles far too much. He has to find a mid-ground there.
Fit with the Steelers
In a defense that needs a MACK ILB and someone to help L.J. Fort out, Devin White fits into the 3-4 scheme of the Steelers well. With his processing issues, Fort certainly would take off some pressure and the relief of having a guy like Vince Williams there for running situations is also a key in his run defense. The Steelers can build around White and truly create a lethal player, and all it will about is if he develops well enough or not.
Does White fall to the Steelers? I could see it happening due to how raw he is above the neck, and if they have their eye set on an ILB, they may trade up for him. I like White as a player, but his processing is worrying. He will need curb that weakness back and he could make a huge impact for a team in this league. He might not be as a polished, but his ceiling is perhaps the best ILB in the NFL. His floor is a being a marginal starter like Jarrad Davis. If he comes to Pittsburgh, let’s hope it is the former.