Devin White, LB, Broncos
The Broncos are in an interesting spot here. They are fresh off of a year that had some cause for optimism, yet left much to be desired. The Silver Lining: they add some impressive pieces (starting with 1st round pick Bradley Chubb) to a defense that was ranked 1 st and 10th in overall defensive DVOA the past two years (respectively), and wind up improving their overall defensive DVOA to 5th in the NFL. They also found some promising offensive weapons in rookies Cortland Sutton and Phillip Lindsay. Then the Not So Bright: They pay Case Keenum $36 million over two years to bring them over the hump after leading the Vikings to an NFC Championship berth (thanks for the memories Case #SuperBowlChampions), and he rewards them with an 18/15 TD/INT ratio only toget traded to the LolSkins for a swap of 6th and 7th round picks. All of this is happening while the Chiefs and Chargers take the leap to serious Championship contenders for theforeseeable future and the Raiders … well at least they have three 1 st round draft picks.
So let’s use those facts and our logic to address the elephant in the room: it’s got to be a quarterback at 10 right?? Well, unfortunately for this mock there are no trades, meaning that the Broncos cannot trade up for the top options this year in Murray or Haskins (then again, neither are 6’7 so who knows if John Elway would even consider them). They are left with options consisting of Drew Lock, Daniel Jones, and Ryan Finley. I honestly can’t say any of those guys move the needle as a top 10 pick, even in a shallow positional draft class such as this. Do the Broncos eschew the fact that none of these QBs are worth the 10th overall pick and just go with it? Do they make the same mistakes under Elway and draft players just because they are at this position of weakness? (see: Paxton Lynch).
I don’t think so, especially since Elway can use the Joe Flacco trade as his “kick it another year down the road” cop-out and wait for what looks on the surface to be a QB class as deep as any in recent memory in 2020. What we cannot discount is that Elway’s new HC Vic Fangio is a defensive guru. Akin to McVay being a “QB Whisperer”, Vic Fangio is his equal as a “LB Whisperer”. The Broncos just lost Brandon Marshall and are left with Todd Davis and Josey Jewell (sorry, WHO?!?!) to quarterback their defense.Everywhere that Fangio has coached in his professional career there has been a stud LB calling the shots in the middle of his defense, with the likes of Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, Patrick Willis, Ray Lewis, Navarro Bowman, Sam Mills, and Rickey Jackson. With that being said, let’s sprint to the podium and select the player that self-models his game after Patrick Willis as your newest Bronco – DEVIN WHITE (LB, LSU).
College Career: 3 years at LSU, 2 year starter. 286 total tackles with 114 solo tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, 1 interception, 9 passes defended, 3fumble recoveries and 4 forced fumbles.
Freshman Season: SEC All-Freshman squad.
Sophomore Season: MVP award, First-Team All-SEC and Second-Team USA Today All-American.
Junior Season: First-Team All-SEC and Associated Press All-American, culminated his college career by winning the Butkus Award (Top Linebacker in the Country).
His talent speaks for itself. The man posted some video game stats with 256 total tackles (99 solo tackles), 25.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 1 interception, 9 passes defended, 2 fumble recoveries and 3 forced fumbles in the last 2 years alone. When watching the tape, it feels like he was in on just about every tackle for LSUover that time period. You would be hard pressed to find a linebacker with that kind of production in college, let alone in their only 2 seasons as a starter. It speaks not only to the quality of his play but his leadership that he was team captain for both of these years, his true sophomore and junior seasons; a high accomplishment considering the talent on the LSU defense year in and year out.
On top of his college production, White showed up at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis:
Height - 6’0
Weight - 237lbs
Wingspan - 32 1/8”
Hands - 9 3/4”
40 Yard Dash - 4.42
20 Yard Shuttle - 4.17
Bench Press - 22 Bench
Vertical - 39.5 Vert
Broad Jump - 9.83’
Ahh yes, the spider-graph. Catnip to BGN readers. It is a little skewed as his physical measurements may not jump off the page to you, but I believe that the conversation of “it is all about measurements in the NFL” is a little over-blown. Playmakers are going to get their shot. More specifically, a similar player that hails from his alma mater Deion Jones is not too far off from White’s (6’2,222lbs). I think it is safe to say Jones has over-exceeded the Falcons expectations early on in his career, and if White could replicate that production from the start of his own NFL career then it would be a slam-dunk pick. But looking at his sheer athleticism (4.42 40 with a 4.17 shuttle) and coupling thatwith his eye-popping college production, I think White has a chance to outshine his former teammate and bring the Broncos defense to even greater heights.Let’s get into the tape to find a little more out about the Broncos 2019 first rounder.
Devin White is as close to a complete linebacker as you are going to find in college. He is a physical freak with the football intelligence to match. White’s strengths fit best into the following categories: Processing, Pass Rush, Range and Coverage.
In today’s NFL, the most elite offenses have one thing in common: an effective balance of pass/run, with pressure on the quarterback alleviated by RPO. In the following clip,White shows his ability in zone to read and react to the quarterback faking the handoff to hit the short slant for a sizeable gain on first down.
That quick recovery step to reset his feet and make a pass deflection is something that White will have to do on a regular basis in an NFL scheme that often rotates between zone and man. In the following clip, White shows that same football intelligence in the run game:
While the rest of his team flows with the line, White stays home and watches the running back cut back to a large hole for what would have been a sizeable gain. He sets his feet, sees the RB cut, and takes the appropriate angle to finish with a great tackle for only a 2-yard gain. When he couples his athleticism with a high football intelligence and split-second reactions, he shows his true ability as a player that can take the air out of an offense on any drive.
Pass Rush/Attack the Line
White has the ability to be a difference maker in the pass rush as well. I should clarify, by pass rush I mean his ability to shoot the gap and attack the line. He is as effective against the running game as the passing game, where either situation would reward a player that can target their gap and shoot through it before a lineman is able to fill. In the following clip, White’s athleticism and timing are on display against a stout Auburn front:
While he does not make the tackle here, he is able to generate enough havoc that forces the running back to disrupt his momentum with a side-step and allow his fellow defenders to get into the backfield with Auburn’s heels on their own goal line. He shows this same kind of timing and burst in the passing game as well:
Devin White took this game over down the stretch. Delayed blitz with great acceleration, subtle rip w right arm and runs through target. pic.twitter.com/TQTLbP2PXA— Kyle Crabbs (@GrindingTheTape) May 17, 2018
Although he does not finish the sack, his ability to get through a gap untouched on a delayed blitz, giving the quarterback 2 seconds to find his receiver is eye popping each time you see this highlight (and yes, it happens regularly with White). His skill set in finding the right gap in the split-second before the ball is snapped is instinctual and that sets the difference between an effective linebacker and a defense-changing player.
White’s draft-day chops are most likely to start and end with his unbelievable ability to play the entire field. Not many defenders can truly consider themselves “sideline-to-sideline”, but White has proven that ability time and time again in college. In their game against Auburn, White flashed this skill multiple times, starting with this play with theTigers in their own end zone:
White is able to assess the change in direction of the play and make an outstanding show of pursuit from the middle of the field to run Auburn’s QB out of bounds, mitigating what could have been a first down.In the following clip (from the same game), Auburn decides to run an end-around that fools almost the entire LSU defense:
White initially converges on the line of scrimmage to get in on the would-be tackle of the running back, realizes his and his teammates mistake, and sprints helter-skelter to the boundary. He uses that same athleticism to break down on a dime, size the slot receiver up, and make a great open-field tackle that saves a potential home run play for Auburn. When it comes to his ability to play all over the field and make drive-stalling plays throughout the course of the game, White is the cream of the crop in this Draft.
White had responsibilities in coverage for both man and zone during his time at LSU and showed excellent ability at both, with the athletic fluidity and straight-line speed to handle the talent he’ll face at RB and TE in the NFL. The following clip shows White’s coverage in a zone front:
White is tasked to have a deep middle zone, almost like a Tampa 2 MLB with his heels on the first down marker keeping everything in front of him. The wide received breaks on a 5-yard dig with no one around him. White takes a reset step to flow straight to the ball, and regardless of the fact the receiver bobbles the catch White is right there for a tackle of no additional gain. Many linebackers find themselves lost in even zone coverage, focusing on the players rather than the assignment. White knows his drop back, surveys the offensive players around him, and puts himself in a situation to attack the pass as it is being thrown.
Devin White does a great job here in man coverage playing out of phase with the tight end. Plays through the receiver, doesn't get caught looking back at the ball. Big stop pic.twitter.com/cQOMC5sF77— Seth Galina (@SethGalina) March 5, 2018
Here he is lined up on a shifting TE, something he will be tasked with regularly next year. He plays the route, a short-out, and once the TE breaks towards the sideline he uses his impeccable closing speed to narrow the distance as the ball is coming in. He doesn’t look for the ball, knowing that the angle of the pass/route combo will mean he could miss the tackle for a big gain. He wraps the TE up immediately and drops him behind the first down marker for the stop. These kinds of routes are going to be commonplace for his assignments next year, and if White is able to man-up to make plays on the sidelines then he will be able to expedite his transition to Sunday football. White graded out as the 4th overall coverage linebacker in college football last season (91.5 overall grade) for good reason, which leads me to believe he can continue to improve with an NFL coaching staff.
As with any 21 year-old fresh out of college, White has some areas that need proper polishing and refinement if he is to be a star at the next level, which he will get in spades from an NFL coaching staff. His few weaknesses include his Block Shedding and Contact Balance.
The thing about White’s ability to shed blocks while getting into traffic is simple: he shows flashes of being able to handle linemen but needs to improve his technique. He works to undercut blocks or swim over the top, but he can choose the wrong move to get through and be swallowed up by a pulling lineman in the process. Bursting through an open gap, he does show impressively stout ability in dropping his hips and exploding through the contact to set the ground against forward-momentum. At the same time, for him to be able to reset ground and still get the tackle at the next level, especially behind the line of scrimmage, he will have to improve his aggressiveness with his hands to stack and shed. Going up against NFL-caliber linemen week-to-week in the SEC has given him a taste of what it will be like on Sundays, and there is a lot of potential that he can round this part of his game out.
When watching White’s tape, the first thing that stands out is just how fast he is. He is an aggressive pursuer of the football and has an urgency to his run defense. This can work against him, however, when he is attempting to go for the KO-hit and forgets to fully wrap up. That is not to say that in his pursuit across the field he is unable to wrap up, but at times his willingness to lay the wood on a running back without a good form tackle can allow a shiftier back to cut back on him. He tends to forget to square up before the point of contact when running downhill, which leads to a lack of consistency throughout a game. He is the classic violent finisher as a linebacker, which can lead to high contact like his game against Texas A&M below:
Although this was a controversial call and received a lot of press, it still shows his inconsistency to be technique-oriented when flying downfield. He will need to work on the ability to become more consistent in wrapping up and coming to balance against a higher class of ball-carriers, but with his athleticism and willingness to get his hands dirty Vic Fangio should be able to turn him into his new stud defensive QB.
Effective linebackers are the key component of the Fangio system, and elite athletes at the position make everything easier. Based off of the list of studs that Fangio has coached in his professional career, you can see the effectiveness of the entire defense when he can play through that star linebacker. Fangio uses linebackers as Swiss Army knives, which is why this position is so critical: they will blitz, cover running backs and tight-ends in man,and have zone priorities sideline-to-sideline, but they need to be able to shred anything that makes it to them. Having this caliber of player in the middle of Fangio’s defense is required to be able to keep up with high-profile offenses like the Chiefs and the Chargers.
On First Take and NFL Live this past Tuesday, White was told that he speaks like a quarterback, and watching his interviews it is apparent he is an extremely cerebral individual. His response to being posed the question of how it feels when he is drafted by a “bad team” and what that means to him, is that he believes that he can be a spark plug coming in to help revitalize a defense and compete to be the QB of a defense for a long time. He takes nothing for granted and his roots in a small-town background provide for a poise beyond his years.His humbleness is infectious: he attributes everything to his mom’s tough love and the commitment he has received from his coaches at every level for hissuccess. He stays off of social media and is not distracted by the media or outside noise. His hobbies include raising and riding horses. In an NFL increasingly plagued by diva personalities that make themselves bigger than the team, this is the kind of franchise-altering player you spend a Top 10 pick on to build your defense around. The maturity he shows off the field, his lunch-pail mentality and his dedication to earning his place in the NFL lead me to believe that he can be the face of a defense for the next 10-13 years.
And if you have read this entire write-up (thank you, by the way) and still doubt this being the right pick, do take a minute to see his full highlight tape from last season. It will leave you wishing the Eagles had a chance to plug him in the middle of Jim Schwartz’s scheme.
Do you approve of this pick?
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2019 BGN Mock Draft Order
1) Cardinals (Philliesandthebees): Kyler Murray
2) 49ers (SakPrescott): Nick Bosa
3) Jets (thealien2696): Quinnen Williams
4) Raiders (SisyphusNoMore): Josh Allen
5) Buccaneers (EAGLESBSU): Montez Sweat
6) Giants (ablesser88): Dwayne Haskins
7) Jaguars (20Safety_Hazards): Jawaan Taylor
8) Lions (89Tremaine): Ed Oliver
9) Bills (drc242): Jonah Williams
10) Broncos (ItownBallers22): Devin White
11) Bengals (Phoenix X Maximus):
12) Packers (Palaniappan K M)
13) Bengals (wildcatlh):
14) Falcons (Happy24):
15) Washington (roberticus0):
16) Panthers (Triumph McCloud):
17) Giants (KevinDont):
19) Titans (Big Schmoopie):
20) Steelers (J. Wil):
21) Seahawks (NickfoleonDynamite):
22) Ravens (GMinTraining):
23) Texans (EaglesRock94)
24) Raiders (SummersInVA):
25) Eagles (I Need a Username):
26) Colts (Nolo0oo):
27) Raiders (SLC Eagle):
28) Chargers (LBCeaglesFan!):
29) Chiefs (Boxer Madness):
30) Packers (Kephas):
31) Rams (Matthieuck):
32) Patriots (Zett_66):
Now it’s time for you to vote for who YOU think the Broncos should pick in the 2019 BGN Community Consensus Mock Draft.
Who should the Denver Broncos draft at No. 10 overall?
This poll is closed
2019 BGN Community Consensus Mock Draft
1) Cardinals: Kyler Murray
2) 49ers: Nick Bosa
3) Jets: Quinnen Williams
4) Raiders: Josh Allen
5) Buccaneers: Montez Sweat
6) Giants: Dwayne Haskins
7) Jaguars: Jawaan Taylor
8) Lions: Ed Oliver
9) Bills: Jonah Williams