Jordan Whitehead is an all-around athlete who was the top recruit in Pennsylvania coming out of high school. He played offense and defense for the Pitt Panthers. As a freshman, he stepped in as a safety and led the team in tackles, with 110. With 122 rushing yards added he was named a freshman All-American. However, he never really ascended that season. His sophomore season did not live up to expectations and ended with a broken arm. His junior year started with a suspension but did end with an honorable All-ACC nod. Does the athletes game translate to the NFL and the should the Pittsburgh Steelers take a chance on the local product, Jordan Whitehead?
School: Pitt Panthers
Whitehead is versatile. This is not just limited to playing offense and defense. He was versatile on offense and defense, starting a game as a receiver, and recording over 100 rushing yards in two seasons, with three touchdowns.
Whitehead was also versatile on defense and played in a variety of roles and positions. He played in multiple roles as a deep safety, played in the slot, in the box, and at times lined up outside.
The quick footwork of a player who can take snaps at running back along with the speed and understanding of a variety of roles has him projecting to be a rangy free safety in the NFL.
While he may be a bit undersized, even compared to the smaller safeties in the NFL, he brings the physicality to the field that may help him translate. This helps him against the run, and in defending passes. Hits like the one below are scattered throughout his tape as he runs around the field like a heat-seeking missile. Whitehead is an up-tempo player who always seems to find himself near the ball.
The biggest question with Whitehead moving to the NFL at free safety is going to be his size and his ball skills. He is undersized for the safety position, and that is going to affect him against bigger and stronger receivers down the field. He can get bodied to the inside and in the red zone, and like the play below, even when he is in the right place making a play on the ball, his size could render him useless.
On top of that comes questionable ball skills. Despite 30 starts at Pitt, he has just three interceptions. This may come down to his size as well, but also the issue of processing the speed of the game and reacting. Whether it be sacks, interceptions or big tackles, he always seems to be just an inch away.
His reactionary ability and ball skills will need to take a step up. Notice this third and nine play below. He is taking the deep half of the field. He is in the right place, that is almost never the issue with Whitehead. However, watch his reaction to the pass. He is completely out of position when it comes to the space between the ball and the receiver. His cornerback does not help, but as the help, he took himself out of the play.
Again, Whitehead makes a heads up play, leaving his man in zone by reading the quarterback. However, again, he overshoots his man and ends up knocking his teammate out of the play, as he resorts to chasing down his receiver who soaks up yards after the catch.
Angles in terms of finding the ball as well as the ball carrier may need to be improved. His tackling form is not the best and a lot of his best tackles come from launching with his shoulders. This could hurt due to his size. On top of that, when he does try to tackle, he is usually trying to swipe at ankles. He is so willing to tackle that you cannot assume it is fear of contact, but more poor angles. This kinks will need to be worked out to trust him as the man at the back end of your defense.
Kurt Coleman New Orleans Saints
Kurt Coleman is an undersized safety who had to wear a variety of hats to get onto the field. He lacks ball skills, but has the communication skills, the speed and the understanding to be in good positioning, and that kept him an NFL job for years.
In the right scheme, and with the right supporting cast, he can be a helper in the back end. However, he is not going to be the game breaker or game changer at safety.
Fit For Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers have been reported to want to move on from Mike Mitchell. Mike Tomlin shared a practice facility with Jordan Whitehead and already drafted James Conner last season. Is Whitehead the next local product to come to Pittsburgh.
It is in play, but the question comes down to the round. In the second round, the team should be looking for someone to get on the field quickly. He could compete with Cameron Sutton for a dime role, but the team would not be trusting on Whitehead to replace Mitchell next season.
However, in the third or fourth round, he could start to become an option. His speed and physicality are going to play on special teams, and the upside in his athleticism in the back end is there. If he can refine his game, there is starting quality to his play. The injury questions and off-field will have to be answered, but Whitehead could be a player on the Steelers draft board.