Would LSU linebacker Devin White fit with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2019 NFL Draft?
Devin White was a four-star recruit at running back before committing to LSU to play linebacker. After seeing the field rotationally as a freshman, White hit the ground running as a sophomore 133 tackles, 13.5 coming for loss. White improved in 2018 and was named a Butkus Award winner and consensus All-American. The last five Butkus Award winners include Roquan Smith, Reuben Foster, Jaylon Smith, Eric Kendricks, and C.J. Mosley.
Speed. Devin White plays sideline to sideline and will cut off any lineman or ball carrier at the point of attack. White does a great job of managing his speed with flexibility to duck under blockers to shoot into the backfield while setting the edge, and attacking the quarterback while blitzing.
Devin White is an assassin as a blitzer and is tough to slow down when he gets moving downhill. What is so impressive about his speed is that it is combined with great size at the position. White is expected to come into the combine over 240 pounds. Ryan Shazier was 237 and Roquan Smith 236. While he is not going to run as fast, he plays at a similar weight adjusted speed.
The added physical presence shows as he sets the tone with his tackling. White has the speed to follow pass catchers down the field and over the middle and has shown passable in his change of direction abilities.
The biggest thing that sets him apart from a bonafide top ten pick such as Roquan Smith is processing quickness. White trusts his ability to build up speed quickly to overcome being a step behind to pick up.
This can affect him in a couple of ways. He can get caught at the second level. White has the ability to shed blocks, but can be caught off balance which can take him out of plays. It also causes him to over pursue at times as a form of over compensation.
This can also affect White in coverage as he has been shown to be manipulated by the quarterbacks eyes in zone coverage.
At times it is an issue of White not trusting himself. Sometimes he is trusting himself too much.
A variety of names come to mind when thinking of a player such as Devin White. The lineage of LSU combined with the speed and physicality combination will bring comparisons of Deion Jones. However, White will likely weight in about 15 pounds heavier. Steelers fans will hope to find a replacement to their Ryan Shazier, the combination making plays in the backfield with giving up plays due to over pursuing can come to mind in this regard as well. Still, while White is fast he will not quite run like Shazier did. He blitzes and gets to top speed about as fast as Roquan Smith, but the differences in processing were noted.
Jarrad Davis of the Detroit Lions is another player who brings a similar skill set to the table. Davis plays with great sideline to sideline speed and is a strong downhill pursuer. However, he does have lapses mentally. Davis was the 21st pick for the Detroit Lions, has 30 starts in two seasons and put up 100 tackles and 10 tackles for loss last season.
Fit for Steelers
The question is not necessarily whether he fits the Steelers as much as will he be there for them at the 20th pick? The Steelers tried to trade up last year with eyes on Leighton Vander Esch and Rashaan Evans. Devin White would be right in the conversation with those two, and the Steelers failed to do anything longterm about their current hole at linebacker.
White has the speed and SEC pedigree, and by all accounts is going to put on a show at the combine. His overall profile is not can’t miss like Roquan Smith last season, but he will be the first linebacker taken.
If he were to fall to the 20th pick he would be an excellent option in Pittsburgh who could get on the field as a starter in his first season.