Leaders usually cannot be imported and rarely can they be created. They must be born with the gene, and must be allowed to grow and blossom when they get to a team in need of guidance.
The team shrewd enough to take Devin White high in the NFL draft will be adding more than an inside linebacker to their roster and locker room. They will be adding a player others can follow.
This is how White, perhaps the most athletic player available, envisions his emergence into a league where teams used to be known for the player they employed at middle linebacker. The man in the middle. It is where White, a junior out of LSU, belongs.
“It fits pretty well,’’ White said at the scouting combine. “You can’t be a guy that shies away from leadership. You can’t be a guy that doesn’t study and knows what he is doing on the field. You’re the quarterback of that defense, You have to be a playmaker and an absolute stud. I am not shy. I have to be able to go into the league, win guys over and start leading those guys.’’
The analytics tethered to today’s game might indicate a top-10 pick in the draft should not be invested in an inside linebacker, with such a premium attached to edge rushers. Indeed, you cannot win if you cannot get to the opposing quarterback. In order for an inside linebacker to truly be a difference-maker, he has to be, well, different.
White appears to be that sort of player, which is why in many mock drafts he is linked to the Buccaneers with the No. 5-overall pick. If he makes it past the Bucs, White certainly will be on the Giants’ radar at No. 6, though they have not taken a linebacker in the first round since Carl Banks in 1984.
The numbers are there, and they are impressive. In his past two seasons at LSU, White totaled 256 tackles — 25.5 tackles for loss — and 7.5 sacks. This past season, White won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker, and he put on a show at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, making like a race-car driver at the Indy 500 by running the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds, the fastest among all players at his position.
“He’s going to be a Rookie of the Year candidate who’s going to record a ridiculous number of tackles and explosive plays,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said.
White expects to hear his name early on the night of April 25 and firmly believes he is deserving of going at the top of the draft.
“It’s very important for me to be the top inside linebacker in this draft,’’ White said. “I feel like I put the work in, I showed it throughout my career, I progressed every year, I did everything right on and off the field as far as being a great guy, having that attitude, going to work every day and leading my team. That was the biggest thing. I was the leader of my team. I was named the team captain two years in a row, as a sophomore and a junior. I am just doing everything right.’’
If you spend a few minutes around White, be prepared to be impressed. He grew up in the small town of Springhill, La., and developed an affinity for horses, riding since the age of 5. He said he “begged my mom for a horse,’’ but that request was denied. Refusing to give up, White said he coaxed his grandfather into giving him $500 to purchase a horse he named Ricky Bobby.
Now, White owns seven horses, including Ricky Bobby. During interviews with NFL teams, White said his horses usually come up in conversation.
It comes as no surprise White is in control when he on one of his horses.
“I do the riding,’’ he said. “I don’t let the horse ride me.’’
Soon enough, White will be catching and riding down NFL running backs — he is a bona fide sideline-to-sideline ball pursuer — and his speed will be a huge advantage dropping into coverage, a line of demarcation between the solid inside linebackers and the special ones.
“When you have linebackers that can’t cover … it’s a liability,” Jeremiah said. “You will get picked on repeatedly. It’s tough to hide out there when you have a linebacker that can’t cover. So to me, you start right there. He’s going to be able to run and cover and help match up against some of the better tight ends and even some of these backs, how they’re used in the passing game. That’s a huge asset.”
White says his all-time favorite linebackers are Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis, and studies the way Luke Kuechly of the Panthers uses his hands and how he diagnoses plays then snuffs them out. If White is a facsimile of those premier players, he will be worth the high draft pick anyone is willing to invest in him.
Published at Sat, 13 Apr 2019 18:43:16 +0000