The Denver Broncos will enter the 2019 NFL Draft with most of their major needs shored up, which provides them with a ton of flexibility and opportunity. The franchise could go a handful of ways in the first round, but finding a top-tier inside linebacker to be a stalwart in Vic Fangio’s defense will be a priority. But who is available in this year’s draft that can be that type of player?
Enter Louisiana State product Devin White — a blue-chip prospect who is a tremendous scheme fit and my top-rated inside linebacker in this year’s class.
After seeing limited action as a true freshman in 2016, White quickly transformed into one of the most productive players in collegiate football. For the past two seasons, he has been the heart and soul of the Tigers’ defense and was voted team MVP and captain both years. His high-profile play in 2018 earned him the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s top linebacker, and boasts back-to-back first team All-American accolades on his resume. Let’s take a deeper look at White, what makes him so special, and his overall fit for the Broncos.
Devin White — Inside Linebacker — LSU
Height: 6’0” Weight: 230 lbs.
Bench Press: 22 reps | Arm Length: 32 1/8” | Hands: 9 3/4”
40 Yard Dash: 4.42 | 3 Cone Drill: 7.07 | 20 Yard Shuttle: 4.17
Among draft eligible linebackers in the SEC, Devin White stood head and shoulders above them all this season. pic.twitter.com/LiJFzHsZs4— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 24, 2019
Film Room and Highlights
Hart’s Scouting Report
Positives: True three-down linebacker with top-tier athleticism and sideline-to-sideline range. Versatile prospect who played every linebacker position for the Tigers and stayed on the field in sub-packages and nickel formations. All-Pro potential with the ability to be a difference maker against the run, in coverage, and blitzing the quarterback. Possesses untapped potential that can be maximized with quality coaching. Durable player with no significant injury history of note. Hard-hitter with a penchant for bone-jarring hits and forcing turnovers. Touts impeccable production in the nation’s toughest conference — combing for 255 tackles (26 for loss), 7.5 sacks, 1 interception, 9 passes defended, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries the past two seasons. Well-regarded by his coaches and teammates, with high praise given for his dedication to the game and being a film room junkie.
Negatives: Style of play tends to be reckless at times. Often gets caught freelancing too much as opposed to sticking to assignments. Diagnosis skills and instincts are just average, though his athleticism makes up for initial lapse in play recognition. Tackling technique could be improved upon. Occasionally struggles shedding blocks from lineman who engage him on the second level.
Overall: Top 15 prospect. White’s supreme athleticism and production are virtually unmatched in this year’s class, but there are certainly flaws to his game. The good thing is most of those flaws are correctable. He has almost everything you can’t teach and that’s extremely important. Without question, White projects as an immediate starter who has the potential to become one of the the league’s best at the position.
Grade-wise, I have him ranked slightly behind Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds, but on par with Leighton Vander Esch. All of whom were first-round picks and extraordinarily productive starters as rookies. This year’s crop of talent at inside linebacker pales in comparison to last year’s (especially when you factor in Darius Leonard’s marvelous campaign), so White will likely go a bit higher than his overall grade in comparison to other talent available.
Does Devin White make sense for the Broncos?
Absolutely. White is a perfect fit for Head Coach Vic Fangio’s defense and would fill a major long-term need for the franchise. His addition to the Broncos’ linebacker corps would help transform the defense into one of the league’s most ferocious units. However, with several teams needing an impact linebacker ahead of Denver (in particular the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) the odds of him being available at the tenth selection appear to be tenuous at best. If he was available, I believe it would be hard for the Broncos to pass him up.