This is going to be my second breakdown of a wide receiver for this draft, and in this case it's going to be Kevin White out of West Virginia. For these purposes, of course I went over to Draft Breakdown to watch White play against Alabama, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas and Texas A&M. Those represented the first, fourth, eighth, 11th and 14th games of West Virginia's season, respectively.
OK, sooooooo, if you are reading this breakdown, then there's a high likelihood that you've already read my previous breakdown of Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper, which was written before the NFL combine. The funny thing about that column is that I was very complimentary of Cooper's skills and polish. The only knock I had on him was that he was probably a 4.5-plus guy in the 40 and average athleticism for a wide receiver. I wished Cooper good luck in proving me wrong and running a sub-4.5 and jumping out of the gym, but I still had several folks tweet at me demanding I print a correction after Cooper ran an official 4.42 at the combine:
Yet, not a single soul tweeted at me to admit I was spot on about his athleticism after he notched a pretty damned pedestrian 33.5-inch vertical leap (mine was higher as a 275-pound defensive end at the time, and no I never used PEDs, asshole) and a measly 10 feet on the broad jump (I kinda think I bested that too, but I won't claim it because I'm not 100-percent sure).
I didn't block a single one of you assholes who tweeted me about the 4.42, though I had half a mind to. Y'all forgot my @ that quick once Cooper went to do the on-field drills?
Anyway, my point is Cooper really did help himself with the 4.42, even if that was about the only drill where he did so. He couldn't have helped himself much with the actual wide receiver drills because as I said in his breakdown, we already know that he is excellent at all that shit. He needed to exceed expectations with his natural ability to try and get back to the top of the wide receiver heap, and he did just that with his 40 time.
But, here's the thing ...
When I proposed Cooper getting back to the top of list with a strong workout, I forgot one of the life lessons I learned as an NFL player myself. It goes like this: Sometimes it doesn't matter how much better you get if your competition still gets better than you. You have no control over that.
I learned that the hard way when I lost my starting spot one calendar year after earning it in my fourth season in the NFL. It wasn't that I did anything wrong, the guy behind me just went fucking berserk in the preseason. He was a former first-round pick who was every bit of 6'5 and 285 pounds, with no body fat who literally pushed his fucking Expedition around his neighborhood to train. The light bulb had finally come on for him about halfway through the prior season, and nothing short of me kneecapping him was going to stop him from overtaking me.
Shit happens. #shrugs.
I tell that story because that's kinda what happened with Kevin White at the combine. Yeah, folks were buzzing about Cooper's 4.42, (because, get this, I wasn't the only person with concerns about his straight-line speed) but once the smoke cleared a hell of a lot more folks were falling in love with White's 4.35-second 40 time, along with his 36.5-inch vertical, all while measuring in as being 2 inches taller than Cooper at 6'3:
Again, shit happens #shrugs.
I mean this shit couldn't have been scripted any more perfectly. White is definitely that prospect who is more athlete than receiver at this point. He wasn't asked to run many routes. Roughly nine times out of 10 in the five games I watched, he was lined up on the right side of the formation. His tape is the very definition of "raw," yet I'm damn near positive he is the guy (maybe only one of several) that talent evaluators will covet over the much-more-polished-but-less-athletic Cooper. Don't be mad at me for telling the truth. Dammit, I'm just the messenger. Trust me, I definitely don't think it's fair, but fair ain't got much to do with the draft, does it?:
Before I go overboard, let me be clear on this, I am definitely a fan of White. Although he doesn't have Cooper's polish and route-running ability, that kid is a big play waiting to happen:
White is also very skilled at getting off the jam at the line of scrimmage. He's a threat to take any pass the distance from anywhere on the field with his speed, as well as his size and strength. Cooper just can't say that. Hell, damn near nobody else can say that at the wide receiver position this year:
That's why White jumped to the top of my list.
The early part of the first round is reserved for game-changers, and White might as well have that description tattooed on his forehead. You take a chance on the less polished guy because you know he can put numbers on the board. That's just the way it is:
I'm reminded of the words of that great philosopher Ric Flair when thinking about how unfair it is that a guy like White is actually rewarded for not being quite as good at his job as a guy like Cooper because he's got higher upside:
"Whether you like it or don't like it, sit back and watch it because (the NFL) is the best ... going ... today ... WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"
The NFL doesn't keep doing this because it hasn't worked. Sure, there have been some busts picked mostly on their potential, but the best teams year in and year out tend to bring out the best in guys who have more potential than polish.
I did have a few concerns worth mentioning after watching White play.
First off, what was up with the game against Texas? It's the first of four games I watched of his where he gets shut out of the end zone. I did come away with a ton of admiration for Longhorn cornerback Quandre Diggs because he was in White's grill for the entire game. Ultimately, it seemed to me that White's quarterback, Clint Trickett, just seemed a li'l off that game. White did have several nice catches, but Diggs jumped his route to pick off Trickett once, too. I kinda fault Trickett though, because Diggs was sitting on the quick slant route the whole way and even lined up inside initially. There simply wasn't much White could've done to prevent that interception once Trickett decided to lead him with the pass:
Trickett also looked to be a little off with his jump balls and deep balls to White that game, which prevented them from their normal big play hook-ups. After really going back and watching closely, it's clearly not one of White's best games, but it's nothing to be too alarmed about either.
My other issue is kind of a plus-minus kind of thing, and that's Kevin White loves to fight for every single inch on every single catch:
He reminds me of Dez Bryant in that respect. It's great when he breaks tackles and ends up getting 5 extra yards out of the play:
Buuuuut fighting for extra yards all the time like that almost inevitably leads to a fumble ... just like it did with White in the bowl game against Texas A&M:
Those issues are both things I find to be minor in the big picture. I definitely think the ball security issue is correctable. At the end of the day, if I'm making a favorable comparison of any draft-eligible receiver to Dez Bryant without having to put many qualifiers on it, White's the guy. I'm probably going to be looking for him to be an early first-round pick the night of April 30:
What big play, All-Pro-type wide receiver would you compare Amari Cooper to?
For the life of me, I can't come up with anyone.
Now, here's the thing. In the time it's taken me to finish this write-up, I've actually watched a couple of other wide receivers. One other guy also caught my eye. So, while I can assure you that I have White over Cooper at this point, you're just going to have to check out the next wide receiver I break down to see if White is truly at the top of my list at wide receiver.
Trust me, it's definitely going to be worth it.