JBB Draft Profile: Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

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Aug 30, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Kevin White (11) reaches up to catch this pass over Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Landon Collins (26) and defensive back Bradley Sylve (3) in the third quarter of the 2014 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports


But of course you could say the same things about Brice Butler and Andre Holmes: they’re big, fast, tall, jump high, long arms, all those things. Yet neither Holmes nor Butler could find a way to get open consistently, and neither were the primary end-zone target for Derek Carr in 2014. Both players were often covered well by smaller defensive backs and both had a nasty habit of dropping key passes when they could get open. So why would Kevin White be any different?

Kevin White has been working hard at his craft since he was in junior college, and has clearly taken well to coaching, and that has shown up on the field. It begins in the way he runs his routes, the way he uses his body and footwork to create space, and the way he uses his arms, hands and head in locating and capturing the football in the air.

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  • White’s technique begins at the line of scrimmage. When faced with a defender in a press technique or a defender in a shallow zone, White employs an array of weapons to generate space and disrupt what the defender is attempting to do to cover him. First, White is excellent with his hands, using a “chop” or downward slap of his hands to get the defenders hands disengaged. In one fluid motion, White then uses the momentum of the chop move to thrust himself around the defender to the side he wishes to go: he’ll either chop to the inside then gain outside leverage, or vice versa.

    This allows him to accelerate even as the defender is recovering from losing his hands, giving him position over the top of the defender. White doesn’t always need to chop, however: against a defender playing off, or in a situation where the defender doesn’t attempt to engage White with his hands, the receiver instead uses his feet well, creating space with quick jab steps before actually taking off on his intended route. This can cause a more aggressive corner to overcommit.

    Examples of his chop technique are all over his game tape, but most notably his tape against Alabama, where he was consistently engaged in press technique and consistently used his hands to defeat smaller Alabama cornerbacks and gain separation on his routes.

    For an example of his footwork at the start of a route, one needs to examine his 68-yard TD catch against Oklahoma early in the year. At the snap, White, who is lined up on the numbers, takes a jab step toward the boundary, and the corner attacks that way. White then steps back inside and quickly heads downfield, and immediately the cornerback is behind him and losing ground rapidly. White is wide open and easily completes the catch and run for the score.

    But White does more than just create space at the line of scrimmage. White also runs strong routes after that point, and shows the ability to read a coverage and adjust on the fly. One example is on a 10-yard reception against Alabama: White heads downfield against a corner playing a soft technique, likely a bail 3 or a loose man. He sees the corner turn his back, and at that moment breaks his route off and breaks back up the field toward his quarterback, coming wide open and making the easy catch near the boundary. While at times he has a tendency to break his feet down too long on breaking routes and comeback patterns, he has quick feet to make the breaks and come out of them at full speed, something that many middling NFL receivers struggle to do at times. White also possesses an extra gear at the top of deep routes, something evident on his touchdown reception against Alabama.

    White has about a half-step on the corner when the ball is thrown, but once the ball is in the air and White is approaching the goal-line, White clearly accelerates into a higher speed, bursting away from the Alabama defender and gaining at least another full step of space before leaping for the catch. And when he leaps for the catch, another strong trait emerges: his ability with the ball in the air.

    White over and over on tape shows that he can go up and get a high or deep throw as good or better than any receiver in this years’ draft. He uses his head well – looking over his shoulder – to track the ball in the air, while the rest of his body remains square and his feet are continuing to move along the route. Once the ball is located, he makes the proper adjustment – whether that be slowing his stride or extending his stride – and then goes to attack the ball at its highest point. The best receivers know that when going after a high ball, you make a diamond with your hands and extend your arms toward the football. Kevin White does exactly this, over and over, on jump balls.

    White also demonstrates uncanny body control, even in midair, often adjusting on a ball while he is already airborne. But what is especially unique about white is that he does the right things at the right times: he doesn’t jump too early or too late, and he puts his hands out “late,” using his hands for leverage away from a defender before the ball gets within range, allowing him more space to make the reception and also keeping himself in play on boundary catches. Examples of his ability to track, get separation, and go attack and catch a deep ball are all over his game film, but are best seen at about 1:47 – 2:13 of the above video of his performance against Alabama.

    While White still needs work on some of his footwork at the top of breaking routes, he is well ahead of nearly every receiver in the draft in almost every technical aspect of wide receiver play. With just one good offseason of quality NFL coaching work, he can become an immediate impact starter for any team in the league because of his thorough technique and physical attributes. While there is certainly plenty to be said for a speedy and productive receiver like Amari Cooper, drafting a big guy who can make plays on deep passes and will win contested balls in the air is a big deal for a team like the Raiders looking to give young Derek Carr as many weapons as he can handle as he develops as an NFL passer.

    Next: Is White a Potential Raiders Draft Pick?