INDIANAPOLIS – Devin White is considered the top inside linebacker available in this draft, and he would love the opportunity to play with a current NFL linebacker he looked up to in college – Lions MIKE linebacker Jarrad Davis.
“He’s got a YouTube video that I used to watch before a couple of my games and I’d just watch the passion that he played with,” White said of Davis, who also played in the SEC at Florida, Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “So, just letting us roam that middle at the same (time), that’s another great linebacker... an up and coming great linebacker. I feel like we’d play exceptionally well (together). If they (Detroit) want to get me, I’m willing to go, and willing to put the work in.”
Speed kills in the NFL, especially at the linebacker position, and Davis and White together would be pretty scary in that regard.
White is one of the more interesting inside linebacker prospects to come through the Combine in recent history because of his sideline to sideline speed.
The first Butkus Award winner in LSU history, White (6-0, 237), ran a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash Sunday. To put that in a little bit of perspective, inside linebackers rarely reach that speed at the combine. The 200 inside linebackers that were drafted since 2005 ran an average 4.75 seconds in the 40-yard dash, according to Pro Football Reference, and only three have run under 4.5 seconds. White led a group of speedy linebackers today, as both Michigan's Devin Bush (4.43) and Texas' Gary Johnson (4.43) ran under the 4.5 second mark.
“White has what teams are looking for at the position: The ability to run, cover and blitz,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said earlier this week.
"When you have linebackers that can't cover, you will get picked on repeatedly, It's hard to hide out there when you have a linebacker who can't cover. To me, you start right there. He’s going to be able to run and cover and help match up with some of the better tight ends and even some of these backs. It's a huge asset.”
The multiple scheme that head coach Matt Patricia has installed in Detroit is very linebacker friendly, especially with the talent the Lions have put together in the middle of the defensive line with Damon Harrison, A’Shawn Robinson, Da’Shawn Hand and others.
Davis improved in nearly every category from his rookie season, totaling 100 tackles (73 solo), 6.0 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hits and five pass defenses in 2018. He was one of two players to produce 100-plus tackles and 6.0-plus sacks in the NFL in 2018, and his coverage skills improved tremendously as well. Now imagine a player of White’s skill set playing alongside Davis at the WILL. The speed, youth and playmaking ability could be dynamic.
View photos of the prospects that met the media on Day 3 of the 2019 NFL Combine.
“Nowadays, tight ends are getting more athletic and they are able to be used versatilely in the offensive scheme,” White said. “But I’m a guy that can play inside or if we’re having trouble with a tight end in our zone coverage catching a lot of balls, you can stick Devin White on him and (I’ll) stop him. That’s very important and I pride myself on speed.”
White led LSU with 123 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, three sacks, six pass breakups, and three forced fumbles this past season.
Teams value linebackers that can do multiple things and stay on the field, even in sub packages, which teams nowadays are in about 70 percent of the time. White seems to have that kind of game. He’s like last year’s No. 8 overall pick, Bears inside linebacker Roquan Smith, in that regard. White says his game has a lot of similarities to Smith’s.
Lions general manager Bob Quinn is on the lookout for playmakers on both sides of the ball, and White’s college film fits the description. Most analysts expect him to be a top 10 pick. He could very much be part of the conversation for the Lions at No. 8, especially with Patricia’s affinity for the position.