One of the most consistently productive players over the last few years on Georgia Tech's defense, D.J. White has now graduated and positioned himself well to continue producing at the next level. White joined Adam Gotsis as Georgia Tech's only representatives at this year's NFL Combine in February, and figures to have a strong chance at being an early mid-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
A quick look at the column showing how White ranked among his fellow corners at the Combine displays his general lack of elite athleticism when compared to his peers. You'll notice that only twice among several drills did White even finish in the top 10 among his position group, and on half of them he finished in the bottom five among participants. This isn't to suggest that White's athleticism is inadequate or a red flag, but more to call attention to how he stacks up against his competition from a physical standpoint.
A cut-up of White's performance against Notre Dame from DraftBreakdown.com can be found here, and is shown below. It is what I consider to be a performance the represents his abilities well, and came against competition that is likely to be representative of the competition he'll see in the NFL.
- White does an excellent job of playing the ball in the air, attacking and causing pass break-ups whenever possible instead of simply playing the receiver and aiming to limit yards. In addition, White has generally reliable hands and finished his career with 7 interceptions.
- In one-on-one situations on the perimeter, White is a sure tackler with good form. He does a nice job of squaring his shoulders and wrapping up when ballcarriers start moving vertically.
- White plays with elite effort, sporting a "never say die" attitude that has resulted in several touchdown-saving tackles throughout college. Most famously, White tackled Pittsburgh's James Conner just short of the end zone and caused a fumble in 2014, after Conner had broken a 75-yard run and appeared poised to win a footrace to the end zone.
- In zone coverage, White is very comfortable and uses his eyes to read the quarterback and his surroundings well. This ability to read routes and quarterbacks' eyes contributed to his interceptions at times in college.
- In man coverage, White is very instinctive and able to play tight with more athletically talented receivers, despite his physical limitations.
- It should be mentioned here as well that White possesses elite intangibles, as a team captain and one of the team's two representatives at the ACC Football Kickoff prior to 2015. He was well-liked and respected by players and coaches, and will surely continue that at the next level.
- As suggested by his Combine workout results, White's physical ability will limit his ability to effectively cover and "shut down" some of the league's most talented and gifted receivers. That includes things like his ability to flip his hips and change directions.
- It may have been a part of Ted Roof's scheme, but when giving a cushion, White played receivers very conservatively. He was often willing to cede catches for chunks of 5-7 yards, in return for eliminating potential for yards after the catch.
- White can struggle at times in run support. Particularly when he's been unable to help set a perimeter and ballcarriers are moving horizontally, White's tackling form will break down into arm tackles and leave him unbalanced.
White took a visit to Pittsburgh recently, as the Steelers are in need of help in the secondary. They need someone to complement William Gay, and White might be a good fit.
White also took a recent visit to Indianapolis, where the Colts need significant help on defense -- including their secondary. White actually spent extra time with Colts coaches watching film and talking over schemes following his Pro Day workout, meaning the interest seems very legitimate.
After trading their first overall pick to the Rams, the Titans are loaded with picks in the middle rounds and need help containing the passing attacks within the AFC South. White could fit in, and be able to join fellow Yellow Jacket alumnus Derrick Morgan on the defense in Nashville.
Outlook & Round Projection
While White is just a shade smaller and slower than teams usually like outside, he makes up for it with his instincts, athleticism and cover skills.
I included the quote above because I feel like it perfectly represents what White brings to the table -- a somewhat physically underqualified prospect whose technical ability, instincts, and intangibles make up for it, and even make him one of the more desirable prospects in the Draft at his position. Whoever ends up drafting White will have a strong prospect that has a lot to offer their defensive secondary.
Projection: 3rd-4th Round