By Dan Durkin–
(CBS) — With a roster in need of talent on both sides of the ball, Ryan Pace spent his first pick as general manager of the Chicago Bears on offense, selecting West Virginia receiver Kevin White on Thursday night with the seventh overall pick of the NFL Draft.
Even prior to the Bears trading Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets, receiver was a big need for the team — more specifically, a receiver with speed who can take the top off of a defense, which is something White is more than capable of doing.
Of all the prospects in a deep receiver class, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound White possessed the best size-to-speed ratio. At the combine, he had the third-fastest 40-yard dash (4.35) and the highest bench press (23). These measurables show up on film, as he can beat jams at the line with quickness or strength, then can turn short passes into “chunk” plays with his run-after-the-catch skills.
Last season, the Bears’ receiving corps was made up of similarly skilled athletes who won with leverage opposed to speed. They only had one touchdown reception of more than 40 yards, which illustrates their lack of deep speed. Consequently, with no concern of being beat over the top, defenses played split-safety looks and brought them closer to the line of scrimmage to suffocate underneath passing windows. White’s run-after-the catch abilities are desperately needed to diversify the Bears’ passing attack and force defenses to play more honestly with their safeties.
White runs angry and doesn’t avoid contact in the open field but also showcases vision to find creases in the secondary. He’s very difficult to bring down when he has the ball, which speaks to his power and balance. On deep routes, he has an extra gear to stack on top of defensive backs and create deep throwing windows. Given his physicality, he also willingly works in traffic and aggressively makes his way back to the football on contested throws and will win jump balls on 50/50 situations.
Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase’s offense heavily utilizes the wide receiver screen game. Under Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia, White was frequently targeted on shallow crosses, overs, bubble and tunnel screens — high-percentage throws that relied upon his ability to make defenders miss in the open field.
White will have to prove that he can run the full route tree at the NFL level and be able to adjust his routes to unfolding coverages. He primarily lined up outside on the right side of the field, so he will also need to learn how to operate from various sides of the formation as well as in different roles.
Physically, there’s no denying White’s ability to immediately transition to the NFL game and become the dynamic weapon the Bears were missing in their passing game. Given his measurables, productivity, age and being a late bloomer, he has the potential to evolve into a coverage-dictating split end.
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.