Bucking A Trend
John Fox doesn't give rookie wide receivers big roles. Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith, Armanti Edwards, and Brandon LaFell were all taken in the second and third rounds of their respective drafts. None of them had significant playing time until at least their second seasons. Many anticipated Fox would break this trend when he took Cody Latimer in the mid-second round last year. Instead, he stuck to his guns, and Latimer barely saw the field. However, Kevin White's draft pedigree is going to force Fox to break his long-held precedent. To take White seventh overall is a huge vote of confidence in Kevin White's ability to make an instant impact. When a player is drafted within the top ten of the draft, it is with the expectation that they will be a starter from the very beginning. In today's NFL, pressure from fans and owners to win now does not give most coaches the luxury of waiting for picks to develop. Fox found this out the hard way when he was fired from the Broncos after not winning a Super Bowl in his three-year tenure, despite making the playoffs for all three years. There's no doubt he's painfully aware that his predecessor was fired after only one NFL season. Given this history, Fox is going to be more cognizant than ever of the pressure to win now and less likely to sit a talented rookie.
DEpth Chart DOUBTING
Even with Brandon Marshall having been traded away to the Jets, White did not land in an open situation at wide receiver. The talented Alshon Jeffery and up-and-coming Marquess Wilson still remain with the Bears and White will have to share targets with them in the short-term. Remember, however, the current regime drafted White at a much higher price than second-rounder Jeffery and seventh-rounder Wilson and the target opportunities will eventually follow accordingly. Also, Jeffery will be a free agent in 2016 unless he is franchise tagged or a long-term deal is reached. Even if Jeffery does stay with the team long-term, there have been plenty of receiver tandems that produced for fantasy over the years. Adam Gase, the new offensive coordinator, has had many of these tandems on his teams. In his offense last year, the running back, two wideouts, and a tight end all put up superb fantasy production. Many may be down on Jay Cutler right now, but do not forget that he is more than competent enough to sustain this offense. Owners can expect Jeffery, Matt Forte, and Martellus Bennett to be viable options at their positions in 2015. While White may not make a big splash in redraft formats, anticipate that he will show promise and take over as the leading receiving option in 2016.
The "White Fit"
Watching White on film, one can see that he's got the classic build for the position. He's a willing worker both on the outside and on underneath routes. When going after contested catches and high points passes, White demonstrates "my ball mentality." He also shows high effort to gain more yards after the catch and blocks well on plays where he is not targeted. Though, White definitely needs refinement in running some of his routes, it is encouraging that he showed progress in this area from his 2013 tape to his 2014 tape.
White showed well at the NFL Combine, running a 4.35 40 yard dash and logging 23 reps on the bench press. He continues to impress onlookers at OTAs. When team beat writers speak, fantasy owners need to pay attention. Long-time Bears beat writer Dan Pompei had the following to say about White:
3. Kevin White easily is the most impressive rookie wide receiver I’ve ever seen walk through the doors at Halas Hall.— Dan Pompei (@danpompei) May 11, 2015
Adam Gase was also impressed with White. Per Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago:
“He was outstanding,” Gase said. “He could tell you exactly what the checks were, what him and the quarterback, what page they were on. It was pretty impressive when he came in the building. We really like what he brought to the table, and we look for specific routes, and when we see one or two things, we know they can do the entire tree, so his speed, his body control, the way that he bursts off the ball, all those things we really liked.”
- White was taken in the top ten, guaranteeing he will be a big part of the Bears' plans going forward.
- White has the prototypical build and skills of a leading NFL wideout.
- White has the upside to be a top-five fantasy wide receiver at points in his career.
- White enters a somewhat crowded receiving corps in Chicago.
- White still needs refinement in some of the areas of his game.
- White will likely not produce significant numbers for fantasy owners until 2016.
The evidence points to White being a star wideout in the NFL. Our very own Matt Waldman has compared him to ex-Jaguar Jimmy Smth and that seems to fit. For owners in dynasty formats, Kevin White is a very solid investment that should pay dividends for many years to come. Redraft owners in twelve or fewer team leagues should not expect White to be more than a WR3/4 for your 2015 squads.
BOB HENRY'S PROJECTIONS
Jason Woods' PROJECTIONS
Lance Zierlein makes the case for White in his NFL.com Draft Profile:
"He's not just a product of West Virginia's system -- he's talented. White showed off 23 reps on the bench press and a blazing 4.35 40 at the combine, proving he has the top-end speed to go with the size and strength. White came into West Virginia with very limited confidence, according to team insiders, but when he left, he had realized his rare talent. White lacks the polish of Amari Cooper, but some teams already believe he has the best upside of any wide receiver in this draft."
Edward Gorelik of NFL Breakdowns believes White is overrated:
“I’ve seen a lot of names get thrown around for Kevin White. Larry Fitzgerald was one, funny enough when comparing a video of Larry Fitzgerald practicing his comeback route it bared some similarities to the way Kevin White currently runs his. Lance Zierlein, an NFL.com writer, compared him to DeAndre Hopkins. Daniel Jeremiah, another big draft name, said he was a super-sized Steve Smith at one point. I’m not that high on White personally, and I see him a lot more like San Diego’s Malcom Floyd. A true possession receiver who wins by leaping and extending with a large catch radius. White has more straight line speed but not as much agility and both aren’t adept at open field moves, best relying on their speed to get them out of a situation instead of trying to make players miss.”