One look around NFL mock draft circles and you’ll see that there’s a wide array of opinion some on where the Dallas Cowboys will go with their 26th pick. For instance, Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN mocked Dallas to select Texas star running back Bijan Robinson. Meanwhile, our very own Tony Catalina, pegged the Cowboys taking Penn State cornerback, Joey Porter Jr. this April.
However, one mock draft piqued my interest. Recently, Daniel Jeremiah released his second mock draft on NFL.com and with the Cowboys’ pick, he selected Georgia Tech defensive end Keion White. It’s intriguing since is the first time I’ve seen White mocked to the Cowboys in any capacity, major online publication or otherwise.
It stands out even more so because Dallas has a pretty good rotation at pass rusher in the form of superstar linebacker Micah Parsons, a still productive DeMarcus Lawrence, a breakout performer last year in Dorance Armstrong, and an up-and-coming Sam Williams.
Plus, in this mock draft the Cowboys bypass a need at wide receiver, (Zay Flowers taken 29 to New Orleans) drafting White and also pass on fellow defensive linemen Nolan Smith and Felix Anudike-Uzoma who were still on Jeremiah’s board. This called for a closer look at Keion White on film to see why Jeremiah might’ve come to this conclusion.
Keion White has an excellent size to play almost anywhere along the defensive line. At 6’5” and 286 lbs., his frame affords him the flexibility to play multiple spots on multiple fronts. At Georgia Tech, he played as a stand-up outside linebacker, and in a three-point stance, but also inside as a five-technique in a 3-4 front.
For his size, White has a fast first step and can beat interior linemen with his quickness. A few times on film, he collapsed plays so quickly that quarterbacks had no time to go through their progressions or in the running game, destroying a counter run by meeting a pulling offensive lineman in the backfield.
White often uses length to his advantage in the running game, stacking up linemen with one hand before disengaging with a swim move to get to the ball carrier. As a pass rusher, his go-to move is a push-pull technique, where he sets up the lineman to prepare for a bull rush, before throwing them forward and using their momentum against them. The play shown above against Clemson is an impressive snap for a player of his size.
White tends to get too upright on his get-off at the line of scrimmage and it allows offensive linemen to get under his pads, keeping him from penetrating the backfield. Playing defensive end, he needs to improve on locating the ball on misdirection plays such as zone reads and bootlegs.
He also got overpowered more than he should have. Playing with poor leverage, he got moved out of his gaps by interior offensive linemen fairly regularly, and at times was pancaked out of the play as shown below. As a pass rusher, if he’s going to play the edge, he needs to develop a more diversified arsenal of pass rush moves.
Where White would be best suited, if drafted by the Cowboys, is playing as an interior pass rusher on passing downs, having traits more aligned with being a disruptive under tackle. While he does flash at times as a run defender, it’s inconsistent and he gets his shoulders turned perpendicular to the line of scrimmage frequently, creating big holes behind him.
The versatility is a good characteristic, but he is more of a jack of all trades and a master of none. White is vaguely reminiscent of former Cowboys defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford. He might not be ready to play as a stand-up edge rusher.
As far as selecting White at 26, it’s a struggle to see the reasoning for this pick in Jeremiah’s mock draft. White is an older prospect at 24 years old, and still looks like a developing project. Passing up on more pure pass rushers or a position of need like cornerback and wide receiver to take White makes little sense, as White doesn’t demonstrate a defining trait to warrant being taken as high as Jeremiah did in his mock draft.