The New England Patriots stayed put in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft, and used the 46th overall selection to bolster their defensive line. Georgia Tech’s Keion White is the newest member of the position group, allowing the team to address one of its under-the-radar needs.
What exactly does White bring to the team, though? Let’s find out.
Name: Keion White
Position: Defensive end/Defensive edge
School: Georgia Tech
Opening day age: 24
Size: 6’4 3/4”, 285 lbs, 80” wing span, 34” arm length, 10 1/8” hand size
Workout numbers: 4.76s 40-yard dash, 34” vertical jump, 9’9” broad jump, 30 bench press reps, 9.92 Relative Athletic Score
A two-way player in his high school days, White initially lined up both as an offensive lineman and linebacker at Garner. He made the move to tight end and defensive end as a senior, but upon entering the college level changed his focus to offense only. He joined Old Dominion as a tight end for his first two years, catching 11 passes for 124 yards before moving to defense in the spring of 2019. The decision paid off, and White immediately earned second-team All-CUSA honors while notching 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
While he hit his stride, his time at Old Dominion was cut short after the school canceled its 2020 due to Covid-19. White entered the transfer portal and joined Georgia Tech for his fifth and sixth college seasons. In total, he played 16 games for the Yellowjackets with 13 starts. His best season came in 2022, when he started all 12 games and registered a team-leading 7.5 sacks as well as 54 tackles. He was named third-team All-ACC and invited both to the Senior Bowl and the Scouting Combine.
Pick: 2-46 | Consensus big board: 45
Strengths: Standing at just under 6-foot-5 and 285, White brings an intriguing size/speed combination to the table. His speed makes him a dangerous player when attacking around the corner, and also allows him to drop out and into coverage on occasion. He combines it with plenty of power, and has shown he can drive blockers back when he gets his big hands on them. He is a versatile player, who has lined up all over the formation at Georgia Tech and helped the team both as a pass rusher and by setting the stout edge versus the run.
Keion White's rare length, bend, and power really flashed vs Broderick Jones pic.twitter.com/yPMuiazDQS— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) April 29, 2023
Weaknesses: Despite four years of college experience — he did not play in two of his seasons — White needs to keep working on his leverage; he has a tendency to keep his upper body too high out of his set position. While his straight-line speed is impressive, his reactionary speed is at time lagging a bit. This impacts both his jump at the snap, and his ability to stack blockers. His pass rush is oftentimes over-reliant on power; he will have to add some technical finesse to his plan against NFL-level tackles.
What will be his role in 2023? Part of the reason why White slipped into the second round is that he is not for everybody, and his role reflects that. He might be an interior player to some, or an edge to others. The Patriots will likely use him as both, in a role reminiscent of fellow D-lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. Like the team captain, it would not be a surprise to see the rookie line up everywhere from the 3-technique to a wide-9 alignment. He will play a rotational role early on as the fourth member of a Wise Jr./Matthew Judon/Josh Uche/Keion White rotation, but kick inside — even on early downs — more regularly than Judon and Uche.
What is his growth potential? At age 24, White is already an older prospect. That does not mean he will not have room for improvement. As noted above, technique is something he will have to work on; if he can further polish both his pass rush and run blocking technique he has the ability to become a three-down player for the Patriots. By 2024, he might already be a starter regardless of what happens with Josh Uche in free agency.
Does he have positional versatility? Yes, he does. As noted above, White can be seen as an end/edge hybrid who has the flexibility and size to hold up in several techniques up front. He spent most of his time at Georgia Tech last season outside the tackle as either a 5- or 7-technique, but he also has experience aligning over the guard. In theory, he also has pass-catching experience but the Patriots tapping into that should not be expected.
What adding him means for the depth chart: White is obviously a lock to make the roster due to his draft status, but adding him to the equation also has a trickle-down effect on the rest of the team. His addition might signal that Josh Uche will remain more of a pass-rush specialist entering a contract season, and that neither Anfernee Jennings nor Ronnie Perkins are save to make the team. Likewise, due to his flexible skillset, his presence might also push a player like Sam Roberts down the depth chart.
What adding him means for the rest of the draft: The Patriots’ edge was a need heading into the draft, and the team addressed it now. While adding to the group can always happen, especially considering how many picks the team still owns, the position will likely not be a priority moving forward based on the pieces currently in place.
One-sentence verdict: If there is one team that can bring the most out of Keion White, it is the Patriots.
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