This week marks the mid-point of the NFL season and various national writers have been handing out their midseason awards. One such writer, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, selected Buffalo Bills cornerback and former first-round draft pick Tre’Davious White as his choice for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Arguing that a “lack of counting stats” has kept White’s profile low, he notes that the Bills rookie is “tied for the league lead in passes defended (12)” and has an interception, a forced fumble, and fumble recovery not to mention his touchdown Although White struggled against the New York Jets this past Thursday, Barnwell nonetheless describes him as managing to play at a “shockingly high level” despite cornerback being a position where most rookies traditionally struggle. Barnwell goes on to defend his selection against other impressive first year players, including Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore, Bengals pass rusher Carl Lawson, and Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt.
During the pre-draft process, it was taken for granted by analysts that the Senior from LSU would become a solid pro cornerback but, as he lacks the deep recovery speed necessary for many man-coverage schemes, most considered his ceiling to be limited. Some commentators even suggested that he was destined solely for a slot cornerback role at the next level. However, the Bills zone-heavy defensive scheme means that White frequently has safety help over the top, allowing him to use his short area quickness to be aggressive in breaking up passes underneath. This is why scheme fit is important when drafting college players. It appears in selecting White with the 27th overall pick, the Bills ended up with a steal at the position and a player who will hopefully continue to be a productive for a decade or more.
Before Bills fans feel too pleased with Bill Barnwell, he finishes by predicting that Watt will ultimately win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award after the season is over, thanks in part to his “famous last name.”