How and why I did decide he was the best cornerback in the 2017 draft?
Short answer: He checked all the boxes.
In the games I watched, White routinely was near the football and frequently made plays on it. In fact, it was rare to catch him allowing a reception — especially for a big gain. Also, I didn’t see a cornerback who was significantly better in man than he was in zone or vice versa. He played a variety of different coverages, press-trail (zone), press-man, off-man, and off-zone, and I saw him make plays on the football from all of them. Check.
In four-years at LSU — 49 games — White had six interceptions and 34 pass breakups, including two picks and 14 PBUs in his senior season. In his final campaign in Baton Rouge, he had at least one pass breakup in seven of 11 games. Check.
Playing nearly 50 games in the SEC is about as impressive of an experience portion of a resume a collegiate player can have. Check.
Most great NFL players are great athletes. White isn’t a freak-of-nature cornerback, yet he ran 4.47 in the 40-yard dash, went under the 7.00 “threshold” — which a positive — in the three-cone drill (6.90). He wasn’t very explosive in either the vertical (32”) or broad (119”) jump though. Not as easy of a check. But... check.
At 5’11” and 192 pounds, White has good but not tremendous height and weight for a cornerback. His arms, well, yeah, they’re pretty long at 32 1/8”. For perspective, Richard Sherman has 32” arms. His hands are above the 9” threshold at 9 1/8”. Check.
Yes, this may seem nitpicking to the slightest degree. I do think age matters. If a 23 or 24-year-old cornerback is dominating in college... it’s just not as impressive if a 19-year-old does the same. Rarely do you find four-year starters who aren’t already 22 when they start their senior seasons. White turned 22 on January 16. As an 18-year-old freshman on LSU’s defense in 2013, he managed 55 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, seven PBUs, and forced fumble. Check.
Of all the cornerbacks in this draft class, I was the most confident checking all those boxes for White, which is why he was my No. 1 CB. His return-game ability is a nice luxury too. In Sean McDermott’s zone-based defense, I think White’s ball skills will be accentuated. His capability in man will be beneficial not only when he needs to play that coverage but will also help in disguising Cover 3 looks that begin with White near the line of scrimmage.