Yahoo Sports' top 2019 NFL draft prospects, No. 11: LSU LB Devin White

Eric Edholm

Leading up to the 2019 NFL draft, which starts April 25, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down 10 at a time, followed by profiles on our top 30 overall players.

Previous entries: Nos. 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30. Drew Lock | 29. Deandre Baker | 28. Taylor Rapp | 27. Garrett Bradbury | 26. Dexter Lawrence | 25. Jerry Tillery | 24. Josh Jacobs | 23. Christian Wilkins | 22. Cody Ford | 21. Noah Fant | 20. Andre Dillard | 19. Greedy Williams | 18. Dwayne Haskins | 17. Rashan Gary | 16. D.K. Metcalf | 15. Clelin Ferrell | 14. Florida OT Jawaan Taylor | 13. Byron Murphy | 12. Jonah Williams

11. LSU LB Devin White

6-foot, 237 pounds

Key stat: Believe it or not, White in 2018 became LSU’s first winner of the Butkus Award, which is given to college football’s top linebacker.

The skinny: White played both ways at North Webster (La.) High School, but it was his work on offense that might have received more accolades. He ran for 5,031 yards and 81 touchdowns as a nearly 260-pound senior, but LSU signed him to be a linebacker. There was some controversy involved in White’s recruitment following multiple incidents – first being charged as a 17-year-old with a misdemeanor: having “carnal knowledge” of a 14-year-old girl (which caused him to be barred from the Under Armour All-America Game); and a month later being cited for “careless operation of a motor vehicle and misdemeanor flight from an officer.” Because it was determined that the sex was consensual and that there was less than a four-year age difference between White and the girl, the charges were dropped.

After one practice at running back in a crowded Tigers backfield, White was convinced by LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to switch sides of the ball. White had a solid freshman season in 2016, playing in all 12 games with 30 tackles (three for loss) and a sack of Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson in the bowl win over Louisville. He was named to the SEC All-Freshman team and entered 2017 with big expectations. White backed those up by racking up an SEC-best 133 tackles (14 for loss) and also adding 4.5 sacks in his 13 starts. In addition to being named team MVP, White also was named a permanent team captain and earned first-team all-SEC and some All-American mentions.

In 2018, White once again led the conference in tackles (123, 12 of them for losses) and rang up three sacks, six passes defended and three forced fumbles. The all-SEC pick started 12 of the 13 games he played, being forced to sit out the first half of the Alabama game because of a questionable targeting call the game prior against Mississippi State.

White, who turned 21 in February, declared for the 2019 NFL draft following his junior season.

LSU linebacker Devin White runs a drill at the NFL scouting combine. (AP Photo)
LSU linebacker Devin White runs a drill at the NFL scouting combine. (AP Photo)

Upside: Frenetic, infectious playmaker who makes his mark on almost every game in which he plays. Tone setter who flies around with his hair on fire. Incredibly competitive with elite speed and rare presence. Never takes a play off. Throwback mentality with modern-day NFL linebacking template. Still young (21) and has extremely high potential. Was probably the best linebacker in college football over the past two seasons.

White has worked through some early immaturity to become a team leader and accountable player, sources say. Earned rare respect inside the program — from teammates and coaches to athletic staff, strength staff and even fans, teachers and university employees. Commands team meetings and locker room with his voice — backs up his words. Excellent work ethic and drive — lives in the weight and film rooms. Tough and gritty. Alpha dog who can change the complexion of an NFL huddle in time. Development has been extremely steep over the past two seasons. Rare sophomore captain in talent-laden program in college football’s best conference. Tackle magnet who averaged about double-digit takedowns per game.

Vicious hitter. Seeks to send a message when he delivers a blow — will knock runners sideways. Thick, strong frame with good body armor but no unneeded ballast. Teammates seemed to feed of his energy. Great burst to close on the ball. Sinks, drives and shoot gaps in a flash. Has shown improved hand work and ability to shed blocks. Isn’t afraid to get dirty in the trenches — plays game with a big-man mentality. Explosive short-area movement skills and burst.

Lives and breathes football and has a great natural feel for the game. Shouldn’t be overwhelmed by a complex scheme and regularly was seen on tape lining people up and pointing out formations, motions and plays based on film study, reading keys and great natural instincts. Good vision from running back days to see holes before they open — finds the ball and gets it. High floor as a three-down playmaker. Improved in coverage — appeared to have better feel and range last season than in 2017. Excellent athletic template who has settled in at a very comfortable weight in the 230s.

Downside: Can play out of control at times. Will bite on play-action fakes and get sucked up into misdirection. Still has the makeup speed and redirection skills to compensate, but everything is a tick or two faster in the NFL. Too many false steps and suspect angles to the ball. Still plays linebacker like a power running back at times and needs to develop more patience and discipline. Could stand to taper things down just a hair at times — not everything needs to be full tilt.

Will miss some tackles because of overly aggressive approach — will go for knockout blow and whiff occasionally. Still learning how to properly stack and shed and scrape down the line through contact. Can give blockers too much of his chest and get worked out of the play. Short arms and legs and large torso — smaller tackling radius. Unorthodox technique that might require a patient LB coach to fine-tune a bit.

Frenetic style might lead to late-hit and unnecessary roughness calls, justified or not (see targeting suspension). High school missteps must be fully vetted and could require ownership signoff before he can be drafted by some teams.

Best-suited destination: A tone-setting, three-down linebacker with a powerful voice, White should upgrade a defense from Day 1 as a “Mike” linebacker, although he could fit into pretty much any technique in just about any defense. White might be best suited to line up next to a respected veteran – the way Chicago Bears rookie Roquan Smith had Danny Trevathan with him last season – in order to unlock his full potential as soon as possible, but it’s easy to project a straight line to success in the NFL.

Among the teams that could have significant interest in White’s services include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers, Oakland Raiders, New York Giants and Miami Dolphins.

Fact: White is a horse lover who kept his mare, a Tennessee Walking Horse named Daisy Mae (one of seven horses he owns, one of which is named Ricky Bobby), stabled two miles from Tiger Stadium. His morning routine would be to wake up before classes and tend to Daisy Mae at the barn, and White typically spent Fridays riding her along the Mississippi River levee before practice.

He also rode her to class for his final exam in December after making a side trip with Daisy Mae through Tiger Stadium for what he called “the best thing he’s ever done.”

They said it “In my opinion, he’s the best linebackers in the country. I’ve been a part of Ray Lewis, I’ve been a part of Patrick Willis, and he’s right in that group. No question, one of the best I’ve ever been a part of, as far as a middle linebacker and I still think he’s going to get better. I think he’s going to have a tremendous pro career.”

— LSU head coach Ed Orgeron

Player comp: Darius Leonard

Expected draft range: Top-15 pick

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