It was the first time the Bears drafted a first-round wide receiver since David Terrell in 2001 and only the third time since 1993, when the club selected Curtis Conway.
For a franchise that has long been built around its defense, first-round wideouts are a rare occurrence in Chicago. Yet the Bears saw White as a player too talented to pass up, even with needs nearly across the board on defense.
At 6-3, 215, White has very good NFL size. With a 4.35 40-yard dash, he has elite NFL speed. When you add in a senior season in which he caught 109 passes for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns, you find a player with a rare blend of size and speed who produced at an extremely high level.
The Bears will pair White with Alshon Jeffery, attempting to create a wide receiver duo on par with those found in both Green Bay and Detroit.
White is obviously athletically gifted, yet what do the Bears truly have in the former Mountaineer?
The biggest knock on White is his inability to consistently beat press coverage. Many believe the bigger, more physical NFL cornerbacks could give him fits.
To get a better feel for White against press man, I went to the film room and analyzed game tape from the 2014 campaign.
Our first snap is against Alabama. The cornerback is a yard across from White at the line of scrimmage. At the snap, the corner will shove his hands in White’s chest, yet the receiver is able to swipe away the chuck attempt and release outside.
Notice at the end of the play how White uses his hands and arms to create separation before he explodes off the ground and high-points the football for the touchdown.
Alabama again puts the corner in White’s face to try and stifle him at the line. At the snap, White beats the defender to the punch and shoves his hand right into the cornerback’s chest. As the corner’s head snaps backward, White releases easily outside.
Notice again, as the ball is in the air, White uses his trail arm to smack away the hand of the corner, who is trying to reach out and grab him. He then leaps up and again high-points the ball for a big gain.
Here White is in the slot against Texas A&M in the Liberty Bowl. The nickelback lines up in press man and attacks with his hands. Yet White is so big, it barely slows him down and he’s able to run right through the defender, forcing the corner to grab his jersey, which elicits a pass interference penalty.
Here’s a perfect example of how only the biggest corners can affect White, whose height and strength allow him to outmuscle smaller defenders.
White begins the play as the middle receiver in a trips-left formation. The cornerback is in his face yet he never puts his hands on the receiver, allowing White a free release.
This is a bad move by the defender, who immediately falls a step behind and fails to keep pace with White. This is a great example of how White’s acceleration can be deadly to cornerbacks caught on their heels.
Against Baylor, the cornerback sneaks to the line of scrimmage just before the snap and tries to hand-check White through the chuck zone. Yet White just slaps away the defender’s hands and explodes up the field, creating immediate separation. We then see him, again, out-leap the cornerback for the diving touchdown.
Our final play is arguably White’s most impressive. In the red zone, he runs a corner fade. The defender thrusts out his arms but White grabs his hand and holds the cornerback at bay. He then reaches out his other arm to make the one-handed touchdown catch.
White is not a finished product by any means and needs to refine his hand technique against quality press corners.
Yet as these clips show, he’s more than adept at working through tight coverage at the line of scrimmage. He’s active with his hands, while his strength – he led all receivers at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine with 23 bench-press reps – and size makes it nearly impossible for smaller cornerbacks to cover him.
Most impressive from these clips is White’s burst off the ball, which allows him to create easy separation, as well as his timing on deep balls. Those are two of his natural talents that will help him overcome any perceived deficiencies in his skill set versus man coverage.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fifth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter.