New England Patriots

Georgia Tech DE Keion White in a game against Florida State (Georgia Tech Athletics)

With the selection of Keion White, the New England Patriots have addressed a need that’s persisted on their defense for years.

White projects as a 5-technique at the NFL level, a defensive end in 3-4 looks that can park snugly between a defensive tackle and an outside linebacker, and make a three-down impact lining up against tackles or tight ends. He has the ideal frame for the role (6-foot-5, 285 pounds), with the versatility to produce as both an edge-setter and pass-rusher. White converted from tight end to defensive end post-recruitment, but played both positions in high school, so he’s no stranger to versatility.

Scouting reports generally consider White relatively early in his development as a full-time defensive lineman, which is why his impact in New England may not be immediate. But the experts view White as someone who can and should grow into a good starter, perhaps more.

It’s been a long time since Bill Belichick invested this kind of capital in this type of player.

  • White became the second defensive lineman in three years to be selected by the Patriots in the second round, after Christian Barmore in 2021. Barmore has occasionally been used as a 5-technique in his first two seasons, but he’s better suited as a full-time interior presence. White fits more as an end, although he has gotten compliments for his interior pass-rushing and is considered a versatile prospect who could line up anywhere and in a number of different fronts.

    But as it stands as he enters the league, White’s best chance for an impact, especially early on, is at the 5-tech. That’s a spot that Deatrich Wise has often held down over the past three seasons, and done so admirably. But Wise also had to spend those seasons developing and refining his game in that particular role.

    With White, Belichick is targeting a true defensive end in the first two rounds for the first time since Chandler Jones in 2012. If you want to go back even further, Ty Warren in 2003. NFL defenses and defensive players certainly aren’t the same as they were 20 years ago, but there will always be opportunities and spots for big, athletic linemen. White checks both those boxes.

  • PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 01: Kedon Slovis #9 of the Pittsburgh Panthers is hit as he throws by Keion White #6 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the second quarter of the game at Acrisure Stadium on October 1, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

    PITTSBURGH, PA – OCTOBER 01: Kedon Slovis #9 of the Pittsburgh Panthers is hit as he throws by Keion White #6 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the second quarter of the game at Acrisure Stadium on October 1, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

  • Wise lined up over the tackle more than any Patriots defensive lineman in 2022, according to Pro Football Focus. Next on that list are Lawrence Guy and Daniel Ekuale, who have both been heavily in the rotation at 5-tech for multiple seasons. White figures to cut into those snaps eventually, and provide much bigger upside with his natural athleticism.

    Scouts do consistently describe White as a player who still needs to refine his technique as he adjusts to the NFL. But his size and pure physical tools give him plenty of room for improvement, and Belichick may be the perfect coach to develop him.

    “They do a really good job of developing their players,” White said of the Patriots, during his introductory conference call with reporters. “So being a part of that, knowing that I have an incredible amount of things I can improve on and learn for the game of football, I feel like there‚Äôs no better system I can go into.”

  • Georgia Tech DE Keion White (Georgia Tech Athletics)

    Georgia Tech DE Keion White (Georgia Tech Athletics)

  • White mentioned that he had no pre-draft contact with the Patriots, but Belichick later noted in his post-draft presser that the team was at White’s first Pro Day, and they know former Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins’ program well. So there was definitely homework done on White.

    “Maybe we know him better than he knows us, but we’ll get to know each other soon,” Belichick said, grinning.

    Obviously, there’s just an incredibly long way to go with White, and with all the Patriots’ 2022 draft picks. But White is a selection that comes with added significance, because of the position he plays and the skill set that he promises to bring to the table. It’s been a long time since Belichick spent a high draft pick on a player like him.

    And it’s something that’s long needed to be done.

    Click here for complete New England Patriots coverage at 985TheSportsHub.com.

    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.

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