In order to prepare for the NFL draft (and survive the unbearably long offseason), we've decided to check in on this year's draft class from time to time and discuss some of the potential future characters of the League that stand out for some reason or another. To start things off, today, we discuss QB Pat White of West Virginia.
If this site is about encouraging fans to get behind players that force the league to innovate to match their talents rather than having them submerged into prefabricated schemes and coaching that tailors to personnel rather than personal preference, Pat White’s draft status is the litmus test to see if anyone else believes like we do. I’m not just talking about the round in which he’s selected, either. If that were the only issue, this wouldn’t be as serious as it is, and it wouldn’t have me on the verge of boycotting ESPN. Instead, the very right of Pat White, who did nothing but shatter records and win games under center at a BCS school, to even play quarterback at the next level is being called into question. You can feel it every time scouts discuss how he should try some receiver drills, or how his 4.5 second 40-yard dash makes him intriguing as an Antwaan Randle-El type of receiver, especially in the Wildcat era of NFL offense. The fact is that Michael Vick managed not only to ruin his own opportunity to change NFL offense; he’s made it where unparalleled athleticism is actually becoming a NEGATIVE trait for aspiring quarterbacks. But if I were Pat White, I’d pull a move that Seneca Wallace still has my respect for trying back in 2003: Burn the boats and insist that teams either draft me to play quarterback, or move on. Money isn’t going to be as big an issue as people are claiming (he’s likely not going higher than the third round no matter what), and as a quarterback, he could establish himself at worst as a starter, and potentially the iconic athlete-slash-quarterback that Vick and Young have, in their respective ways, left us wanting.
I understand that I’m prone to hyperbole, particularly when we’re talking about rare athletic specimens who can pass a ball that I feel are being underrated (FREE TROY SMITH), so let’s just let the numbers speak for themselves. 56 TD to 23 INT suggests that he takes smart shots through the air. The fact that his season TD total increased ever year of his college career suggests that he got better as he played many more games, which has always been one of the signs that a quarterback can succeed at the next level. His average yards per attempt hangs at over 7 yards, and that includes the bizarre regime change at head coach that could have derailed his ability. Oh, and I know we’re viewing this as a minus now, but he did break the NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Forget deserving a chance; if this weren’t the era of NFL GMs living in fear of anything that falls outside of their neat collection of marked terms (POCKET PASSER, WIlDCAT…), White would be a first round pick.
Instead, teams are desperate to hedge their bets, communicating as little as possible and willfully refusing to try and interpret the language of a player like Pat White. Does he have the gaudy passing numbers of Matt Stafford or Mark Sanchez? No, but those quarterbacks had to do what they did because they couldn’t do what Pat White could. Instead, Pat White won games and did so by forcing defenses to adjust to his skill set, only to eventually reveal that they had no idea just how expansive his skill set was. Indeed, what has been most remarkable about White has been his unique adaptation of his physical skills to the requirements of his position. Instead of sacrificing either craft or talent for the other, he has worked to make the two meet. His final bowl game against UNC, in which the UNC defense looked broken about halfway through the game, was like a showcase of what offense should look like. White threatened with his feet, then punished defenders for ignoring his aerial attack. At the NFL level, with better coaches (Bill Stewart seems like a nice guy, but a mastermind he is not), more talented wide receivers (other than Devine, none of White’s targets seemed to get the concept of “separation”), and a league that is starting to toy with the idea that there is no spoon in offensive game planning, White could become a catalyst for the future of NFL offense.
So no, he shouldn’t be a wide receiver. In fact, it’s insulting that teams are even considering using him as such. The notion that any football league, let alone the league that prides itself on being the pinnacle of the sport in both concept and execution, would banish a singular talent like White to the neat and soul-crushingly boring box of being an “Antwaan Randle-El” type ought to be offensive to the intelligence of every football fan. It’s like the league is telling us that we’re not comfortable with change because it has never, ever, EVER been comfortable with even a hint that things don’t need to be the way they’ve always been. I don’t care if it drops him two rounds; Pat White should not play a single down at wideout before he takes snaps as a signal caller. Truth be told, I could care less about White’s draft round, because if he goes late, at least then we’ll know that whoever takes him has no need for him to be something that he’s not, allowing him to be everything that he has the potential to be.