When it comes to the wide receiver position this time of year it’s Corey Davis this, Mike Williams that. People love to debate – Can JuJu break the USC curse? What about the sleeper, Carlos Henderson out of LA Tech? Did you hear about that guy from Georgia State, Robert Davis? Oh, what about Zay Jones from ECU?
Rookies have this sort of awe about them, and dynasty players just can’t help themselves this time of year. Draft season is just around the corner, and we love to analyze film, compare college production, and critique combine performances. It’s exciting thinking about that stud you’re getting in round 1 or that gem you’ll find in round 4. As dynasty owners, we want that next big thing. We want to cash in on our lottery tickets that are our rookie draft picks. And yet, rarely do these guys ever pan out, leaving us disappointed and wondering what could have been.
There’s one particular player who was the ‘Corey Davis’ or ‘Mike Williams’ just two short years ago. But, as we’ve seen all too often, years have gone by with minimal NFL production and we’re left asking ourselves, “Is this guy for real? Will he ever break out, or is this guy just a bust?” The same is true for this player that I’m referencing…Or is it?
The player that I’m talking about put up 1,447 yards on 109 receptions, and 10 TD’s during his final college season. He made Big 12 cornerbacks and safeties look silly all season long as he earned first-team All Big 12 and second-team AP All-American honors in 2014. He ran a 4.35 40-yard dash, benched 23 reps, jumped 36 ½”, and ran a 6.92 three cone drill. This time just two years ago, we were all in love with this player, singing his praises and bragging to all of our leaguemates about being able to draft him in the first round, just like the Chicago Bears did with the 7th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. By now, I’m sure you’ve guessed it – I’m talking about Kevin White, the uber talented WR out of West Virginia.
Entering the 2015 season as a rookie, the future looked bright for White, as many projected him to line up across from Alshon Jeffery, pairing up one of the most talented starting receiver cores in the NFL. However, as training camp went on, White began to have pain in his left shin. After intermittent bouts of rest and battling this nagging injury all of training camp with minimal success, it was announced in late August that White had suffered a stress fracture in his left tibia (shin bone). He had surgery about a week later was placed on the PUP list, missing the entire 2015 season. Often times, stress fractures happen as a result of a drastic and rapid increase in training intensity and frequency in which the body is not prepared to handle this load and intensity. As we’ve all heard, NFL training camps can be brutal. My best guess here is that White struggled with the transition from college to the NFL’s training camp intensity, or that his body simply wasn’t prepared (maybe due to lack of nutrition and training quality, just a guess).
So, White spent the season on the sidelines, observing and learning from the other receivers and coaches on the team. Now, obviously it would have been great for his development to be on the field, taking reps, but I think this carries some value – White was at least in the locker room, on the field, and in the film room learning how to be an NFL receiver.
After spending his 2015 in street clothes, White was ready and healthy for training camp in 2016. He participated in all four pre-season games, and through the first four games of the regular season, White logged 19 receptions for 187 yards. Now, is that impressive? Of course not, but two of those games were played with a backup QB. In week four, White suffered a high ankle sprain and a fractured fibula (outer shin bone) on his left leg. Unlike a stress fracture, this type of fracture is usually traumatic and involves a forced external rotation of the ankle past its normal limits, and it is not uncommon for the high ankle sprain to be coupled with a fibula fracture. With a high ankle sprain, the ligament between the two shin bones gets separated or stretched, making running and jumping nearly impossible. The rehab is a bit different compared to a traditional ankle sprain where you roll the ankle, and it usually takes much longer for the athlete to return, especially if there is a fracture.
If there’s any silver lining to this second injury, it’s that White knows what it takes to get back from a lower leg injury. He’s been through this process before and has come back as a contributor. Alshon Jeffery now in Philly, the #1 receiver role is up for grabs in Chicago, leaving White with a major opportunity this season to prove that he was worth the 7th overall pick back in 2015. White is an excellent buy-low candidate, and according to the latest start up ADP on Dynasty Nerds, White is going on average at pick 6.06. In a make or break season for the third year wide out, I’m definitely paying that price for a player who has everything to prove.
*All professional stats and combine numbers from NFL.com
*College statistics and honors from sports-reference.com