A Chiefs darkhorse at cornerback: D.J. White

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Perhaps there’s no bigger question for the Kansas City Chiefs than the cornerback position in 2016. With veteran Sean Smith defecting for the Oakland Raiders and former starter Phillip Gaines nursing a knee injury, Kansas City doesn’t have an answer opposite of Defensive Rookie of the Year Marcus Peters.

It’s with this in mind that general manager John Dorsey drafted a trio of players who play the position in the 2016 NFL Draft. Between them, one of them is likely to emerge as a candidate for the No. 2 cornerback role.

Thus far, the attention’s been on the team’s third-round pick out of Notre Dame KeiVarae Russell. Next to Gaines, he appears to be one of the front runners for consideration — and for good reason. Russell isn’t as tall as the Chiefs might like, but he’s certainly in the right neighborhood length-wise.

His skill set is also well-suited to the press coverage schemes that defensive coordinator Bob Sutton prefers to run. It’s tough not to be excited about the level of athleticism he brings to the table, but I’m still not convinced he’ll run away with one of the top two spots at his position.

It’s tempting to think draft position alone will decide which draftee will push Gaines for the starting job. The game tape gives me reason for pause. Sixth-round pick D.J. White, on film, looks like a perfect fit for Kansas City’s opportunistic defense. His impressive ball skills and antagonistic coverage style will often remind you of 2015 draftees Steven Nelson and Marcus Peters. White mirrors well and has a knack for getting his hand in, to break up a pass, when the ball arrives.

The other striking part about White’s game is his awareness and penchant for getting his head turned in coverage. Part of being successful as a cornerback at this level is learning to see the ball come in. It’s tougher to defend a pass when you’re playing the receiver rather than the football.

White consistently contests the catch because more often than not, he sees where the quarterback is trying to deliver the ball.

Over the next three months, White will have an opportunity to showcase his aggressive and disruptive style of play for arguably the best two position coaches on the team (secondary coach Emmitt Thomas and defensive assistant/secondary coach Al Harris). He’ll need their help to win the starting cornerback job.

The three-year starter out of Georgia Tech could stand to become more fluid in his hip turn. He could have trouble with double moves in the NFL if he can’t do a better job of changing directions and opening up to run with a receiver.

Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports /

For now, I think Russell’s a safe bet as the top candidate for the job in the incoming class, but with time and coaching, White may emerge and steal away reps from him. In fact, he may even have a higher ceiling in the NFL. He just looks the part of a pesky press corner.

The Chiefs appear to covet taller corners, but White plays bigger than his 5-foot-11 frame would suggest. I’m willing to bet it’s the “size of the fight in the dog” that will win coaches over as the offseason program enters its third and fourth phases.

What’s your projection for D.J. White in year one: Will he make the team and push for playing time or simply be a special teams contributor in his rookie season? Is he the most intriguing prospect of the three cornerbacks the Chiefs drafted this year?

Is his style of play the right fit to complement Peters or do the Chiefs need a less aggressive corner to pair him with? Use the comment section below to begin the discussion. As always, we appreciate your readership and support.

Until next time, Addicts!