It didn't take long for Patriots fans to start formulating opinions on their second-round pick. Almost immediately after Bill Belichick called Keion White to let him know he would be the team's choice at No. 46 overall, videos flooded the Internet showing a less-than-enthusiastic reaction.
Since he was one of 17 players on hand in Kansas City for the first round, fans wondered if White was disappointed that he wasn't selected earlier. Or worse, some wondered if White wasn't thrilled to be coming to Foxborough and playing for Belichick.
His head coach at Georgia Tech, Brent Key, understands why some had that reaction. In fact, it was similar to his own when he first met White when the defensive end arrived in Atlanta back in 2021 after spending four seasons at Old Dominion. But Key was quick to point out that White's maturity shouldn't be confused with a lack of passion.
"Before you get to know him, he can appear a bit dry and smug and I was taken back by it myself," Key explained. "I was thinking, 'Is he just an [expletive]?' But he's very focused. He's very mature, a lot more so than most college kids coming out. When you get to know him, you understand he has a very workmanlike approach, and he has a passion to do whatever it takes to win football games."
Not that it's relevant in any way at this point, but Key also believes the videos shown were not from the moment he learned the Patriots had just drafted him. Either way, the more important thing to remember is White's serious approach is related to his desire to compete and win.
In order to illustrate that point, Key told an interesting story about White's mindset. Key took over the Yellowjackets last year as interim coach following the firing of Geoff Collins. Georgia Tech went 4-4 under Key, who switched from his role with the offensive line, and was given the full-time job.
"There were just these different things that he would do that stood out," Key said. "When I took over he really went to bat for me as far as being a leader in the locker room and making sure we did everything we could to win football games and supporting me. He wanted there to be more competition in practice so there would be more accountability.
"One of the things he did was set up best two-of-three short-yardage drills between the offense and defense. He would personally hold the defense accountable if they lost. Little things like that really solidified the fact that he was serious and trying to do whatever he could to allow us to succeed, and I appreciated that."
On the field, White possesses a mix of size and skill that few players can match. At 6-4 and 285 pounds, White still runs a 4.76 40-yard dash and has the ability to operate in space in coverage as well as having the power to anchor up front against the run and disrupt the pocket as a rusher.
Unfortunately for White, a serious ankle injury greatly impacted his 2021 season. He dislocated his ankle while playing pickup basketball in August and missed the first eight games of the year. He returned at roughly "60 percent" for the final four games and finished with just four tackles.
But once he was fully healthy in 2022, White enjoyed a breakout campaign. He finished with 54 tackles and 7.5 sacks to go along with 14 tackles for loss while starting all 12 games. That performance put him on the NFL map, where even the highest levels don't see many guys at his size with his skillset.
"He's a big kid that can run. He has a size-speed combination at that position that is rare and those are things you just can't teach," Key said. "He can get low and play with power and he can get after it in the pass rush with enough size and twitch that he's a matchup problem that you can kick inside to the 3-technique. As a matchup one on one he's the best you can ask for. Such a rare size-speed-ability guy with an extreme amount of toughness."
Key spent the 2016-18 seasons at Alabama as the Tide's offensive line coach where he was involved in the recruiting of Mac Jones among others. While there he also got to see plenty of defensive tackle Christian Barmore at practice every day. Key believes Barmore and White, although vastly different in styles, could form a special tandem some day.
"Keion is such a smart kid so he'll be able to work in that package up there," Key said. "[Belichick] likes to find those matchups and that will play to Keion's strengths. Keion is more shredded up like more of an outside linebacker so he wouldn't be able to hold up as an every-down true 3-technique. But with his strength and quickness he could compete inside next to Christian quite well.
"They're different types of players, but I wouldn't want to see those two guys playing in the A-gaps. They should complement each other very well."
Belichick certainly hopes to see that for a long time.
Patriots Draft Pick Profile
Strengths: Good speed with quick feet for size. … Solid upper body strength and uses physicality to his advantage. … Sets the edge well. … Gets consistent penetration with strength by collapsing pocket. … Versatility on display throughout college career with move from tight end to defensive end, as well as the ability to play in multiple schemes. … Considered a coachable player. … Power and speed combination with a high motor.
Weaknesses: Tends to get his pad level high at times. … Despite his speed, has just average quickness at the snap. … Can be a bit stiff on his edge pass rush and struggles to get around the corner as a result. … Mostly relies on power as a rusher and lacks variety. … Struggles to identify blocking schemes at times. … Suffered a serious ankle injury in August of 2021 that limited him to four games that season.
Personal: Began his career at Old Dominion, where he played tight end from 2017-18 before moving to defensive end in 2019. … Transferred to Georgia Tech after ODU cancelled the season due to the pandemic. … Lettered three years in basketball at Garner (N.C.) High School and was a football teammate of Bills returner Nyheim Hines. … Mother Shareese Williams played college basketball at Saint Augustine (1994-98) in Raleigh. … Has interest in real estate and plans to pursue a career in property acquisition after football. … Twitter handle is @_keion.
Comparable NFL player: DE John Franklin-Myers, N.Y. Jets – Similar size and versatility to play in multiple schemes.
By the numbers
Played at Old Dominion from 2017 - 2020
|2018 Played TE: 11 catches, 124 yards
|2020 Season Cancelled
Played at Georgia Tech from 2021 - 22
|Combine Average for Position
|40 Yards: 4.76
|Bench (225): 30
|Vertical Jump: 34.0
|Long Jump: 9-9
What they're saying ....
"You have to see him in person to get a feel for how he moves around for how big he is. Really athletic with a high floor. He'll be a riser." – AFC personnel executive to NFL.com
View photos of Patriots second round pick, defensive end Keion White in action at Georgia Tech.