NFL Draft Destinations: Linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White
A potential sixth season in Happy Valley wasn’t in the cards for Nyeem Wartman-White, as the linebacker decided to graduate after sustaining the third season-ending injury of his college career in this year’s victory over Temple.
Due to horrendous luck with injuries during his career, the former three-star recruit from Philadelphia’s Valley View High School is projected to go undrafted this weekend. However, his performance on the field when he has been healthy should be enough to generate interest from teams in free agency.
Wartman-White appeared in less than half of the Nittany Lions’ games over the past five seasons, playing in 30 out of a possible 64 contests since September 2012. Yet, the 6-foot-1 ‘backer started in 24 of those games, averaging more than four tackles per game in his career. In addition to his duties as a linebacker, Wartman-White was an excellent special teams tackler, even blocking a kick against Ohio in 2012 (highlight of block begins at 2:10).
Wartman-White’s biggest strengths are his ability to finish tackles, his motor, and his pass-coverage skills. Although he isn’t the most agile player, he’s rarely beaten in coverage, as he covers a tight end with ease in the 2013 game against Central Florida featured below.
Facing future NFL starting quarterback Blake Bortles, Wartman-White quickly sees that his man is the check-down option after the snap. By not hesitating to close down the receiver, Wartman-White forces Bortles to throw a much more difficult pass that the Nittany Lions were able to intercept.
Many of his best highlights were plays where Wartman-White simply put in the extra effort that the 21 other players on the field weren’t willing to put forth. This work rate may be the reason why he rarely misses tackles when he makes contact with a ball carrier. It’s not often you’ll see a lazy arm tackle from No. 5.
When Wartman-White does miss tackles, it’s usually due to his lack of lateral quickness which causes him to whiff on some quicker players. Unlike any other typical weakness, this certain issue may also draw doubts and concerns about his prior knee injuries, taking an even larger hit to his draft stock.
Another struggle for the Philly native is that he often is eaten up by bigger blockers. Even though he boasts an impressive work rate and plenty of experience, Wartman-White often misses certain gap assignments by getting stuck behind the front five of the opponent. He had a solid game against Temple in the 2015 loss, but you can still point out a few plays in this highlight video where he lucked into certain tackles five and six yards beyond the line of scrimmage after being blown backwards at the start of the play.
Wartman-White is much more talented than his numbers and pre-draft rankings appear, as he has the potential to follow some other late round/undrafted Penn State linebackers to the NFL, such as Michael Mauti and Mike Hull. The following teams have serious linebacker needs, and would make great fits for Wartman-White to contribute as a defensive reserve. Not to mention, he can contribute immediately to special teams wherever he goes.
Following a 3-13 season in which they ranked among the worst 10 NFL defenses in scoring defense and rushing defense, the Bears can use all of the help they can get on both sides of the ball at this point.
Four of the top eight or nine linebackers on the roster will be over the age of 29 at the end of this season, and this would be a perfect time to take the chance on someone like Wartman-White.
It seems like it’s been ages since the Colts had the air taken out of them (quite literally) in the infamous “DeflateGate” AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots. However, it’s been just two seasons since Indy was 60 minutes away from the Super Bowl.
Consecutive 8-8 campaigns have forced the Colts to hire a new general manager, Chris Ballard, while also pushing head coach Chuck Pagano onto the hot seat. With a defense that lost team legend Robert Mathis to retirement this offseason and already ranked in the bottom high of each of the yards allowed categories (passing, rushing, total) in 2016, Wartman-White would have a chance to make a role for himself on the AFC South team.
Kansas City Chiefs
Each of the Chiefs’ starting linebackers missed games in 2016, as Josh Mauga and Derrick Johnson suffered season-ending injuries, while Justin March-Lillard and Justin Houston have also spent time on the injured-reserve list during their time in Kansas City.
The Chiefs drafted at least one linebacker in four out of the past six drafts, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wartman-White be a seventh-round choice or a quick free agent addition to the AFC West squad. Wartman-White may even find himself replacing fellow Nittany Lion alum and Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali, as Hali turns 34 this season.