Position: Free Safety
School: Pittsburgh (2015-2017)
40-Yd Dash: 4.59 sec
Vertical Leap: 34″
Horizontal Jump: 10’3″
3 Cone Drill: 7.16 sec
20-Yd Shuttle: 4.31 sec
Bench Press: 21 reps
Jordan Whitehead is an intriguing prospect due to his athleticism and versatility. Though entered college as a blue chip cornerback prospect, he was moved to safety as a freshman by coaches at Pittsburgh due to his toughness in the run game. As it happens, his freshman year was his best statistically, with 110 tackles, 7 for a loss of yards. He didn’t match those numbers the next two years, as he missed three games each season, but he did still play well enough to ultimately earn an invite to the 2018 NFL Combine (which he missed due to a hamstring injury).
Jordan Whitehead’s biggest strength is his athleticism, which is more evident on tape than his Pro Day numbers. He struggled at times when playing at cornerback from the slot, but with enough development, he could become a good coverage safety. With the proliferation of receiving running backs and tight ends, safeties who can cover from the slot in addition to defending the run are in increasingly high demand. He won’t start high on the depth chart, but his potential to contribute on special teams should give him an edge to make a 53-man roster.
Whitehead notably contributed as an offensive player, as well. While he is unlikely to be drafted as a running back, he did rush for 362 yards and three touchdowns on 8.4 yards per carry while at Pittsburgh. At the very least, this shows off his versatility, elusiveness, and grit. It might also translate to kick return and/or punt return ability, and depth there is valued by the Packers (though not enough to retain Jeff Janis, whose departure opens space for depth at kick returner).Embed from Getty Images
At 5’10”, Whitehead is shorter than your typical safety. He actually barely makes the historical threshold for Packers cornerbacks. At a hair over 5’10”, Whitehead would match Josh Hawkins as the shortest Packers cornerback, and Hawkins was an undrafted free agent. Jermaine Whitehead is about 5’11”, but he has to claw his way onto the Packers roster as an undrafted free agent who was cut by two other teams first. And even then, he spent most of his time on the practice squad or inactive list.
His height affects both his ability to cover and his ability to defend the run at an NFL level. While a 34″ vertical leap isn’t bad, it doesn’t do much to inspire confidence he can win 50/50 balls against tight ends who will tower over him. His 4.59 second 40-yard dash is also slower than one might expect for someone his height.
Fit With Packers
After netting a couple picks in the Cleveland trade, the Packers have two fourth round picks and three fifth round picks. They have plenty of draft capital to use one of those picks based on Whitehead’s upside. After Morgan Burnett’s departure, there is less depth at safety, so new general manager Brian Gutekunst likely won’t be shy about picking up safeties in this draft. His initial contributions would come on special teams, and if drafted he would likely see opportunities at kick returner.
Whitehead will likely end up drafted in the fourth or fifth round. The Packers happen to have five picks in that range, though Gutekunst would likely send a couple off if he wants to trade up. If Whitehead falls to the Packers in the middle of the fifth round, then I’d expect Gutekunst to scoop him up. If Whitehead ends up falling to the sixth round, good chance Gutekunst uses the first of his two sixth round picks on him.
Here are some highlights from Jordan Whitehead at Pittsburgh: