Virginia Tech Senior
Has good speed and can cover a lot of ground, especially when coming up to defend the flat in run support. Has a good nose for teh ball in run support and generally takes good angles to the ball. You like his closing burst that allows him to come upfield and cut the legs of the ballcarrier or receiver in the open field. Does a nice job when working in pursuit because of his closing speed. Does a decent job wrapping up when he should. Gives good effort in run support and he won't shy away from contact. Willing to step up and fill the hole at the point of attack. Will wrap up the big back and hold him until teammates rally. Will set the edge at times when he's working up in the box. Has enough speed and burst in man coverage to stick with tight ends. Does a decent job keeping things in front of him when covering the slot receiver. Has the closing burst to prevent yards after the catch when he gives up a reception. Shows ability to track the deep ball when he's working in centerfield. Able to jump the late throws down the seam or play the ball in the air when a pass hangs up. A willing contributor on special teams.
Undersized and it shows often in run support. Struggles to bring down even the undersized collegiate ballcarriers at the point of attack, and really stands no chance to make stops against NFL-sized runners. Tackles a bit too high and struggles to break down and wrap at the point of attack. Won't drive through as a tackler limiting his pop. When he does step up to fill the running lane up the middle, usually gets trucked or whiffs on the tackle. Struggles to take on lead blocks and get off blocks downfield. At times will take some poor angles along the edge to give up the cutback lane. Will bite on play fakes, and too often gets caught with his eyes looking in the backfield. Doesn't do a good job turning and locating the ball when working in man coverage with his back to the quarterback. Doesn't track the ball well when working in man coverage. And when he's in position to make a play when working in centerfield, he rarely does. Doesn't have good hips to cover slot receivers and lacks the burst out of his breaks to make many plays there.
Whitley is a tough safety that is decent in coverage and run support, but he's undersized and it shows in the latter. And he doesn't have the burst or hips to really think he's an impact player in coverage. For the most part, he's going to be a special teams player on the next level that could potentially contribute as a dime safety/reserve. He was a versatile player for Tech, playing both free safety, strong safety, and cornerback during his time there. Suffered a torn ACL his senior year of high school.
2011 GAMES WATCHED:
(10/1) vs. Clemson: 4 targets, 2 rec., 44 yds (22.0 avg), 34 YAC, 1 TDs
(11/10) vs. Georgia Tech: 1 key blocked; 0 tgt., 0 rec., 0 yds
(11/17) vs. North Carolina: 1.5 stuffs, 1 missed tackle; 3 tgt., 2 rec., 68 yds (34.0 avg), 49 YAC, 0 TDs
(11/26) at Virginia: 1 tgt., 0 rec., 0 yds
(1/3) vs. Michigan: 0.5 stuffs, 1 key blocked; 4 tgt., 3 rec., 57 yds (19.0 avg), 21 YAC, 1 TD, 1 PD
2011: 14 GP/14 GS, 83 tackles, 1.0 TFLs, 0.0 sacks, 2 INTs, 4 PDs, 1 FF, 0 FR
If Whitley was to put on some muscle, his prospects for the NFL would improve. BUt even then he's likely a career backup. Much of his game reminds me of Thomas DeCoud, at least a lesser version of him. They have similar size, but DeCoud is a much more physical and effective tackler in run support. I think Whitley is competent enough in coverage that with some more development, a team could use him as a dime safety that can play centerfield. He has enough experience in man coverage, that he won't be completely lost there, although he's not a guy you want on an island against most starting receivers at the next level. But he's a guy that potentially won't kill you there if forced to get extended minutes. He's better playing centerfield than he is in man. And like DeCoud, he's a guy that even when he's in position to make a play, you can't trust him to make it. I think a couple of years down the road, if he gets bigger and stronger, and develops better awareness in coverage, if he was to get reps as a starter as an injury replacement, he could be a poor man's DeCoud for a couple of games. But for the most part, teams will have to live with his abilities on special teams. I think he can be a good player there, but not a great player there. Good enough that if he can contribute there, he'll make it through his rookie contract as a reserve free safety. But afterwards, unless he's developed a lot more on defense or has become an ace on special teams, he'll be hard-pressed to get a second contract with any team. He's probably more likely to become a journeyman that a team could pick up for a year or two due to injuries, but doubtful anybody will commit long-term to him. He can definitely play in the NFL, but he'll just have a hard-time sticking long-term in the NFL.
Whitley could push for time as a reserve free safety with Schillinger. But he's not likely to beat him out, not as a rookie. Instead, his best bet will be impressing on special teams and hoping that he does well enough to merit the Falcons carrying five safeties on their roster. But more than likely, he'll be a practice squad candidate that down the line could replace Schillinger as the primary reserve at free safety. But he's not a guy that is going to bring much different to the table that Schillinger doesn't already bring, since Schillinger is a better run defender than he is. And if Whitley is better in coverage, it's only by a marginal degree. So unless he makes significant improvements there, or becomes an ace on special teams, it's doubtful he'd stick for more than a year or two before someone else better came along and pushed him off the roster.
Whitley's ability to play special teams and provide depth at safety means he could merit a late round draft pick. But the earliest you would take him is probably midway through the seventh round when teams are looking for depth guys that can play special teams. Instead, he's much better value if you can get him as an undrafted free agent and bring him to camp.
1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite
Man Coverage: 5.5
Zone Coverage: 5.5
Ball Skills: 5.0
Scouting reports of the safeties in the 2012 Draft.
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