The newest member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' backfield does a lot of things well, but there's little doubt that his pass-catching ability is what caught the team's eye.
Late Friday evening, the Buccaneers finished up the second day of their 2022 NFL Draft efforts by selecting Arizona State running back Rachaad White with the 91st overall pick, near the end of the third round. That followed second-round selections of defensive lineman Logan Hall and offensive guard Luke Goedeke. Hall has a good chance to step right into a starting role on the Bucs' defensive front and Goedeke will compete for the vacant left guard spot, but White joins a running back stable that is returning its lead man, Leonard Fournette, on a new multi-year deal.
That doesn't mean White will be marginalized as a rookie. The Buccaneers are in win-now mode and they focused their early draft picks on players who can make important contributions in 2022. White is an intriguing runner who averaged 6.3 yards per carry at Arizona State and has real three-down potential in the NFL, but at the very least his prowess in the passing game should make him a factor early on. In just 15 games at ASU White rakced up 51 catches for 607 yards, averaging an impressive 10.6 yards per grab.
"That was a big reason that we liked him and took him where he did," said General Manager Jason Licht. "He's been very involved in that offense in the passing game. He's got great hands. It's very important to him to be involved in the offense in the passing game and he has a lot of pride in that. There's a lot of backs that are two-down backs; when you have a three-down back you put him up on the board a little higher for us, especially in our offense. I think he's got a chance to be a big asset for us in that regard."
Before he can get on the field for a significant number of snaps in the Bucs' Tom Brady-led offense, White will have to prove that he can make sure it remains a Tom Brady-led offense. The Bucs won't risk playing a back with pass-protection deficiencies that will put their quarterback peril on third downs, but they believe White has the potential to handle that job.
"Yeah, a hundred percent," said Licht of his confidence in the rookie back in that regard. "A lot of these backs, I'd say most of them in college, you can pick them apart for their pass-protection skills. It's kind of a lost art. As long as they're willing, as long as they're smart, as long as they want to do it, you have a chance to make them better and work on their weaknesses in that regard at this level. We saw that with him. We saw the passion. This guy's a really driven guy with a chip on his shoulder. With guys like that, you've got a chance."
At the end of the night on Friday, Licht indicated that White was the best player left on Tampa Bay's draft board at the tail end of the third round, regardless of position. While the former Sun Devils star may make his most immediate impact as a pass-catcher, he has impressive running skills as well, which led to him gaining 1,420 yards on the ground for ASU, or 94.7 per game. White, a self-styled 'football junkie' says he has watched countless hours of tape on such backs as Le'Veon Bell and Arian Foster. While he wasn't comparing his own game to those players, he does have a similar upright rushing style and patient approach to following his blocks.
"He hasn't put on a uniform yet or even practiced in the NFL yet, so I don't want to compare him to Le'Veon, but I see what you're saying there, just the style," said Licht. "He's very smooth. He's more of a slasher, more of an outside runner. He can still run between the tackles, but he's got great vision and great patience. He really sets up his blocks well, and once again he's very good in the passing game."