MORGANTOWN — The NFL draft kicks off April 26 from Arlington, Texas, and while no former WVU players are expected to go in the first round, there will be a few watchful eyes over the next couple of days.
The first round will begin at 8 p.m. today, on ESPN, FOX and the NFL Network, while the second and third rounds will be Friday, and rounds 4-7 on Saturday. As for when the Mountaineers start to come off the board, it is likely to be during the second day.
Here are the names to keep an eye out for over the weekend:
KYZIR WHITE, DB
The youngest of the White brothers has the highest ceiling and most pro potential, according to scouts.
“Teams are looking to transition him into a hybrid role with the ability to cover tight ends like a safety and support the run like a linebacker,” NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein said. “While he’s nothing special as an athlete, his competitiveness and play-demeanor should earn him a spot as a starter.”
White became known as a hard-hitting “spur” safety in WVU’s 3-3-5 defense. After coming over from Lackawanna College, in Pennsylvania, prior to the 2016 season, he started 25 games, tallying 153 tackles, three interceptions and four forced fumbles.
A few scouts see White playing his natural position at safety, but due to his size and ability to play near the line of scrimmage, others think he could move to linebacker. One of his perceived weaknesses is coverage skills.
Expect White’s name to be called on Day 2, during the second or third round, but there is a chance he could be an early Day 3 selection.
KA’RAUN WHITE, WR
Following a path more similar to the oldest White brother, Kevin, Ka’Raun impressed scouts during his offseason workouts at WVU’s Pro Day and during the NFL combine.
He had the highest bench press of any receiver in the last five years at the combine, with 25. He also ran an official 4.52 in the 40-yard dash.
“White is a good athlete and is a competitive outside receiver who plays with good toughness and play speed, but average hands and strength,” Zierlein said. “His tape won’t blow anyone away, but it is solid throughout, and he has the football character and athletic ability to fight for a spot at the back end of the roster or on a practice squad.”
White had a good senior season, hauling in 61 passes for 1,004 yards and 12 touchdowns. While he’s shown an ability to make big plays, his frame concerns scouts. He’s considered to have skinny arms and needs to play stronger.
White could be a late Day 3 pick or free agent.
JUSTIN CRAWFORD, RB
Crawford’s lead-up to the NFL draft, like his two-year career at WVU, was inconsistent.
He struggled at the combine and did not post the 40-yard time expected of NFL running backs, at 4.62.
It’s his lack of elusiveness, though, that has scouts doubting Crawford.
“Crawford is a slightly built slasher whose lack of vision, decisiveness and play strength will make a journey to an NFL roster difficult,” Zierlein said. “While Crawford does have the athletic traits to be more elusive, he lacks that second-level creativity to set himself apart from other runners. Crawford may have to flash as a return man or on special-teams coverage if he wants to make a team.”
With the Mountaineers, Crawford had several incredible games, including running for 331 yards, against Oklahoma, and 209, against Baylor, in 2016. He struggled with injuries throughout his career, and in other games was out-shined by other backs in the backfield.
Crawford will likely be a late pick.
AL-RASHEED BENSON, LB
The captain and one of the leaders of the WVU defense the last two years, Benton was a steady force at “Mike” linebacker.
While his contributions to the Mountaineers were impressive — 204 tackles and 18 1/2 for loss — not many believe his skill set translates to the NFL, but there is potential.
“He didn’t allow a touchdown in coverage over the past two seasons, albeit on just 33 targets, but did have two interceptions and three pass breakups in 2017 alone,” Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson said. “He was a missed-tackle machine in 2017, falling off 28 tackles, the most in the nation and three times as many as his 2016 total. He very well could prove to be a mid-round steal if he limits the missed tackles.”
Benton could be drafted in the later rounds, but if not, should be picked up as a free agent.
KYLE BOSCH, OL
Bosch had a steady career with the Mountaineers after transferring from Michigan. He started 37 games from 2015-’17 at left or right guard.
“Bosch is sturdy and competitive at the point of attack, but athletic limitations prevent him from being more than an alley fighter in tight quarters,” Zierlein said. “He is strong for his weight and plays with power over positioning, so he’ll need to find a double-team-based rushing attack to be at his best. His ability to hold up in pass pro could improve his draft standing a little bit. Bosch will likely have to fight for a backup roster spot.”
NFL.com projects Bosch as a free agent.
Cornerback Elijah Battle, fullback Elijah Wellman, safety Marvin Gross, cornerback Mike Daniels and long-snapper Nick Meadows will likely get opportunities as free agents.