Pitt safety Jordan Whitehead became the second Panther selected in this year’s NFL Draft, being taken by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fourth round on Saturday. Offensive lineman Brian O’Neill was taken in the second round.
Projections had him somewhere in the middle of the draft so it’s probably about where he was expected to go, I suppose. You can argue that maybe a third round projection was likely but being picked in the fourth isn’t too unexpected, either.
Coming in, his ceiling seemed to be around a high third-round pick. But his stock was probably higher than it was before this season. Fox Sports, for example, actually had him as a first-round pick last spring.
While he played well last year, he had some issues. Whitehead continued to rack up tackles (he had three double-digit games) but had only one interception despite expectations that he would improve there. Whitehead had only a total of three picks in his entire Pitt career. Then, there was the matter of the suspension to open the season as he was forced to sit out for the first three games for an unspecified issue.
Whitehead left school a year early so some will question if he could have improved his stock by returning for his senior year. But the reality is that whether a third round pick or a fourth round pick, he’ll still have plenty of opportunity to showcase his talents. It would have been great as a fan to get him back but I don’t know that he was drastically hurt by not returning. He’d have had to been taken significantly higher to justify coming back and I’m not sure that would have happened.
Whitehead is an intriguing option that point in the draft. His numbers weren’t outstanding last year and the suspension certainly raised some eyebrows, too. But I’d argue that getting him in the middle of the Draft is good value. His skill on defense is there and he’s even got some added versatility with the ability to play a little on offense.