49ers roster 2021: Kevin White can resurrect career

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Kevin White (18) Mandatory Credit: Imagn Images
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Kevin White (18) Mandatory Credit: Imagn Images /

Kevin White may always be a first-round NFL Draft bust, but his situation with the 49ers in 2021 might afford him the opportunity to turn his career around.

Raise your hand if you thought former West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White was going to be a massive impact-kind of player when the Chicago Bears selected him at No. 7 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft.

If you said yes, you’re not alone.

Since that point, however, White has gone from a high-profile prospect who was dealing injuries, to a former first-round bust and now to a journeyman backup receiver who’ll always be on the fringes of making an NFL roster.

Which is exactly how White found himself with the San Francisco 49ers a year ago after flaming out with the Bears and even Arizona Cardinals for a brief stint.

Kevin White Receiving Table
3 yr3 yrCHI145482528511.405452.1%5.90
1 yr1 yrSFO30000000

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
Generated 7/19/2021.

White, not more of an afterthought, seems to be on the outside of the Niners’ 53-man roster this season. But with a pretty fluid depth chart at that position behind the two starters, Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, the context is at least there for White to turn his career around.

Using San Francisco as the ideal context.

While he might never shed the “draft bust” moniker, White could still put forth a productive NFL career if he turns things around with the 49ers this training camp.

And, at least for his own sake, into the regular season, too.

Why Kevin White improves with 49ers in 2021

Sometimes, players just need a proper context to latch on with a new team. Even though injuries derailed the early stages of his career, the 29-year-old White didn’t exactly wind up having the most prolific quarterbacks trying to get him the ball in Chicago, and his one-offseason flameout with the Cardinals was also influenced by Arizona’s depth at the position.

At 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds, White’s intangible gifts are still there.

But perhaps the most important thing was White made a good impression on head coach Kyle Shanahan during organized team activities, saying:

"Some of the guys that people haven’t seen yet, with [WR] Jauan Jennings who was on our practice squad last year and a guy like I’m [WR] Mohamed Sanu, who’s done a lot of things in his career, who he’s been having a hell of a camp, [WR] Travis [Benjamin] has been having a hell of a camp. [WR] Kevin White’s been doing great."

It would be one thing if White failed to make any impression at all. But the fact Shanahan at least said something about White is a good indicator heading into training camp.

Why Kevin White flames out with 49ers in 2021, too

It would be one thing if White was 26 years old or younger. But the fact he’s approaching 30 years old is evidence enough he’s probably going to be no more than a fringe wide receiver trying his best to hang around the league however possible.

Shanahan has often used big-bodied receivers as slot options before. And while this would initially seem to benefit White, Shanahan also called out two others, Mohamed Sanu and Jauan Jennings, as potential options for the No. 3 job.

The Niners aren’t going to keep two big-slot receivers on the 53-man roster, and it’s going to be in their best interest to let Jennings and Sanu, not White, get the bulk of reps during training camp and the preseason.

Ultimately making White little more than just a camp body.

Chances of making 49ers’ 53-man roster

White signed a veteran’s minimum $990,000 one-year contract with San Francisco during the offseason, and that deal includes zero in guaranteed money.

From a negative outlook, White is probably someone who gets a handful of second-string reps during training camp but mostly spends time working with the third-string unit, possibly even getting a start during the 49ers’ third and final preseason game, if he stays on the roster that long.

Read More: 49ers roster predictions: Who’s in, out at wide receiver?

On the positive, however, White hasn’t had an offensive context as good as he currently has with the Niners, who could use a big-bodied wide receiver and might be able to put him into situations where Shanahan’s offense scheming him open is the benefit White has been seeking all along.

The latter outcome, while potentially exciting, seems awfully unlikely, though.

In all likelihood, White hangs around through the preseason, perhaps getting a lot of looks in a goodwill effort by San Francisco to feature him enough to get signed elsewhere.

Meaning the 49ers will bid farewell to White before Week 1.

Next. 49ers' 3 thinnest positions entering training camp. dark