It's hard not to feel bad for Chicago Bears WR Kevin White. The former West Virginia star joined the club as the seventh overall pick and came to Chicago with expectations of producing like Dez Bryant or even Larry Fitzgerald. Now entering his fourth season, White's appeared in only five games and has yet to score an NFL touchdown.
It's not all his fault. He hasn't had a chance to actually play. Injuries have turned his once limitless upside into a hope-for-the-best projection heading into 2018. White had no rookie season. He played only four games in 2016. And last year, his season lasted less than one full game.
At some point, however, a player has to prove they're capable of withstanding the punishment that naturally comes with playing professional football. This is the do-or-die year for White to establish himself as an NFL receiver.
From a production and payroll standpoint, it's easy to call White a bust. He hasn't produced and he's getting paid a lot of money. According to Bleacher Report's Doug Farrar, White is the most overpaid player on the roster.
For those five games, the Bears have paid White nearly $14 million of the $16.6 million deal he signed after he was drafted, and they'll be on the hook for the full amount. This season, Chicago has a cap responsibility of $5.3 for their oft-injured receiver, and unless he's able to somehow turn his unfortunate injury history around, his deal can only be seen as sunk cost.
Yes, the Bears have not received a return on investment with White, but his $5.3 million cost this season isn't exactly a back-breaker. Both Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel -- both of whom are coming off questionable seasons themselves -- will make more than White, ranking him third on the receiver payroll. That may be where he is in the pecking order of the passing game, too, assuming he can hold off rookie Anthony Miller.
White needs a year like Kyle Fuller had last season to justify a contract extension in Chicago. His NFL play has to match his college scouting report. It's hard imagining a scenario this season in which it will.
With all the money GM Ryan Pace dumped into the position this offseason with Robinson and Gabriel and the draft-day investment on Anthony Miller, all signs point toward 2018 being White's audition year for 31 other teams.