Welcome to part two of my mini series on defensive players who we missed in the draft guide!
On Sunday I put out my profile on Houston edge defender Payton Turner (if you’ve not read that one, you can here).
Today I am focusing on another late riser in this year’s draft class, Jamin Davis the linebacker from Kentucky.
I managed to take in four games of Davis’ 2020 season and I was suitably impressed – Below, I break down Davis when it comes to some key traits for the linebacker position and give my overall verdict at the end of the article.
Games Watched: Ole Miss 2020, Tennessee 2020, Florida 2020 and NC State 2020
Davis is a solid tackler with a good tackle radius and a high success rate during the four games studied – I think I saw one, maybe two missed tackles at most, plus Davis always seems to be around the football when there’s a tackle to be made.
I did note that I didn’t see the greatest amount of stopping power in his tackles though. So don’t expect any bone-jarring hits from the former Kentucky linebacker, and players who don’t deliver big hits always go on my watch list for players who I think could struggle against bigger running backs and tight ends early on in their careers. Davis doesn’t mind getting physical and will be heavily involved in tackling, that cannot be doubted, however, I fear for him coming up against a bigger back and being shrugged off.
One final note in this area would be that I did note that Davis usually opts to drag down ball carriers rather than tackle through them, again meaning his film and play lacks that high-end physicality.
This is a huge plus point for Jamin Davis and really, his range is what sets him apart from others in this class.
Defensive Coordinators in the NFL are always on the lookout for linebackers who can run sideline to sideline in order to track and chase some of the best athletes on the planet who happen to play in the NFL on the offensive side of the ball. To me, given that this kind of player is so in vogue in 2021, this increases his value and is probably the culprit in the back end of the first round talk that we are hearing, which I do feel is pretty rich but will be why he’s been this upwardly mobile at this late stage in the draft cycle.
In the past few years we have seen smaller, quicker linebackers such as Roquan Smith, Devin White and Jordyn Brooks drafted in the first round and have success in the NFL – Jamin Davis could be one of the next batch of linebackers to break into the NFL who are of this mould.
Pass Coverage Abilities
Thus far, I’ve talked about Davis being a willing and able tackler (albeit some improvements could be made), I’ve discussed his range and how he fits into the modern NFL, but can he do another thing that all NFL Defensive Coordinators want – hold up in pass coverage.
Kentucky asked Davis to cover a fair bit and I think he looked pretty solid in this regard too! Davis has also shown nice hands and an ability to cause a turnover with 5 interceptions in 3 years at the college level, including 3 this past year.
This is a nice example of Davis’ hands and but also the length he has as he takes his pass out of the air up high – It’s a pretty ill-advised throw by Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano but Davis does his job by dropping into his zone and getting onto the passing lane. He shows nice hands to snag the ball and then enters attack mode, taking it all the way back for 6.
Outside of splash plays Davis looks to always have his head of a swivel when he’s dropping into zone, which shows good alertness and I feel that there’s enough there that you could leave him out there for all 3 downs as one of two or three linebackers on the field, depending on the down and defensive formation.
As we can see from Davis’ RAS score, this guy is a fantastic athlete and all of these scores back up what we can see on the film.
Davis has fantastic speed which gives him great range to cover sideline to sideline and to back this up, the scores achieved in the jumps show his explosiveness as an athlete.
21 reps on the bench press shows that he could use some extra strength in order to be able to improve when playing through contact – Again, something that shows up on film. However, this is something that can, and probably will, come with an NFL level strength and conditioning programme. What will follow from this is slightly more muscle mass and therefore extra weight, therefore being a remedy to these issues.
Davis doesn’t want to put on too much extra weight given his speed and explosion could be affected, but as we can see from the RAS score, he’s pretty light when compared to NFL linebackers, albeit that is the way of things in 2021 at the linebacker position.
I feel like Davis’ best fit would be as a WILL linebacker in an even front defense where he can be tasked with running sideline to sideline and making tackles. This alignment would also take advantage of his coverage skills and mean that he’d likely be on the field for 3 downs the vast majority of the time.
This will be a slightly different role to that of his college role, where he was a middle linebacker in Kentucky’s 3-4 base defense but I don’t see it being an issue for him to transition in this way.
Davis is an instinctive player who should just be allowed to run all over the field making plays within his assignments in the early part of his career. At present, he’s too small to play on the strongside and even though he can shoot gaps nicely at times and playing WILL wouldn’t allow much of this, he could be used creatively as a blitzer through the B-gaps on occasion.
I don’t feel Davis has the size to play SAM or the experience to play MIKE at the present time.
Lastly, Davis got a lot of experience playing special teams at Kentucky so he adds that value to the team who selects him in just over a week’s time.
Grade: Early-Mid 3rd Round grade, 77/100
I feel like the talk of Davis being taken in the latter stages of the first round is really quite wild. With only one year of really solid production and some holes in his game, as well as some improvements that could be made physically, I just think that would be a reach if a team opted to take Davis within the first 32 picks.
I have given him an early 3rd round grade although he is bordering on a late second round grade on my scale so we are looking at a player who should be able to develop into a starter in the NFL within a couple of seasons.
Davis is a modern day linebacker given that he’s good in coverage, has fantastic range and also has a knack of coming up with an interception or other splash play.
If a team took him at some point in the second round, I don’t feel it’d be too much of a reach considering the ceiling is there and he should acclimatise to the league fairly well.