Why Virginia Tech's Marcus Davis Is the Perfect Late-Round Steal
Davis was the most explosive player on a stagnant Hokies offense. He averaged a staggering 18.7 yards per catch on 51 catches, totaling 953 yards—just short of a school record.
Davis is a prospect that oozes potential and carries plenty of traits that translate well into the NFL, but he has maddening flaws in the mental and technical aspects of the game that will cause him to be a late-round selection—the part of the draft where boom-or-bust prospects are meant to be taken.
Davis certainly looks the part of an NFL receiver, measuring 6'3" and 233 pounds. He has arms that would be long enough to play left tackle, measuring at 33 3/4".
Coming off the bus, CBSSports.com's Shane Brugler likens Davis' athletic ability to that of Dez Bryant:
If players were judged strictly on athletic ability, Davis might be No. 1...Davis looks the part with a tall, bulky frame and the explosive athleticism to create with the ball in his hands, flashing a skill set that is very similar to Dez Bryant.
He ran an average 40 time of 4.56 seconds, but he flashes very good straight-line speed on tape.
As a runner, Davis is a long strider who can outrun defensive backs without much difficulty. He is not the most explosive player off his release, but he has a second gear that he only taps into when necessary, as evidenced by this long touchdown pass against Pittsburgh:
Notice the way Davis effortlessly accelerates when he sees defenders chasing him down, making everyone else look as if they were in slow motion.
Davis' athleticism does not stop with his speed. He has tremendous balance that allows him to turn and get a ton of yards after the catch. He has tremendous body control mid-air, which, in combination with his long arms and catching radius, allows him to "pluck" jump balls and help make up for what was very average quarterback play for the Hokies in 2012.
This 2011 play in the regular season finale against Virginia is perfect evidence of his ability to high-point the ball. First, he is able to beat press coverage with his hands and strength off the line.
Davis is then able to stop his route, fight off a defensive back (who would be called for interference), time his jump correctly and use his strength to reel in the catch.
His size allows him to simply overwhelm defensive backs, and he can be a load to bring down in the secondary.
Davis is far from a perfect route-runner, but he is not as unpolished as perceived; he has flashed NFL route-running ability that help him generate big plays.
Let's examine this long touchdown against North Carolina. Davis is given a huge cushion from the UNC cornerback, as he clearly respects his deep speed. Still, Davis is still able to beat him in coverage down the field. Davis is set to run a stop-and-go route:
Davis is able to stop his momentum immediately, and he sells the route enough to get the corner to bite. He is then able to accelerate quickly to gain plenty of separation to allow Logan Thomas to deliver the touchdown strike.
To get a better idea of how quickly Davis accelerates, watch the touchdown happen in motion:
Where Does He Fall Short?
If Davis is such a great prospect, then why is he not considered to be at the same level as some other top outside receivers like Keenan Allen and DeAndre Hopkins? How does a leading receiver on a top BCS program with such enticing physical traits fall so far on draft day?
The biggest flaw in Davis' game is his concentration and attention to detail. He is blessed with incredible athleticism, but he only occasionally takes full advantage of it.
Davis has flashed the ability to make spectacular catches in traffic, but when he does not have to, he does not regularly catch the ball with his hands away from his body.
He has also gained a terrible reputation as a terrible blocker, to the point where Deadspin felt his lack of effort was worthy of a news story.
Virginia Tech WR Marcus Davis runs 4.40 unofficial 40yd dash at 6'3, 233. Nugget from Mayock: Was benched this past season for not blocking.— NFL Draft Bible (@NFLDraftBible) February 24, 2013
Davis has a huge frame, but he does not attack what are much smaller defenders like you would expect, often leading with his shoulder instead of using his long arms and big frame. Receivers are not drafted based on their ability to block, but the lack of effort in plays that he is not involved in is certainly a huge red flag.
This play is a perfect example of him "getting away" with his athleticism, while ignoring all of the minute aspects of playing the position. He is able to gain terrific separation and his balance allows him to easily shake the defender for the easy touchdown.
However, he does not attack the ball with his hands—instead, he waits for the ball to come to him, wasting valuable time. He may have been able to get away with it in a 52-6 game against Appalachian State, but this lack of attention to detail is what makes prospects like Davis flame out.
What Is He Worth?
Davis has enough ability to have been among the top receivers in this draft, but his lapses in concentration and effort will lead to him being drafted anywhere between the mid-fourth to the sixth round. He will fit best as a perimeter receiver in the NFL.
The reason why Davis would be so enticing to NFL teams is the fact that just about all of his weaknesses are very much fixable. You can teach a player how to block and break bad technical habits, but you can't teach the raw talent Davis has to work with.
Whether or not Marcus Davis succeeds in the NFL will largely depend on the situation he is brought into. If he is given poor coaching and is trusted into the starting lineup right away with poor quarterback play, he will have a very difficult time adjusting to the professional game and becoming the best receiver he can be.
However, if he can go to a veteran roster and develop on the bottom of the depth chart and learn from older vets, he has a chance to truly blossom into a star. Whoever winds up taking a flier on Davis is not going to get an immediate impact player, but they could end up with something special if they have the patience to work with him.
If Davis is able to clean up his game and get the most out of his incredible physical tools, he will wind up being remembered as one of the biggest steals of the 2013 draft.
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