Third Round: 93rd Pick
There are many paths a player can take to get to the NFL, and we've all heard stories of the interesting roads some have traveled to reach their dreams of playing on Sundays.
In this upcoming draft, one of the more interesting stories is that of Utah State cornerback Will Davis. It wasn't until Davis' senior year of high school that he began playing football. A standout defensive back and wide receiver at Central Valley HS in Washington, Davis' football career, which had just began a year earlier, took him to Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington.
Soon after arriving in Bellingham, the football program was cut, and Davis then had to transfer to De Anza Community College in Cupertino, California just to continue his football career. After two standout years at De Anza, Davis found his way to Utah State.
It was there that he put his name on the map for NFL scouts and personnel men to view him in the same light as many who had taken very different paths.
- Good combination of size and speed
- Fluid athlete in space
- Good physicality showed in press-man coverage
- Tracks ball well down the field
- Run defense
- Can be over-aggressive in coverage
- Doesn't have great recovery speed
Davis possesses the physical attributes at 5'11", 186 lbs and the athletic ability to be a solid starting cornerback in the NFL.
He's fluid in space and can open his hips and run with receivers down the field. He's physical in press coverage and aggressive in nature when covering receivers out in space.
Davis is still very raw in terms of his technique as a football player, especially against the run. He'll need time to develop the parts of his game that aren't coming as naturally as others, having played football for just a few years. He's shown the ability to cover out in space and a natural ability to stick with his man down the field.
"He’s one of the best stories I’ve seen," USU coach Gary Andersen said. "He’s a kid that we thought had natural talent and instincts beyond his experience. He played one year and played a role for us. But he’s one of the hardest-working kids that I’ve been around. And he is a kid who has taken to being coached hard. He has listened and gotten better." [source]
Davis spent a lot of time in man coverage at Utah State. He showed an ability to play press man-coverage well and did a good job of getting his hands on receivers at the line of scrimmage.
He'd play off man coverage and gave different looks in zone coverage as well. He'd often play deep where he looked most comfortable. Davis wasn't asked to blitz much from his cornerback position but is something he'd do on occasion.
Playing the ball
Davis excelled once the ball was in the air. He showed an ability to time his jumps and pass-breakups well as he'd meet the ball at its highest point. He's physical in coverage down the field and showed an impressive ability to get his hand on the ball in jump-ball situations.
As a senior Davis had 17 pass breakups and five interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
Against the run
This is the part of Davis' game that needs the most work. He isn't a factor against the run if a receiver or blocker gets their hands on him. He really needs to work on his ability to disengage blockers.
He often tries to tackle too high and doesn't drive through at the point of contact with a ball-carrier. It's either a lack of will or a lack of understanding in how to properly tackle. It wasn't every play, but there were enough plays of this nature that give you cause for concern on whether or not he'll be a liability in run defense in the NFL.
There's a pattern of hot and cold with his willingness to make plays in traffic in run defense.
Davis excels in man coverage and shows a good ability to alter a receivers route off the line of scrimmage by jamming them.
He got overly physical down the field at times and drew plenty of pass interference flags. He will also jump underneath routes and is then susceptible to double-moves. He doesn't possess the recovery speed to makeup for his eagerness and jumping those underneath routes.
He's got the athletic fluidity in his hips and change of direction agility to play out in space and run with receivers all across the field. He shows an understanding of how to play the ball in the air down the field and uses the sideline well when outside the numbers.
Davis does well in zone coverage and recognizes route combinations coming into his area. He's often playing deep in zone and is better about not hopping underneath routes when in zone as opposed to man coverage. This will lead to underneath routes being completed and sets him up to making a play on a ball-carrier out in space, which is a coin flip.
He does well with reading the quarterback and shows an impressive ability to get into passing lanes in the red zone in zone coverage.
Davis will often try to tackle too high when out on the edge in run defense. Even when he's making plays against the run, he's not driving through the ball-carrier but more like grabbing on and pulling him down. He'll drop his head and lunge or leave his feet early and lose all leverage at the point of contact.
Davis plays faster on tape than his 4.51 40-time would lead you to believe. He doesn't possess world-class speed, but when he's beat deep it's often because he aggressively overplayed an early move from the wide receiver.
Against New Mexico State Davis was targeted several times early in that game on bubble screens and quick passes to wide receivers and backs in his area. My best bet is that New Mexico State knew Davis wasn't particularly strong when engaged with blockers or string in coming up and making tackles, and they wanted to go right after him. They found success on those plays.
Davis eventually tried to hop one of those plays, and he did, which led to a wide open touchdown pass that was called back because of a chop block.
That play is below. You'll see the slot receiver motion as if he's going to take a quick screen pass and the outside receiver with the hesitation move.
Future role/scheme versatility
Davis will need to develop his ability to get off blocks in run defense before he'll be counted on as a full-time starter at the NFL level. He'll also need to work on his tackling technique before he'd not be somewhat of a liability out in space.
Davis possesses all the physical ability to be a solid cover corner in the NFL. But he needs time to develop the rest of his game to match the ability he already has in coverage. The NFL is about matchups, and if you're weak in a particular area, teams are going to exploit that. He shows enough natural ability in coverage that he'll get an opportunity to develop the rest of his game with an NFL team. He has a knack for finding the ball in the air and has nice fluidity and change of direction abilities that can't be taught.
I'm not sure Davis provides much help early in his career on special teams because of his weakness in getting off blocks and not showing a proper technique when tackling ball-carriers.
third- to fifth-round pick.
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