Jamin Davis is a name many people currently aren't familiar with. You won't find his name on Playerprofiler, and even figuring out his age is a challenge to the average fan. But as we get closer to the NFL Draft, don't be surprised to hear his name come up more often.
Davis is coming into the NFL Draft as a 6'4 234 lbs. Junior. He has great length and weight for a linebacker and utilizes his size and strength effectively. He's shown great natural instincts, but does have some issue diagnosing certain plays. Rarely does Davis miss tackles, but he could do a better job taking angles to maximize his efficiency.
Jamin Davis came into college with a 4.94 40-yard dash time, but he plays much faster than that. He shows good long speed, and quick burst to accompany some terrific lateral speed. It keeps Davis in the play and you won't see him get beat in coverage often.
Davis burst onto the scene in 2020 for the Kentucky Wildcats. He finished 3rd in the SEC in total tackles (104), 7th in solo tackles (48), and T-5th for interceptions (3). He and LSU stud Jabril Cox were the only linebackers to produce at least three interceptions in the SEC.
He was so productive that he even caught the eye of Pro Football Focus; which named him first-team All-SEC this past season. His five consecutive games of double digit tackles was also an impressive feat, finishing second in school history only behind NFL linebacker Danny Trevathan (9).
Taking a look at his film and there were some very impressive things to see from a player getting serious playing opportunity for the first time. There were also some areas for improvement. I'll dive into both below.
Lateral Movement and Long Speed - As I mentioned above, Davis doesn't exactly have world-beating 40-yard dash speed, but does play faster than his 4.94 will tell you. He has an innate ability to make plays sideline-to-sideline and can recover well even when taking a poor angle. It's an excellent trait to have especially in the short passing game as well as the running game as it can limit the big plays.
Strong Tackler - When Davis gets his hands on you, there's nothing you can do. Rarely will you see him miss tackles. He does well in one-on-one situations with the ball carrier and has made touchdown saving plays when put in those situations. He will always try to drive his body through the motion of the tackle, making for good technique and some big hits. His ability to maneuver through traffic helps this, especially when the play is on the opposite side of him. Here you see him doing just that, and making the tackle short of the first down.
Coverage - Despite having little experience doing this prior in his career, Davis does well in both man and zone coverage situations. He has the long speed to keep up with vertical routes, quick lateral recovery to recoup on outside routes, and a very good understanding of his responsibility in zone coverage. These traits are impressive for a man of his size, but it shouldn't be a surprise given his interception numbers this year. Below are two examples of this speed, and ability in coverage.
Effort - Davis is a high motor player who rarely finds himself out of a play. Traits like these often separate the good from the great, and work ethic like this tends to give a player more opportunities in the NFL. Great effort is something that continues to show up when watching Davis play. On this snap, he rushes the passer only to have the play only for the quarterback to quickly hit the wide receiver screen. This doesn't stop him, as he recovers and ends up being part of the tackle; though unable to stop Georgia from converting the 3rd down.
Read-Option Defense - One problem showing up on tape more often than I liked is his overcommitment or lack thereof in the read-option. On some occasions he would get too aggressive attacking and take himself out of the play by not keeping contain. On other occasions, he would play too timidly and allow for extra yardage to occur due to this.
I believe this problem can be fixed and has more to do with lack of experience and coaching, rather than an inability to diagnose the play. On this play (which to be fair is the most egregious example - but it did happen more than you would like to see), both Davis and #91 completely sell out for the running back. While #91 has the true outside contain, Davis also takes himself out of the play by overcommitting and Auburn's quarterback easily gets into the second level.
Block Shedding - While Davis can scrape over blocks due to his burst and lateral movement, he has an extremely tough time getting off of blocks once engaged; especially at the LOS. When matched up against a wide receiver or tight end, it doesn't stop him from making the tackle. But if Davis shows hesitation and doesn't commit to his decision he can occasionally get bullied by opposing linemen. He has a tendency of just lowering his shoulder hoping a simple bull rush can break the block, but more often than not he gets stonewalled.
As with his discipline in the read-option, I too believe that this problem can be corrected with coaching at the NFL level. Davis has good bend, quickness, and strength. His work ethic should allow him to fix this aspect of his game and make him a more volatile threat in the NFL. This first example below is of his 'lowering the shoulder' move he commonly uses to try and bull rush through an OL (with not as much success as I'd like to see).
Jamin Davis is one of my favorite linebacker prospects in this year's NFL Draft. He had an amazing year, although for some reason he was not on the field during some crucial moments. Since there has been no explanation for his seemingly random absence from the field, one can only conclude that it was rest related.
Without having much playing time on defense, seeing Davis play this well in 2020 certainly bodes well for him going forward. He's a raw prospect with unlimited potential and good instincts. While he does have some issues, they are fixable; and fortunately for Davis he won't have to deal with many read-option offenses in the NFL.
Due to the limited sample size, teams could be shy on pursuing Davis with high-end capital. However with his quality of play and opponents, I think that there isn't much drop-off in what he can become. Kentucky will have its Pro Day on March 31st, so teams will see another look at Davis and his measurables.
If Davis continues to show the world class work ethic he's had in college, I believe he can be a full-time starter down the road; and a contributor as early as his rookie season. I have a borderline 1st-round grade on Davis but expect him to go to a team on the 2nd day of the NFL Draft.
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