Written by Kip Earlywine
I still have a few more first and second round prospects I want to cover before the draft, but I think now is a good time to cover a few of the mid-round options for the Seahawks. Today, I’m starting with Demario Davis, a small school player who’s received some attention after a strong Senior Bowl week and a ridiculously awesome combine.
Davis played for Arkansas State of the Sun Belt conference, a conference that rarely produces national title contending teams and who’s best players are often late round draft picks. It’s not a conference with a large national following. As a result, available game tape on Davis is pretty rare. If there is one area of the draft where draft pundits and actual scouting departments diverge the most- it’s with small school players. A lot of national draft pundits barely care to scout those teams looking for gems, and when they do look into a player, it’s only after that player was thrust under the spotlight, either by a Senior Bowl performance, a strong combine, or perhaps after his name leaked out while having a conversation with real NFL scouts. Ordinary people like us just don’t have the resources or man hours that NFL front offices have, and so while I’m just looking into Demario Davis less than two weeks before the draft, I’m sure many NFL scouting departments have been aware of him for years.
There is just one Davis compilation video on youtube, which I link below. There are a few Arkansas St. games which flash a handful of plays by Davis. Most of the videos I found were Demario Davis highlight reels posted by youtube user King23Respected, who I’m 99% certain is Demario Davis himself. You know it’s rough when you might be one of the five best 4-3 LBs in the draft, and you have to do your own youtube videos (thanks for those, by the way).
Because there isn’t much material out there, Demario Davis hasn’t been talked about all that much among draft pundits or draft bloggers, or at least not as much as he deserves. Davis is commonly mocked in rounds three or four, with some having him even later. Will NFL front offices let him wait that long? Is Davis a sleeper second round pick? Well, he should be, in my opinion. Let me be up front, I’ve seen nowhere near enough of Davis to meet my own standards for making a scouting report. But what I’ve seen of him, I like a lot.
First, lets talk about the offseason Davis is having. Davis was invited to the Senior Bowl and drew positive reviews. At the scouting combine, Davis ran a 4.52 forty time, just a hair behind Mychal Kendricks and Zach Brown. He posted an amazing 32 reps in the bench press, which was best among all linebackers and better than most linemen. His 10 yard split was ordinary and his 3 cone time was a disappointment, but he posted a nice 38.50″ vertical. Overall, Davis is having one of the better offseasons among all linebackers.
I had my suspicions about Davis. How could a player stand out at both the Senior Bowl and combine and not be talked about more? I worried he’d look flat on tape. He didn’t.
If anything, what really jumps out is how agile Davis is. How did Mychal Kendricks post a 6.70 3-cone while Davis posted a 7.19? Did he fall down running it? Davis’ change of direction skills and acceleration are among his greatest strengths, which makes him deadly as a pass rusher and potent in pursuit. In terms of field speed, Davis is in my opinion, the fastest downhill running linebacker in the draft. He play’s with a bit of an exaggerated lean which keeps his body weight over his toes at all times. I’m not a linebacker coach and this approach probably has its drawbacks, but one thing it clearly helps Davis with is exploding forward once the play is diagnosed. Davis doesn’t look as fast in a backpedal or in side to side speed, if only in those respects I’d rank him behind Zach Brown and Bobby Wagner.
At the combine Davis posted the aforementioned 32 reps on the bench press, which is extremely impressive. Davis isn’t just weight room strong either. He’s wowed me at times with his bone crunching hits and violent arms. He can shed blockers well with just raw strength and plays way above his 235 pound weight. In terms of strength he reminds me a lot of Courtney Upshaw, and to me that’s high praise as Upshaw has pretty much made a college career out of his strength and arm use. Davis also knows how to combine his speed, acceleration, and power into some of the most awe-inspiring hits of any 2012 prospect I’ve seen to date. As you might expect, his combination of speed and power makes him a feared special teams contributor as well.
Davis played mostly weak side linebacker, but his team played him all over the place as 235 pounds isn’t all that undersized for a linebacker in the Sun Belt conference. I don’t know how many NFL linebackers man the middle at only 235 pounds, but I’m guessing its not many. Davis is strong enough, tall enough, and fast enough to give it a try, but any team that drafts Davis could end up being stuck with him as a pure 4-3 Will linebacker if he can’t add more weight. If Seattle drafts a likely Will linebacker with their second round pick, someone like Lavonte David, Mychal Kendricks or possibly even Zach Brown, that might cause them to approach Davis with caution unless they feel confident he has enough scheme diversity to play two spots in the linebacker corps.
Can Davis add weight? I’m not sure. To be honest, I was very surprised to see that he was measured the same height as KJ Wright, as on tape Davis looks short and squatty. That could be an illusion created by the fact that Davis tends to lean much more than most linebackers do. Anyway, a 6’3″ height would certainly imply potential for weight gain into the 240s or even 250s. However, Davis doesn’t have a very wide or sturdy looking frame, and doesn’t lack for muscle. I don’t know if his frame is maxed out, but I do have a hard time seeing him easily adding another 10 pounds, 6’3″ or not.
Davis’ speed, power, and violent style of play combined with his slightly smallish frame and relatively low weight could potentially make him a magnet for injuries at middle linebacker. I don’t want to rule Davis out for anything, but like Mychal Kendricks I think Davis should probably be slotted in at Will linebacker if possible.
Against the run, Davis’ instincts are more good than bad, but he will occasionally guess wrong when attacking a run play, and occasionally he’ll misjudge a runner a slip off the tackle. It’s more good than bad, and if a coach can improve him in those areas, he has elite potential against the run despite his weight. He attacks the running game with a chip on his shoulder and gives top effort on every snap.
I really like how fast and fluid Davis looks when blitzing. Not very many 4-3 linebackers are feared pass rushers, but Davis has a real chance to be one. I think I like him as a blitzer even more than Mychal Kendricks- although Davis did excel against a lower level of competition, which has to be factored.
Its a very minor gripe, but it should be pointed out that Davis turns 24 years old during the 2012 playoffs, making him one of the older 2012 prospects. Its nothing to hold against him really, but its worth something that he’ll have one or two fewer seasons in the NFL than many other draft eligible linebackers.
The biggest mystery about Davis is his coverage ability. I didn’t see nearly enough of him to get a read on it. Obviously, being as fast as he is helps a lot, and it’s common for linebackers to develop in coverage as they mature in the NFL. If the Seahawks aren’t convinced about Davis’ coverage ability it is possible they might drop him down their draft board considerably if they are indeed looking for linebackers who can cover first and foremost. I’m not bashing Davis’ coverage nor am I celebrating him for it. I just don’t know how good he is at it, and even a lot of the scouting reports I read on Davis seem unsure as well. I’m sure the Seahawks have formulated an opinion, I just don’t know which way that opinion will go. Given his speed and effort, it’s probably in the affirmative, but I can’t say for certain.
FFtoolbox had a great one-liner in their review of Demario Davis which I think says it all:
Davis has a ton of upside and honestly, he’s the type of player that Vontaze Burfict wishes he could become.
Like Burftict, Davis is a violent, nasty, and powerful player, but with the kind of speed and discipline that Burfict can only dream of. This draft is loaded with 4-3 Will linebacker talent, but I think Davis might have the highest ceiling of them all. He’s a very similar player to Mychal Kendricks but with more of a “wow” factor. I’d happily take him in the 2nd round, but the good news is that Seattle might be lucky enough to snag Davis in the 3rd or 4th round depending on how long NFL GMs figure they can wait for him. Davis has no business lasting into the 4th or 5th round, but if he does, he’ll be this year’s Kam Chancellor or Richard Sherman, the kind of player that will in short order cause writers around the NFL to openly ask how in the hell he lasted as long as he did.