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2021 NFL Draft profile: Kentucky LB Jamin Davis

Could the Wildcat solve the Broncos issues at linebacker?

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TaxSlayer Gator Bowl - North Carolina State v Kentucky
Is Davis the answer beside Alexander Johnson?
Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

The Broncos’ off ball linebackers were a reliably solid unit in 2020. Alexander Johnson saw his role expand to take on more blitzing as Fangio adjusted to life without Von Miller. Josey Jewell stepped into the void when Todd Davis was released in September and overperformed expectations.

Together with the safeties, the duo served as the most consistent part of the Broncos’ defense as they combined to play more than 1900 snaps.

Both Jewell and Johnson return for 2021 with contracts that expire after the season. Questions about their futures as well as John Elway’s attempt to acquire Patrick Queen in the 2020 draft does mean there’s a real possibility George Paton is looking for a dynamic three down linebacker.

Would Jamin Davis make sense as the next Fangio backer?

At a glance

A one year starter in the SEC, Davis has a combination of size and speed to entice. The Wildcats asked him to play an overhang role where he was routinely asked to play in space. He has experience covering receivers, move tight ends, and backs.

Why he fits the Broncos

  • Davis’ father played football at Bethune-Cookman and his younger brother plays at Mount Union, a Division III power.
  • Started 11 of 36 games in a 3-4/3-3-5 defense, logging snaps at both Mike and Will.
  • Very good athlete with very good agility, explosiveness, and solid lateral mobility.
  • His length and AA provides a road towards becoming very good at stacking blocks.
  • Solid competitive toughness with a very good motor, he’ll play to the whistle and refuses to give up on plays.
  • He shows good mental processing in coverage, reminds me of 2019 Alexander Johnson in how he generally plays fast, even if he’s figuring it out on the fly.
  • Displays a good ability to leverage gaps using subtle movements to manipulate opposing blockers’ angles.
  • He’s a very good tackler when he attacks the ball carrier with the requisite physical tools to inflict punishment.
  • When he’s kept clean he does a very good job working through trash to the ball.
  • Takes solid angles in pursuit to the perimeter and his play speed makes him right more often than not.
  • Good in zone coverage with the athletic ability to split the seam or break on the ball. When he keys routes or QB his fluidity in space is a real asset to the defense.
  • In limited exposure he displays good man coverage and looks to be able to mirror tight ends, backs, and some receivers.
  • Very good ball skills and doesn’t hesitate to disrupt the catch point or make a play on the ball. He has a large catch radius and finished with three interceptions in 2020.
  • In the right hands his athletic tools could make him a solid blitzer on games.

Reasons for concern

  • Skipped both agility drills at Pro Day which suggests his 3-Cone and Short Shuttle times could have disappointed.
  • Per Sports Info Solutions’ charting: Only four tackles for a loss in 2020 and five in his career.
  • Does not look like he’ll be a QB of the defense early on as he’s still drinking from a firehose.
  • Instances where he hesitates into contact. Not a natural head hunter.
  • Adequate mental processing against the run and he will get caught flat footed against misdirection. Pulling guards cause notable hesitation.
  • Adequate play strength hurts his ability to shed blocks or make a difference rushing the passer.
  • Displays an adequate ability to take on blocks and when he’s not proactive he gets hung up and/or washed out.
  • There are instances where he displays poor zone spacing which allows for easy completions.

What I’ve seen / heard / read

“Davis is a long, explosive linebacker prospect with impressive tackling ability, but is far from providing an impact in coverage. He projects best as a core special teamer and inside linebacker in an odd front defense where he can be protected from blockers getting on top of him.”

-Expand the Box Score

“Davis is a fast, rangy linebacker that can be a difference maker in coverage at the next level, though a lack of overall instincts and inconsistencies in the run game may give him some trouble early on in his career.”

-Sports Info Solutions

“Davis is an athlete with one of the highest ceilings of any linebacker in this class. His size, range and coverage ability would slot in very nicely at the Chiefs’ WILL linebacker position. Unfortunately, he would likely need some development before Steve Spagnuolo would trust him to be on the field, similar to Willi Gay Jr. in his rookie year. He also does not project well as a MIKE linebacker, leaving him with a bit of an overlap with Gay’s usage in the future. While he could make the linebackers better, the cost and fit may not be right for the Chiefs.”

-ArrowheadPride Draft Guide

Jamin Davis Draft and Combine Prospect Profile | NFL.com

Lightly experienced, but ascending inside linebacker prospect with excellent blend of size, length and pursuit talent. Davis plays with his pads squared to the line of scrimmage, operating with quick, lateral scrapes and a nose for finding the ball-carrier. He needs to improve his technique in taking on blocks and constricting run lanes. His vision, focus and field awareness are innate strengths that all play a part in his ability to play past blockers with his eyes and pursue with consistent fluidity to the direction of the running play. He can cover big tight ends. He also plays with anticipation and an above-average catch radius to make quarterbacks pay for taking him lightly in zone. Davis could use more seasoning before he’s ready for full-time snaps but he should become a starter.

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: LB Jamin Davis | The Draft Network

Jamin Davis projects as a WILL linebacker at the NFL level and appears to have the ceiling of an impact NFL starter. Davis is long, rangy, and explosive and that correlated to several big plays in the passing game throughout the course of Kentucky’s 2020 campaign. Davis exploded onto the scene in 2020 and wasted little time making the leap to the NFL, but his lack of high volume sample size as a featured player is cause for buyer beware. There’s plenty of untapped potential in Davis’ game and his length flashes to deconstruct blocks while he also showcases the processing power after the snap to duck under blocks and spill opposing ball-carriers into pursuit. But he has yet to master a feel of scraping through traffic game over game and his overall quickness and confidence in decision-making leaves the door open for confident passers and ball-carriers to exploit small creases caused by some delays. Davis has very good range and long speed that will draw the attention of NFL decision-makers—as second-level speed is at a premium right now due to league trends.

Daniel Jeremiah’s top 50: 2021 NFL Draft prospect rankings 3.0

Davis is a tall and lanky off-the-ball linebacker. He has excellent eyes to key, read, fill and finish. He uses his quickness to beat blockers to spots. He is much better working around blocks than taking them on, but he has outstanding lateral range, and his eyes give him a jump-start. He has stopping power as a tackler in the hole, and he really excels against the pass. He has shown the ability to carry TEs down the seam as well as mirror RBs on wheel routes (SEE: Vanderbilt game). He is instinctive as a zone dropper, picking off three passes in 2020, including an 85-yard pick-six versus Tennessee. I wish he was allowed to blitz more often, because he has the traits to excel in that department. Overall, Davis lacks some strength to bang versus blockers, but his speed and playmaking ability jump off the screen. He should be a Day 1, three-down impact player at the next level.

Final Thoughts

If George Paton is looking to grab an athletic coverage backer with the length to grow into a reliable sideline to sideline threat in time, Davis makes a ton of sense. His relative inexperience and issues with physicality means there could be some bumps in the road early, but landing with a coach like Vic Fangio could help him grow into an All Pro.