With a lack of depth in the position over the last few years, the 2017 NFL Draft boasts several worthy first round linebackers. Florida’s Jarrad Davis has the tools to be an early NFL starter, but is still recovering from an ankle injury that he suffered last season.
Jarrad Davis made an early impression at Florida, contributing as a Freshman before starting for the following three seasons. He developed into the leader of the defense in his Senior year, but missed four games do to an ankle injury.
His injury prevented him from playing in the Senior Bowl, and he recently decided to skip the combine in order to fully recover. There is a lot to like about Davis from his tape, but it will be important to see how he is moving around at his pro day.
He finished his college career with 201 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 1 interception.
Weight: 238 lbs
Position: 4-3 OLB, 3-4 ILB
Games Watched: 2015: Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU, South Carolina 2016: Alabama, Vanderbilt, UMass
Davis is an all around player who can do whatever you ask of him. He shows the ability to rush the passer, stop the run, and cover backs and tight ends.
I didn’t see a lot of tape of him rushing the passer, but he was able to provide a consistent speed rush whenever he blitzed. He definitely has the ability to blow up a play before it starts if the offense doesn’t pick up his blitz quickly. He’s big enough that it’s difficult for running backs to block him consistently.
Davis’ run defense was the most impressive thing I saw on his tape. He had several massive stops in just about every game I watched, showing the strength to stop a running back dead in his tracks.
He is able to quickly navigate through bodies to get to the hole before the running back has any chance. Against Ole Miss here, he darts through the hole and makes a stop in the backfield:
The Florida Gator looked particularly impressive chasing down ball carriers on runs to the outside. You don’t see him stay engaged with a blocker for very long. His feet are always moving and he’s always using his hands for leverage to fight through blocks. This is a big run stop against Vanderbilt:
Against the pass, he spent a lot of time in zone coverage, but held his own while covering running backs and tight ends. He definitely has the athleticism to cover the majority of these skill position players.
Davis also seems to be a natural leader on the field, being named captain on a stacked Gators defense in his Senior year. His all around game is very well rounded and even has some Special Teams ability. He was named the team’s best Special Teams player in his Freshman season.
There were a few things about Davis’ tape that were frustrating to watch. There are times when he got juked out of his shoes by ball carriers. This didn’t happen too frequently, but a little too much for someone of his caliber.
I don’t think Davis laid a finger on UMass backup quarterback Ross Comis here:
Another thing I noticed is that while Davis reads plays well in the run game, he can be fooled pretty easily on play action. A step or two in the wrong direction makes a massive difference as a linebacker.
Finally, there were a couple of bonehead plays I saw from Davis, including two roughing the passer penalties in the same quarter against UMass. 15 yard penalties are demoralizing penalties so he will have to be realize when not to hit the quarterback.
As a whole I am very impressed with Jarrad Davis. He has a well rounded game and has the intangibles to be an NFL starter for a long time. I think he’s an instant upgrade to a teams run defense and will develop into a 3-down linebacker. He also has the versatility to play in a 4-3 or 3-4 front.
Some things to worry about are his mental mistakes like roughing the passer penalties, as well as getting crossed up a number of times from quicker ball carriers. He’s also missed some time this past season as well as in 2014 with injuries. Injuries are bound to happen though and Davis has avoided any substantial ones.
NFL Comparison: David Harris, Jets