The biggest misconception when evaluating prospects is judging players by their college production. If numbers meant everything, we probably would have seen people clamoring for Kellen Moore to start over Matthew Stafford by now. Okay, bad example. If college production was the be-all and end-all, then we'd be talking about Colt Brennan as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game instead of Tom Brady.
You may think this is common sense, but every year I see the same nonsense where someone argues about a prospect and points to their yards, touchdowns, tackles or whatever it may be. Don't get me wrong, statistics and analytics can go a long way. You just need a little bit of context to go with it.
Last year I remember arguing about who was the best receiver prospect to come out of LSU between Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. This was months before the draft when the answer wasn't as cut-and-dried. I get told that Landry was LSU's go-to receiver and caught 31 more passes and five more touchdowns between 2012 and 2013. This was true, but this also leads me to another common misconception when evaluating prospects -- not everyone is going to be placed in the same role they were used in college.
In 2013, roughly 60 percent of OBJ's completions were caught over 11 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. As a rookie in the NFL, 37 percent of his completions were caught over 10 yards beyond the LOS (via Pro Football Focus). LSU had a set role for OBJ and Landry. While OBJ ran primarily intermediate/deep routes, Landry was given most of the screens and short passes over the middle. The New York Giants saw OBJ's potential and used him as a deep threat to stretch the field and were also aware of his quickness and burst, giving him opportunities on screens and quick passes over the middle.
But before I go off on even more of a tangent, I'm here to talk about a player who I believe has been undervalued throughout his collegiate career. This likely has a lot to do with his lack of production, as well as being misused by his coaches. The player I'm referring to is Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis.
Like I said, Davis didn't post the sexiest stats you've ever seen. The hype behind him comes from his dominant Senior Bowl week and impressive combine.
During Senior Bowl week, Davis was considered the "most outstanding practice player" by NFL scouts. When asked about the possibility of playing in Detroit, he was quoted as saying that his favorite player to watch is Ndamukong Suh.
Speaking of which, Davis posted some pretty impressive numbers for a 6-foot-5, 320-pound DT. If you don't believe me, check this out:
I'll just leave this here. pic.twitter.com/IxjqzcEaxJ— Alex Reno (@alex_reno) March 9, 2015
Not bad company.
At Iowa, Carl Davis was used primarily as a one-gap DT in the 1-technique. It made sense. He's a 320-pound tackle who can use his frame to plug holes and stuff the run. However, that isn't what makes Davis special. Where Davis wins is with his quickness. He's incredibly agile for his size and has a knack for getting a great first step and regularly being the first player to explode off the line of scrimmage.
3-tech vs. 1-tech
This play doesn't appear to be too significant at first glance, but it does a nice job of displaying Davis' quickness off the snap. He's the first to react off the line and blows by the center, but unfortunately for him, it's a designed screen to Tevin Coleman.
Davis gets a pretty good jump on this play, but makes a poor decision to swim inside and gets stonewalled by the center. My No. 1 concern with Davis is that he'll lose his leverage and stand straight up, causing him to get overpowered and pushed back. In the 1-tech, Davis is more susceptible to double teams, where he often struggles with his leverage issues.
As a 3-tech DT, Davis can use his quickness and pure athleticism to win one-on-one matchups. Here's a nice example of Davis in the 3-tech abusing Nebraska's right guard and slowing down Ameer Abdullah for a loss. He shows great awareness by keeping his head up and finding the ball carrier while engaged with his assignment. This happens to be one of the most underrated aspects of his game.
A perfect example comes about halfway through the Nebraska game. Davis keeps his balance while watching the ball through the mesh point, resulting in a spectacular play in the backfield. Time after time you'll see defensive ends and tackles consistently make the wrong decision against the read-option and get burned for it. Davis wasn't having it.
One of the biggest issues with Davis' game in 2013 was his inability to shed blocks. In 2014, he really improved with his hand usage.
In the play above, Iowa runs a stunt with Davis coming around the edge versus the right tackle. Davis does a phenomenal job of clubbing the RT to the side with a violent punch and completely knocks him off balance. This opens up a direct path to the QB and ends with a sack on third down.
How He Fits
With Ndamukong Suh taking his talents to South Beach and the Detroit Lions trading for Haloti Ngata, it's clear that the DT position is a priority for them. We may not know if the Lions will sign another starting DT for another couple of weeks, so there's a good shot that they may choose a DT early in the draft. Carl Davis would be a steal in the second round, and could be an option at No. 23 overall as well, depending on where Martin Mayhew has him on his board.
Davis boasts a large frame that can plug holes against the run, and he's also a great athlete. He'll likely serve as both a 1- and 3-tech in the NFL, but I think he's better off with the latter.
2015 NFL Draft profiles: OT T.J. Clemmings (Pittsburgh), RB Duke Johnson (Miami [FL]), CB Eric Rowe (Utah), DT Michael Bennett (Ohio State), CB Quinten Rollins (Miami [OH]), DT Jordan Phillips (Oklahoma), OT Ereck Flowers (Miami [FL]), DT Malcom Brown (Texas), RB Jay Ajayi (Boise State), DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (UCLA)
Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave any suggestions of prospects you would like to be profiled in the comments below.