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Jordan Davis
NFL Draft

Jordan Davis Is a Complicated NFL Draft Evaluation

  • Joe Marino
  • March 10, 2022
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Jordan Davis is a complicated evaluation.

Perhaps you are surprised to hear that given all of his buzz right now and the accolades he recently collected.

A key part of a historically great Georgia defense that delivered the school’s first national championship since 1980, Davis earned the 2021 Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s top interior lineman, and was the Chuck Bednarik Award winner, given to the best defensive player in the nation.

Davis then showed up at the NFL Scouting Combine measuring 6-foot-6 and 341 pounds with 34-inch arms and 10 ¾-inch hands and clocked a 4.78 40-yard dash, 32-inch vertical jump, and 10-foot-3 broad jump. That 40 time was the fastest ever at the combine for a player over 330 pounds since 2006 and his standing broad jump is believed to be the record for a player over 300 pounds. Even the 10-yard split on his 40 of 1.68 seconds was otherworldly. It was arguably the greatest combine performance in NFL history given his size.

 

 

Even the most skeptical evaluators of Davis can’t help but be impressed by the athleticism Davis displayed at the combine. With that said, size and athleticism were never the concerns with Davis and those abilities can easily be seen in flashes when studying him on film. The concerns with Davis are rooted in weight management/nutrition, conditioning, and pass rush ability and the combine didn’t answer any of those questions.

For a player with all the size and athleticism Davis offers, it did not translate to effectively rushing the passer with consistency in college. While some may point to him not being a third-down player due to the depth of options on Georgia’s roster, he still received more than 600 pass-rush snaps in his career and has 30 pressures on the quarterback to show for it. Not frequently playing on third down is not the same as not being asked to rush the passer. He had ample opportunities to affect the opposing quarterback and he produced pressure at a low clip. The fact that he rarely played on third down is a concern in and of itself.

Before I’m accused of box score scouting, studying the reps of Davis rushing the passer doesn’t reveal an exciting skill set. His first-step quickness is below average as are his bend and ability to consistently clear contact when working to the edges of blocks to propel him to the quarterback. He certainly has the ability to bull rush and collapse the pocket, but it’s often too much of a slow burn for that ability to make a difference.

Of course, Davis is an elite run defender, but the NFL is about passing the football and stopping the pass. When it comes to making a difference on passing downs, Davis doesn’t provide nearly enough value. Can Davis get coached up at the NFL level and unlock his potential as a pass rusher? Of course that is possible, but he has an uphill climb given his starting point entering the league.

Some of Davis’ lack of production on passing downs is likely rooted in his challenges with weight management and conditioning. Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart offered some pointed comments regarding those factors and how they impacted Davis’ ability to deliver for the Georgia defense. During 2021 spring practices, Smart stated:

“Jordan’s biggest issue is conditioning and weight control. He knows that and we’ve got to get him to cut some more for him to be elite. The game of football is played so differently now and there’s certain games where he’s a larger factor in and there’s some games we try to make him a non-factor when they’re spreading the ball out, throwing the ball a lot and playing loose plays.

“It’s harder for him to be a contributor when the ball game speeds up,” Smart said. “So, it’s critical that he gets in the best shape of his life. Part of the reason he decided to come back was to get in great shape so he could create some more value and that’s what he is working on.”

With conditioning and weight control being limiting factors to Davis’ game that led to his return to Georgia in 2021 as something he wanted to improve upon, he actually played fewer snaps per game in 2021 (25) than he did in 2020 (33).

In an NFL that includes more offensive pace and spacing than ever and continues to trend in that direction, Smart’s comments become even more concerning. The Bulldogs were forced to make him a non-factor when opposing teams threw the football a lot and played loose.

Unfortunately, Davis’ issues with conditioning showed up at a critical point in Georgia’s season, the SEC Championship Game—the Bulldogs’ lone defeat of the year. In an uncharacteristic performance for the Georgia defense, the Bulldogs surrendered 41 points and 421 yards of offense to Alabama while the Crimson Tide only possessed the football for 25:47.

Alabama’s plan was to run tempo to wear down Davis and the Georgia defense and it worked. Davis was visibly gassed in the contest and by his own admission, wasn’t in the proper condition for a monumental game on Georgia’s schedule.

“I had to look at myself and realize I wasn’t doing enough… I’d say we weren’t as conditioned as we should have been, especially on my part”

It’s disappointing that Davis came back to school in part to get in great shape and create more value but wasn’t able to deliver in a critical moment.

At SEC Media Day in the summer, Davis commented on how he’s working to improve his nutrition.

“I’m drinking smoothies, I’m drinking juices with vegetables—I don’t even like vegetables,” Davis said. “I’m just telling myself I’ve got to get it, I’ve got to do it. Do whatever it takes to win. … The little things are the big things. I’m a guy who will stay up late. I stay up, I play video games, I make beats. I’m a snacker. So I’ll go in the kitchen and grab Swedish Fish, some Nerds Ropes. I have to switch that. They have organic Swedish Fish that I’m really starting to like. That definitely helps out. I don’t feel guilty when I eat it as when I eat the regular ones.”

Davis arrived at Georgia at 380 pounds and his weight has fluctuated between there and 340. It was encouraging to see him down to 341 for the combine which certainly helped him showcase the best of his athleticism.

The key for Davis moving forward is sustained effort. The combine is simply one data point in a long road map of collecting data points to provide key information regarding prospects to formulate assessments. If the best indicator of future performance is past performance, then it’s fair to have concern about projecting Davis moving forward as he enters the NFL where he will have more free time and money than ever before in his life.

There is obviously a path forward where Davis is a dominant NFL player, and his draft stock is currently soaring. Davis will carry a second-round grade from me and there’s a point in the draft where I would be comfortable selecting him. But in assessing the entire scope of Davis’ evaluation, there’s a lot to consider. In assessing the overall risk, it’s a chance I would be willing to pass on and allow another team to take in the first round.

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Joe Marino