Two years after drafting quarterback Marcus Mariota with the No. 2 pick, the Titans hoped to draft his go-to target in wide receiver Corey Davis with the fifth pick in 2017.
Mariota is now in Las Vegas and Tennessee declined picking up Davis’ fifth-year option, opening the door for him to become a free agent following the 2020 season.
Picking up Davis’ option, at a figure just north of $15 million, would have been expensive, and paying him in a similar contract range to DeAndre Hopkins and Adam Thielen, and more than Davante Adams and Stefon Diggs, isn’t good business for what Davis has accomplished to this point in his career.
As a rookie, Davis battled a hamstring injury and caught just 34 passes for 375 yards in 11 games. Davis started to emerge as a sophomore in 2018, commanding 112 targets with 65 receptions for 891 yards and four touchdowns. Davis’ second season featured two monster games. He had 161 receiving yards in Week 4 against the Eagles and racked up seven receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown against the Patriots in Week 10.
Unfortunately, Davis didn’t continue his ascension last year and hauled in 43 passes for 601 yards and two touchdowns. He did have a key touchdown reception in the divisional round win against Baltimore that sent Tennessee to the AFC Championship Game; it was his third touchdown reception in five career playoff games.
Perhaps the most disappointing component of Davis’ failure to build upon his strong 2018 season was that second-round rookie A.J. Brown led the Titans in receiving with 84 receptions for 1,051 yards and eight touchdowns.
While it was never listed on an injury report, left tackle Taylor Lewan said on Bussin’ With the Boys podcast that Davis had turf toe last season.
“For those of you who do not know, Corey Davis had a turf toe early in the year,” Lewan said in February. “I mean, he’s not the hero we deserve but he's the hero we got working through that turf toe.”
In two of Davis’ three seasons, injuries have limited him. While being healthy is a concern, it isn’t like Davis hasn’t been able to find meaningful production at points in his young career.
Davis isn’t a bust; he just hasn’t produced to the expectations that come with being a top-five draft pick and the salary implications of picking up his fifth-year option.
In addition to his turf toe injury in 2019, Mariota not being able to hold the starting quarterback job was detrimental to Davis’ production. Ryan Tannehill, who entered the year as a backup, didn’t have the time Mariota and Davis previously had to build their chemistry.
While receivers aren’t ever celebrated for their contributions as a blocker, Davis has been outstanding in that regard and is responsible for making key blocks that have sprung Derrick Henry for big gains.
The book is far from written on Davis. He is an exciting blend of size, explosiveness, physicality and ability to produce after the catch. Davis is a fearless target in the middle of the field and can help the Titans’ offense.
Davis could very well put together a productive campaign in 2020 and land an extension with Tennessee or a lucrative deal in free agency.
There’s no question Davis has failed to produce like a top-five draft pick, but he’s far from a lost cause at 25 years old.