The Jets went into this offseason knowing they needed a No. 1 receiver for Sam Darnold, or whoever the quarterback for the 2021 campaign is. That’s why they were aggressive in signing former Titans WR Corey Davis to a three-year, $37.5 million pact.
With $27 million in guaranteed money, Davis immediately becomes the Jets’ top passing option. And for a No. 1 option, that isn’t a bad price tag.
But is Davis ready for that title?
When he was drafted fifth overall by the Titans, Tennessee believed he would develop into the player that A.J. Brown has become. It never fully came together until last season when Davis hauled in 65 receptions for 984 yards and five touchdowns. He had 891 yards in 2018 with four scores, but the 2020 campaign saw a different Davis on the field, one that could be a true threat alongside his counterpart in Brown.
The Jets are now relying on him to do the same but in a bigger role this upcoming season, and advanced stats prove that he can be a No. 1 receiver after all.
According to Pro Football Focus, Davis was eighth in the NFL among starting wideouts with an 87.2 receiving grade. Bills WR Cole Beasley comes after him at No. 9, making them the only No. 2 receivers in the Top 10. Davis also finished eighth with an overall 86.9 offense grade.
So, despite being in a supposed run-first scheme because of Derrick Henry and having a No. 1 option opposite him, Davis’ production was very similar to Brown’s and rivaled many other top dogs across the league. Adam Thielen, Julio Jones, Tyreek Hill and Michael Thomas all come after Davis in the receiving category.
Where Davis also stands out is when he’s thrown the deep ball. On balls thrown 20 or more yards downfield, he caught six of 12 for 229 yards and two touchdowns. Davis relies on his speed and size to handle defenders in those situations, and it's paid off. It’s not the same number of deep shots that Ryan Tannehill threw to Brown, but when he did, 50 percent isn’t bad at all.
Most of Davis’ targets also came in the 10-to-19-yard range (41) and he caught 27 of them for 493 yards and two scores as well.
What this tells us is Davis can really make defenses pay with chunk plays. It helps that Brown was on the field with him, drawing attention elsewhere. But Davis still has to get open and he did so for big gains on many occasions.
And finally, there’s the reliability factor, which offensive coordinators and quarterbacks love. If a receiver can make the catch and do something with it when thrown to, quarterbacks will usually throw there more often.
Davis had a 70.7 catch percentage in 2020 – the best mark of his career thus far, per Pro Football Reference. His passer rating when thrown to was also a career-high at 123.6. His best was 100.6 in 2019. However, it is worth noting that Davis did have four drops on the year, though it didn’t hurt his overall production.
So, after looking at the numbers, can Davis be the No. 1 threat in the passing game the Jets have lacked for quite some time? Absolutely.
He has all the prototypical measurements in terms of size and speed, but his stats last year were no fluke. This is the type of player that everyone projected out of Western Michigan four seasons ago. It just took some time to develop.
Not only can he be a deep ball threat, but Davis makes those catches in the middle of the field to move the chains and extend drives. That’s exactly what the Jets are looking for, and new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur should have a good time working with Davis because he will be tasked with making the most of New York’s latest offensive investment.
There’s no reason why Davis can’t top 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.