NFL draft profile: No. 13 — Western Michigan WR Corey Davis, health question but terrific talent

Western Michigan WR Corey Davis
6-foot-3, 209 pounds

Key stat: Davis is the all-time FBS leader in receiving yards (5,278) and the all-time Mid-American Conference leader in receptions (332) and TD receptions (52). He also is the only FBS player with more than 300 receptions, more than 5,000 yards and more than 50 touchdowns in a career.

Western Michigan’s Corey Davis, right, is our top wide receiver for the 2017 NFL draft. (AP)
Western Michigan’s Corey Davis, right, is our top wide receiver for the 2017 NFL draft. (AP)

The skinny: Emerging from a tough upbringing in Chicago, Davis accepted his first FBS scholarship offer from then-Broncos head coach P.J. Fleck, Davis nearly broke the 1,000-yard mark as a freshman (67-941-6 receiving) as a true freshman standout. He surpassed the 1,400-yard mark in both his sophomore and junior seasons and combined for 167 catches and 27 TDs in those 25 games. Davis then raised his game again following the graduation of Daniel Braverman and had a brilliant senior season in leading Western Michigan to a 13-0 mark before losing to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. Named the MAC’s Offensive MVP, Davis caught 97 passes for 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns — all of which ranked in the top eight nationally in FBS.

After suffering an ankle injury in January and having surgery to repair it, Davis was unable to play in the Senior Bowl or work out at the NFL scouting combine or his pro day. Although the injury is considered minor, the lack of a timed 40-yard dash is still a bit of a hangup for some NFL evaluators. Davis turns 23 in November.

Best-suited destination: We think Davis profiles as an excellent sidekick to a speed receiver, as a possible co-No. 1, similar to what teams such as the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers have. For teams that favor size over raw speed — and give extra credit to competitiveness — Davis makes a lot of sense. Clubs that could be especially interested in Davis’ services include the Steelers, Cardinals, Eagles, Cowboys, Panthers, Bears, Chiefs, 49ers, Texans, Raiders, Titans and Ravens.

Upside: Elite production — some of the gaudiest receiving totals in FBS history. Although he was a big fish in a smaller pond, Davis thrived despite extra defensive attention and played for a former receiver in Fleck, who is known to be demanding and detail-oriented with the position. Showed he can produce against top competition, such as 2015 vs. Michigan State (10-154-1 receiving) and in road wins over Northwestern and Illinois in 2016, with a combined 11 catches and 167 yards. Caught five passes or more in 41 of his 50 college games.

Excellent work in the red zone — scored 26 TDs in his final 19 college games. Good body length. Can body up smaller defensive backs. Does good work downfield and can track the ball easily in the air. Can make the first man miss and will power through initial contact well. Has good gear-up speed once he’s on the move and can pull away from defensive backs when needed, as he did here against Ohio:

Corey Davis can gear up to top speed and pull away from defenders when needed. (Draftbreakdown.com)
Corey Davis can gear up to top speed and pull away from defenders when needed. (Draftbreakdown.com)

Carries a chip on his shoulder from a difficult childhood, and is shows in the passion with which he plays. Has improved each season, working on the little details to get better. Openly has spoken about how he didn’t know how to watch film when he first arrived in Kalamazoo but now enjoys the meticulous process. Has added strength in the weight room and improved his playing speed. Shows effort in blocking. Battles for the ball in jump-ball situations — witness his final college touch, this remarkable touchdown catch on a terribly thrown pass against Wisconsin that was befitting of Davis’ college career:

Western Michigan WR Corey Davis found a way to come down with this TD against Wisconsin. (Draftbreakdown.com)
Western Michigan WR Corey Davis found a way to come down with this TD against Wisconsin. (Draftbreakdown.com)

Smart, humble and coachable. Doesn’t seek the spotlight but is accountable and reliable. Plays hurt. Football matters to him. Can be an occasional trick-play option — 2-of-2 passing for 40 yards in his career.

Downside: Not a vertical threat, per se, and has had trouble separating at times. Increased refinement of his route running is required. Barely faced any NFL-caliber cornerbacks last season. Was held relatively in check in matchups against better secondary talent (Ohio State and Central Michigan in 2015, Wisconsin in 2016). Suffered through a rash of drops last season — one team charted Davis with 12, which is high even for his volume of passes — that was the one big step back in his game in 2016. Small hands (9 1/4 inches) for his frame.

Davis still could more more physical in his play — both as a receiver and in blocking. There’s a cap to his athletic ability and his raw speed likely will never be high end. With his lack of exceptional speed or burst off the line, Davis with have to get even better at using his hands to get a free release. Likely will see a lot of press coverage as a rookie, if for no other reason than MAC corners were not big or strong enough to do that, so he was rarely tested in this way. Scouts have seen a little stiffness in his hips and he possesses only average change-of-direction skills, even with his good body control.

Very little obvious special-teams value. Lined up outside and in the slot, but he might not be a typical slot receiver in the NFL. Barely used as a runner (three carries, 13 yards in career). Medical history not overly concerning but still notable with a bit of wear and tear.

Scouting hot take: “He’s got a great story. He’s a tough kid. He’s self-made in a lot of ways but has some real natural ability. He reminds me just a little of Brandon Marshall when he came out — not nearly as gifted physically but just with just how he plays … and without all the headaches.” — AFC receivers coach

Player comp: We view Davis as a similar prospect to Michael Crabtree or perhaps Michael Thomas last year (only without the high-end college experience).

Expected draft range: We still believe Davis has a shot to be a first-round pick, but it’s not the mortal lock it appeared a few months ago. The lack of a 40 time is still a sticking point for some scouts who worry about his long speed, justifiably or not. We’ll hedge and say that Davis will be a top-35 pick.

Previous profiles

Nos. 51-100: Here’s who just missed the cut
No. 50: Indiana OG-C Dan Feeney
No. 49: Iowa DB Desmond King
No. 48: Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham
No. 47: Wisconsin pass rusher T.J. Watt
No. 46. Alabama pass rusher Tim Williams
No. 45. Washington CB Sidney Jones
No. 44. Alabama LB Ryan Anderson
No. 43. Ohio State WR-RB Curtis Samuel
No. 42. Florida DT Caleb Brantley
No. 41. Connecticut DB Obi Melifonwu
No. 40. USC CB-KR Adoree’ Jackson
No. 39. Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes
No. 38. Michigan State DL Malik McDowell
No. 37: Ole Miss TE Evan Engram
No. 36: Florida LB Jarrad Davis
No. 35: Washington S Budda Baker
No. 34: Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon
No. 33: Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey
No. 32: Florida CB Quincy Wilson
No. 31: Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara
No. 30: Michigan DB-RS Jabrill Peppers
No. 29: Alabama OT Cam Robinson
No. 28: Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer
No. 27: LSU CB Tre’Davious White
No. 26: Missouri DE Charles Harris
No. 25: UCLA pass rusher Takkarist McKinley
No. 24: Michigan DE Taco Charlton
No. 23: Wisconsin OT Ryan Ramczyk
No. 22: Utah OT Garett Bolles
No. 21: Western Kentucky OG-C Forrest Lamp
No. 20: Florida State RB Dalvin Cook
No. 19: Miami (Fla.) TE David Njoku
No. 18: Tennessee DE Derek Barnett
No. 17: Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
No. 16: North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky
No. 15: Washington WR John Ross
No. 14: Clemson WR Mike Williams

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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