NFL draft profile: No. 36 — Florida LB Jarrad Davis, undersized closer with high football IQ

Florida LB Jarrad Davis
6-foot-1, 238 pounds

Key stat: Over his final 23 games as a starting linebacker, Davis totaled 154 tackles (17 for losses), eight passes defended, 5.5 sacks, one interception and one forced fumble.

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Florida LB Jarrad Davis can close in a hurry but is undersized. (AP)
Florida LB Jarrad Davis can close in a hurry but is undersized. (AP)

The skinny: Davis was a key reserve for a talented Gators defense as a freshman and was named special-teams MVP. He earned a starting role in 2015 as a junior and was one of the best playmaking linebackers in the SEC. His senior season started out well, but Davis suffered a badly sprained left ankle against Missouri and missed most of the following four games when he tried to play through it. He was still named second-team All-SEC. Davis returned for the SEC title game against Alabama before leaving in the fourth quarter of the blowout after appearing to aggravate the injury. He missed the Senior Bowl and didn’t work out at the NFL scouting combine as the ankle continues to heal.

Best-suited destination: NFL teams appear to be projecting Davis to be a good fit as a 4-3 weakside linebacker (or perhaps a “Mike” linebacker if he’s covered up by big defensive tackles) or as a 3-4 inside linebacker. His size might be limiting for some teams’ systems, but he could find a role in almost any scheme and do it pretty well. Florida assistant coaches Randy Shannon and Geoff Collins have invoked the names Jonathan Vilma, Jon Beason and Ray Lewis when describing Davis’ football IQ, temperament and athleticism. There’s a spot for that on pretty much every NFL roster.

Just a hunch, but these teams would be good fits for Davis: Oakland Raiders, Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals, New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots, Washington Redskins, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks and Miami Dolphins.

Upside: Davis is not afraid to mix it up with the big boys, despite a smaller frame. Will scrap with burly guards and fight through the trash to try to make a play. His head is on a swivel, and Davis uses his good field vision and play speed to sniff out screens and track down ballcarriers from behind. Can flatten down the line, scrape and finish. Has good timing on blitzes. Used occasionally to spy mobile quarterbacks. Good recognition and feel for pass coverage. Can carry a tight end down the seam and make plays on the ball.

Florida LB Jarrad Davis makes a play in coverage against Vanderbilt. (
Florida LB Jarrad Davis makes a play in coverage against Vanderbilt. (

Gutted through injury against Bama in SEC title game before getting hurt again. Thrived, when healthy, under two different head coaches and defensive schemes and has played in multiple spots. Has toughness and leadership traits that NFL teams highly value.

Downside: Size and injury history are concerns. Davis plays like his hair is on fire at times, and it can lead him into trouble by overrunning plays, overshooting gaps and going high too much. His tackling consistency is something his NFL coaches will need to work on with him. Gets stuck on blocks and has trouble stacking and shedding if a lineman gets his hands inside on Davis. Has great quickness and lateral-movements skills but seems to want to engage blockers head on too much instead of taking “half a man” or shooting through cracks. Natural coverage skills but can get beat by quicker or bigger targets. Played in front of a Florida D-line littered with NFL-grade linemen and was mostly kept clean to flow and make plays.

Scouting hot take: “He came across as very mature [in combine interviews]. Just seems like football means everything to him. He plays like it.” — AFC scouting coordinator

Player comp: Vilma and Bobby Wagner are two players we’ve heard Davis compared to.

Expected draft range: Top 40 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

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!