2021 NFL draft prospects: Kentucky LB Jamin Davis

·3 min read
Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

Kentucky LB Jamin Davis

6-foot-4, 236 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.71 — starter potential

TL;DR scouting report: Impressive athlete with untapped potential whose best football could be in front of him

Games watched: Auburn (2020), Mississippi State (2020), Tennessee (2020), Florida (2020)

The skinny: A 3-star Rivals recruit, Davis enrolled early in 2017 and redshirted that season, adding weight to his 190-pound frame. Davis spent most of the next two seasons as a reserve, starting one game as a sophomore and playing extensively on special teams. In his breakout season of 2020, Davis ranked in the top 20 nationally in tackles per game (10.2) and hauled in three interceptions before declaring early for the 2020 draft.

Upside: Nicely defined build with good length and movement. Good burst to shoot gaps quickly and close fast on ballcarriers. Expected to test very well. Fits profile and template of today's NFL linebacker with chiseled physique.

Plays with an edge. Unafraid to stick his nose in the trash and do the dirty work. Good run-diagnostic skills to disrupt blocking schemes and short-circuit ground games. Puts in the effort to hunt down the ball, even when he’s seemingly out of the play.

Made three timely interceptions in 2020 — TD-saving pick at end of the half vs. Mississippi State, 85-yard pick six at Tennessee and crucial fourth-quarter INT in bowl game win over North Carolina State.

He can operate as a blitzer, man all three LB spots and walk out to the slot on backs and tight ends. Good special teams experience (more than 450 snaps in final three seasons) on “big four” coverage and return units. Blocked FG try in 2020 vs. Georgia.

Stepped up into leadership role as unexpected starter in 2020 and was one of the faces of a Wildcats defense that was among nation’s better units.

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - JANUARY 02: Jamin Davis #44 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrates a defensive stop against the North Carolina State Wolfpack during the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl at TIAA Bank Field on January 02, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Kentucky LB Jamin Davis had three interceptions in his final college season. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Downside: Very inexperienced, playing about 800 defensive snaps over three seasons with only 11 starts. Earned a starting position only after the hospitalization of teammate Chris Oats. Davis doesn’t fully trust his instincts yet and might need time to soak up a complex NFL defensive playbook.

Coverage duties mainly relegated to spot drops in zones and man matchups with slower pass catchers. All three of his picks came on poor passes/tipped balls. Had only two passes defended the rest of his career. Can get nickel-and-dimed in coverage for chain-moving completions (see Mississippi State, N.C. State games).

Will come in a little hot and let tackles slip through him. Could use some technique refinement and more time developing his eyes.

Best-suited destination: Ideally, Davis can land with a team where his athleticism can be developed as a special teams performer and third or fourth linebacker early on before being given a starter’s role. Has the chance to be a breakout player early in his career with the right incubation period.

Did you know: Davis wore No. 22 against Mississippi State to honor his teammate, Oats, whose football career was halted indefinitely last spring because of an undisclosed medical emergency. The tribute was inspired, as Davis racked up 11 tackles and an interception in the win.

Player comp: Davis reminds me of 2016 Atlanta Falcons fourth-rounder De'Vondre Campbell and 2017 New Orleans Saints third-rounder Alex Anzalone.

Expected draft range: Day 2 (Rounds 2 or 3).