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Does Kentucky LB Jamin Davis make sense for the New York Jets?

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)

An extraordinary athlete who is excellent in coverage, Kentucky’s Jamin Davis could fill the New York Jets’ WILL linebacker spot.

As the New York Jets search for a third linebacker to place beside C.J. Mosley and Jarrad Davis in their 4-3 defense, it’s clear what they will be looking for: an athletic, agile player who primarily excels in coverage.

Looking at prospects who could be available to Jets beyond the first round of the draft, Kentucky’s Jamin Davis stands out as a phenomenal fit for what the Jets need.

Widely projected to be a second-round pick, Davis comes into the league following his redshirt junior season. Davis barely played over his first two seasons, but was promoted to a starting role in 2020 as he started all 10 games that he appeared in (missing one game due to COVID-19 protocols).

One season was all Davis needed to catapult himself into the conversation to be a top-50 pick. Earning an 81.6 overall grade at Pro Football Focus that ranked eighth-best out of 198 qualified Power-5 linebackers, Davis was fantastic in both phases. He was stingy in coverage, allowing one touchdown, three interceptions, 6.0 yards per target, and a 66.6 passer rating across 40 targets in his direction. Davis was destructive against the run as well, ranking fourth among Power-5 linebackers in PFF’s run defense grade (87.5) and 15th in total run stops (28).

Two things stood about Davis’ game in coverage: his tackling and his versatility.

Davis was extremely reliable at finishing plays in the passing game, making 33 tackles and missing only two in that phase. That’s a miss rate of only 5.7%, less than half of the 2020 league average for NFL linebackers in the passing game (11.6%).

In addition, Davis showed he can be relied upon out of the slot. Davis lined up in the slot on 82 of his 295 coverage snaps (27.8%), and he did a solid job as he allowed one touchdown, one interception, and 97 yards on 14 targets (6.9 yards per target). Now, it’s not as if he was going one-on-one out of the slot – most of those reps were in zone coverage, as only one of Davis’ 40 total targets on the season came when he was in man coverage – but that’s still a great display of versatility.

At Kentucky’s pro day, Davis flashed a mouth-watering athletic profile as he put up some borderline unbelievable numbers:

  • 40-yard dash: 4.48 seconds (98th percentile among LB, using all-time Combine data)
  • Vertical jump: 42 inches (99th)
  • Broad jump: 132 inches (99th)
  • 10-yard split: 1.53 seconds (95th)
  • 20-yard split: 2.61 seconds (91st)
  • Height: 6 feet, 3.5 inches (94th)
  • Weight: 234 pounds (18th)
  • Wingspan: 79.875 inches (91st)
  • Arm length: 33 inches (79th)

The guy is going to be really fun to use in Madden.

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Let’s dig into the tape and analyze some of the moments that showcase why Davis has star potential in the NFL – particularly in the Jets’ defense.

Davis does not look like a linebacker in coverage. Carrying a smallish 234-pound frame and possessing godlike quickness for the position, he looks and moves more like a safety. Covering the hole on this play, Davis reads the quarterbacks’ eyes and ranges to his right to undercut the throw, showing off his speed and length as he just barely tips the ball to force an incompletion.

In the Mississippi State game, Davis wore No. 22 to honor teammate Chris Oats, who missed the entire season and returned home after an undisclosed medical emergency prior to the season.

Great display of Davis’ click-and-close speed and finishing ability here. Davis follows the running back out of the backfield. The QB fakes (or declines the option to) a screen to the RB before turning to the left side of the field, and Davis slides back to the middle of the field after the fake. With the QB extending the play and the receivers adjusting their routes, Davis does a nice job of recognizing the underneath receiver improvising and breaking over the middle. Davis runs a perfect downhill route to meet the receiver at the catch point and bring him down with no yardage after the catch.

This next play from Davis is a great antithesis of a major issue that the Jets’ lackluster linebackers have had in coverage over the past few seasons: their rampant tendency to “spot-drop.” They rarely had a feel for the threats in their area and typically just dropped to a particular spot on the field while keeping their eyes on the quarterback. That led to a lot of big completions allowed in the middle of the field as they failed to adjust their positioning to the receivers around them.

On this play, Davis shows how to not spot-drop. From a WILL linebacker alignment, Davis drops to his assigned zone, but he takes a couple of quick peeks to identify the nearby threats. He notices only one route in his area, which is the slot receiver to his right looking to sit in the middle of the field. So, rather than just backpedaling straight to a metaphorical X-marks-the-spot, he aims to position himself in a location where he can undercut a throw to the lone player in his area who can do damage. Lo and behold, the throw comes his way, and Davis makes a gorgeous leaping interception that he returns for six points.

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