The pre-draft process in 2021 has been unlike any in recent memory—with the NFL Scouting Combine canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, teams have been forced to rely more heavily on the results from pro days to help evaluate the incoming class of rookies. Some young players have taken full advantage of that opportunity—players like Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis.
The 6’3″, 234-pounder doesn’t have a large collegiate resume—he was just a one-year starter for the Wildcats. But that one year was impressive—102 total tackles, four tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, three interceptions and a forced fumble.
Davis’ showing at Kentucky’s March 31 pro day was even more impressive. He peeled off a 4.47-second 40-yard dash—the second-best time from any off-ball linebacker in this year’s class. Davis also posted a 42-inch vertical, an 11-foot broad jump and 21 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press.
Per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal, while Davis’ outstanding pro day surprised some scouts, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said it was par for the course with the youngster.
“He’s 235 [pounds], solid muscle, ripped up, jumping out of the gym and running great numbers,” Stoops said. “That’s from a lot of years of hard work. This isn’t some overnight sensation. Jamin has been working his tail off since the moment he walked in our door. Who was talking about Jamin a year ago, other than maybe having an opportunity? Nobody was saying he was some amazing football player or amazing athlete or first-round pick, but he’s done a lot of work for a lot of years to put himself in this position.”
Those testing numbers only served to underscore what Stoops already knew—whether it’s speed or athleticism, Davis isn’t hurting for physical ability. As a matter of fact, as Michael Wayne Bratton reported for Saturday Down South, Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com made a player comp with Davis that should most assuredly get the attention of IDP managers.
“He looks so much like Darius Leonard when you study him,” Jeremiah said. “Legitimate Rookie of the Year-type ability.”
“Lightly experienced, but ascending inside linebacker prospect with excellent blend of size, length and pursuit talent,” he said. “Davis plays with his pads squared to the line of scrimmage, operating with quick, lateral scrapes and a nose for finding the ball-carrier. He needs to improve his technique in taking on blocks and constricting run lanes. His vision, focus and field awareness are innate strengths that all play a part in his ability to play past blockers with his eyes and pursue with consistent fluidity to the direction of the running play. He can cover big tight ends. He also plays with anticipation and an above-average catch radius to make quarterbacks pay for taking him lightly in zone. Davis could use more seasoning before he’s ready for full-time snaps but he should become a starter.”
Kyle Crabbs of the Draft Network wrote that Davis is a developing young player with some growing to do comparable to Willie Gay Jr. of the Kansas City Chiefs who profiles best as a WILL linebacker. But Crabbs also said that with time Davis could be a force in the middle as well.
“Davis projects as a WILL linebacker at the NFL level and appears to have the ceiling of an impact NFL starter,” Crabbs said. “Davis is long, rangy, and explosive and that correlated to several big plays in the passing game throughout the course of Kentucky’s 2020 campaign. Davis exploded onto the scene in 2020 and wasted little time making the leap to the NFL, but his lack of high volume sample size as a featured player is cause for buyer beware. There’s plenty of untapped potential in Davis’ game and his length flashes to deconstruct blocks while he also showcases the processing power after the snap to duck under blocks and spill opposing ball-carriers into pursuit. But he has yet to master a feel of scraping through traffic game over game and his overall quickness and confidence in decision-making leaves the door open for confident passers and ball-carriers to exploit small creases caused by some delays. Davis has very good range and long speed that will draw the attention of NFL decision-makers—as second-level speed is at a premium right now due to league trends.”