I have no idea where Akeem Davis-Gaither will be drafted, but I’m certain it won’t be high enough. Even before undergoing surgery in February to repair a stress fracture in his foot, many experts had him going in the third or fourth round. That’s because he doesn’t smoothly project to any one position at the next level. The 225-pounder lined up as an end, a slot cornerback and a box safety in college – sometimes in the same game. Ironically, he’ll probably wind up at inside linebacker in the NFL – the one position he technically didn’t play at App State.
Assuming the foot checks out, there’s no way a player as talented and productive as Davis-Gaither should be available after the second round. Yes, he’s a bit of a tweener, but there’s a place for tweeners in a league that gets faster every year. Davis-Gaither has the type of speed that can chase down quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray, and he’s fluid enough in space to cover running backs and athletic tight ends. But I knew all that before turning on the computer. What I wanted to see is if he had the ability to hold up against the run. It didn’t take long to find out. While he ain’t Ray Nitschke, he ain’t Oren Burks either.
These two plays against North Carolina caught my attention right away. In the video below, watch how Davis-Gaither (#24) disengages from the block by the wide receiver and hurls himself at the running back. It’s not a great play, but it shows the tenacity of Davis-Gaither, and it’s something I saw quite often on tape.
In the next video, Davis-Gaither doesn’t make the tackle, but for all intents and purposes, he makes the play.
To be fair, it’s one thing to be able to disengage from a 200-pound college wide receiver and it’s a whole other thing to disengage from a 300-pound NFL offensive lineman. How well Davis-Gaither can do the latter will determine just how good a player he’ll be on Sundays. But sometimes, as the next video shows, not allowing yourself to be engaged is the best way to beat a blocker. Watch how Davis-Gaither is able to deftly get under the pulling left guard from South Carolina and make the tackle. That’s an outstanding play.
If drafted by the Packers, Davis-Gaither would likely challenge for a starting job at inside linebacker. He might not be the best fit next to free-agent acquisition Christian Kirksey, but unless general manager Brian Gutekunst spends a high pick at the position or the disappointing Burks improves dramatically, I’m not sure who’d be a better fit. Regardless, Davis-Gaither almost certainly will be part of the sub-packages from day 1.
Those three plays were enough to sell me on Davis-Gaither, so I was about to switch games when this happened:
Davis-Gaither shows his quickness and his instincts by stepping in front of the receiver and coming away with the interception. He moves like a safety on the field, but as I found out, he should also be physical enough to survive at linebacker at the next level. He’ll need to find the right team, but if he does, he’s going to be one of the steals of the draft. And did I mention he played most of last season with that stress fracture?
Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and/or FacebookFollow Packers Notes