Every year Bill Belichick seems to fall in love with a safety, starting when he surprisingly selected Tavon Wilson, followed by Duron Harmon, and last season he continued the trend with the selection of Jordan Richard in the second round, a player most expected to see come off the board between the fifth and seventh round. Wilson and Harmon were in the same boat, but they both carved out a role with the Patriots (Wilson signed with Detroit in the offseason). Now Belichick seems to have found another free safety that he is enamored with- Maryland's Sean Davis, who stands at 6'1, 201 and hails from Washington, DC.
Davis is a physical specimen that gives opponents nightmares because of his tenacious style of play. Davis has excellent speed, running the 40-yard dash in 4.46 at the NFL Combine, awesome strength (21 reps on the bench, tops for defensive backs), and not only can he cover a lot of ground while running, he jumped 126 inches (tops for defensive backs, again) in the broad jump, which may not translate to the NFL, but it gives you an idea of his impressive athleticism. Davis is also a versatile player, having the ability to move over and play corner in a pinch and also having the toughness to move over to strong safety.
Davis is far from a perfect prospect though, as he does have some flaws that may limit his ability to start in the NFL. Davis will remind some fans of Tebucky Jones, a player that New England drafted and attempted to move to corner, but it was clear they were trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Jones was moved to safety when Bill Belichick came to New England in 2000, and he flourished under Belichick until he was ultimately traded to New Orleans because of a contract dispute. Davis is very similar in the fact that he has incredible raw ability that needs to be harnessed by a good coach.
Davis also reminds me of Jones because he misses a ton of tackles from over-aggressiveness, missing over 40 tackles from 2013 to 2015. Dont'a Hightower had the same problem when he came into the NFL and now he's one of the best tacklers in the league, so this problem is very fixable. Another reason Davis had issues is because he simply isn't a starting cornerback, he's a safety. Davis is terrible in man coverage, AS A CORNER, but if he is playing safety and has the ability to read and react, he's very good, similar to Devin McCourty in that way.
Davis played in 12 games as a freshman, starting two games at safety, and he finished the season with eight solo tackles and five assists. His sophomore year was considerably better; he started 13 games and finished 63 solo tackles, 40 assisted tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, two interceptions, three passes defended, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
His junior year was just as strong, once again starting all 13 games, but in 2014 he started two games at cornerback. Davis once again put up strong numbers, finishing the season with 80 solo tackles, 35 assisted tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack, eight passes defended, and one forced fumble. As a senior, Davis started every game at corner in 2015, and even though his basic stats looked OK- 70 solo tackles, 18 assisted tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, one sack, three interceptions, three passes defended, FIVE forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery- he struggled big time in man coverage, allowing over 600 yards receiving, being hit with a plethora of pass interference penalties, and he also allowed ten touchdown passes over two seasons.
NFL teams are not going to put Davis in a position to fail, so he'll be playing safety, where he belongs. Davis is projected to be selected in the fifth round, but his athleticism, awareness, and overall tenacity gives him an opportunity to be a good NFL starter. It also doesn't hurt that NFL scouts recognize he was put in the wrong position and have the foresight to project them in their own system. For Bill Belichick and the Patriots, they see a player that they know can fit into their system and possibly become a very good NFL starting safety, either free or strong.
Check out Davis's college highlights, provided by FootballsFinest/YouTube
Statistics Provided by Sports-Reference.com/College Football
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