Davis Productive Despite Concerns With Speed

Linebacker Rod Davis produced massive tackles at Southern Mississippi. What he didn't have was speed at the Combine. Now he's out to prove wrong those teams that passed on him.

A year ago, the Vikings got the S.O.D. of the draft. This year, they got the D.O.D.

What do these acronyms mean? In 2003, Onterrio Smith was projected as a second-round selection and slipped to the Vikings on the second day of the draft. At the time he was taken, he proclaimed himself as the S.O.D. – Steal of the Draft. Vikings fifth-round rookie linebacker Rod Davis, while not as brash as Smith, claimed he's the Deal of the Draft.

A four-year starter at Southern Mississippi, Smith was incredibly productive. In his final two seasons he had 332 tackles in 25 games. He received All-American notice each of those years. He was a finalist for the Butkus Award, given each year to the top college linebacker.

So he couldn't have imagined that, as the second day of the draft was three hours old, his name had not been called.

"I thought in a worst-case scenario, I'd go in the third round," Davis told VU. "But you have to take it as a blessing. A lot of people don't get the opportunity to play in the NFL. I'm grateful the Minnesota Vikings chose me with their pick and I'm going to do what I can to help this team win the Super Bowl."

The problem, as scouts saw it, was a lack of speed. Despite putting up the type of tackles numbers that has drawn comparisons to Ray Lewis and Levon Kirkland, Davis' lack of flat-line speed was a major concern to some – perhaps more than Davis originally thought.

"Last spring I ran a slow time -- a 4.8 or 4.9 (40-yard dash)," Davis said. "But I thought I answered a few of those questions when I ran a 4.6 at my Pro Day. I know my capabilities. I know I'm a sideline-to-sideline player and I can't wait to do it on the next level."

What should matter, Davis thinks, is that he has produced in every year of his college career and has increased his production each year. That isn't timed with a watch or measured with a yardstick. That, he believes, is the intangible he brings to the Vikings.

"The strength of my game is what God gave me – my instincts," Davis said. "I can read keys and react quickly. That's my strength and it comes with run-stopping."

With the anticipated retirement of former starting middle linebacker Greg Biekert, Davis will have a chance to earn a roster spot and give his NFL dream a chance to thrive – and the Vikings to have another rookie mantra with the D.O.D.

"I believe they got the biggest deal of the draft," Davis said. "I'm going to go in and prove it every day. Then they'll realize that they got a steal and I'm going to prove all those teams wrong that didn't take me. I'm happy to be a Viking and ready to prove a lot of people wrong."

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