*CB grades can and will change as more information comes in from Pro Day workouts, Wonderlic test results leaked, etc. We will update info as it becomes available. 

Perhaps it is because it’s late at night, or maybe it’s because on top of being late at night writing this, I’ve literally spent 14+ hours today studying/watching game tape of some of the top DB prospects in this draft. Whatever it is, here’s my opening statement on this scouting report: it’s possible Sean Davis is the best defensive back prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Let me dig a deeper hole. I think Sean Davis is the best cornerback prospect in this draft…on par with/slightly ahead of Jalen Ramsey, and better than Vernon Hargreaves.

Let me see if this hole I am digging will reach to China…it’s possible Sean Davis is one of the 10–20 best prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft. Considering most people do not have Sean Davis in their top 100 overall prospects, this is a bit of a bombshell statement. Allow me to explain…

I’m going to go over his impressive NFL Combine numbers, but I want to tell you what I see—the thing that most attracted me to Davis, after I saw his legit NFL Combine numbers, was watching him on tape. Our scouting models loved him immediately, and I was confused, obviously…at first. I never even really heard anybody talk about this guy. How could he be showing so well in our scouting models? I started studying the tape, and I was instantly sold.

You have to understand. I just got done researching Jalen Ramsey and Vernon Hargreaves in great depth, along with a couple of other interesting DB names. When it came to Ramsey and Hargreaves, I was left a little flat. I expected more. I went back over some tape a second time just to see if maybe I was in a bad mood or what it was. Each time, I left their studies not seeing this gangbuster entity that everyone else saw. However, as soon as I started watching Davis on tape, I was hooked. It was very similar to watching Byron Jones or Eric Rowe from last year. In 2015, while the analysts loved Trae Waynes and Jalen Collins, we were pushing Byron Jones and Eric Rowe before anyone else really was. I feel that same way with Sean Davis.

Honestly, I sat up in my seat quickly as soon as I started watching his tape for the first time. I’m not sure I’ve seen a defensive back with better adjustments/closing moves or recovery moves tracking a receiver running a route. His feet (raw speed, burst, and cutting ability) are out of this world. Davis can twist and turn with the best of them…like the best of all-time kind of feet--and his amazing NFL Combine agility numbers back that up (6.65 three-cone). Man, can he close on a route quickly. He’s the kind of cover corner that can give a little space, and then just has natural instinct to break along with the runner’s route and the quarterback’s throw, and be all over the pass before you know it. I’ve seen guys with Davis’s terrific speed and agility numbers on paper, but I’ve rarely seen it look as special on tape as it does with Davis.

Davis began his career as one of the best safeties in the country, and then switched to cornerback very late 2014, and then played the entire 2015 season there. I’ve seen him get burned on tape, and that’s what critics are hanging on. I think they’re missing everything. Analysts love to point to the game where Davis/Maryland gave up a ton of yardage versus Bowling Green State, but a couple of things to consider: BG State and Matt Johnson…that was possibly the best passing team I saw from 2015, or in years. They destroyed many good teams through the air. In that game, Davis was excellent in coverage, at times, but there were a couple of moments where he thought he had help over the top, but he didn’t…outside of that, it wasn’t the hot mess people portrayed. It was in his statistically worst game, against Bowling Green State, that I earned much respect for Davis. He is so amazing mirroring a wide receiver, but you could still see some of the rawness of him making the switch to his new position…a couple of judgment mistakes in his second game (vs. BG State) as a full-time cornerback in 2015.

You can fix judgment mistakes, and Davis is a very smart player/human being. He speaks three languages. What you can’t fix/what you can’t teach is the athleticism, and the absolute pure instinct in coverage that Davis has.

I watched Davis as the season went on—he was lights-out versus Ohio State and Michigan. I watched Vernon Hargreaves get lit up by Michigan WR Jehu Chesson…but Sean Davis shut him down to 4 catches for 41 yards—and it was a chore to even get those passes in (quick timing passes short). When Michigan got to the red zone, Davis went over to cover the Wolverines best player—TE Jake Butt…and Davis shut him down in a couple end zone attempts. Against Ohio State, Cardale Jones refused to throw Davis’s direction, for the most part—Jones was 1-for-3 passing against Davis; that’s all he tried. Highly lauded OSU WR prospect Michael Thomas couldn’t shake Davis…when Davis covered him (Davis was switching all over the field).

I can rave all day long about Sean Davis’s cover skills, but also exciting is the fact that he has a safety’s mindset. He is not afraid to hit people—a rough day versus Bowling Green State…Davis made 14 tackles at cornerback. Davis is an ace cover prospect, and a quality tackler. He’s the total DB package.

Most scouts do not see him in such a manner. They see that he went to Maryland, which is one strike…because if you didn’t go to Ohio State or Alabama, you really don’t matter. They see he gave up some big plays/stats in a couple of games last year, so they assume the worst. They can’t be watching the tape—if they were they’d be watching the most gifted, rapidly developing pure cover corner instincts in this draft. They’d also see, arguably, the best free safety prospect in this draft as well.

Davis is just like Eric Rowe from last year’s draft. A guy who was an excellent safety for years, but such a special athlete that he converted over to become a successful cornerback in his final college season. Because Rowe went to Utah, and there was not 3–4 years of tape on him at the CB position, draft analysts discounted him. NFL teams didn’t as much. When we look back, Eric Rowe will go down as one of the steals of the 2015 NFL Draft, just like they discounted and overlooked Byron Jones, who was arguably the single best player available in last year’s draft.

Sean Davis, to me, isn’t as gifted as Byron Jones athletically (no human dead or alive is), but Davis is a slightly more instinctual cover corner. Both Davis and Jones have safety mindsets, so they will both hit you as well as stick with you like glue in coverage. Both converted from corner to safety in college as well.

For me, in my heart, I don’t think it’s close—Sean Davis, even if a bit of a raw, developing as a corner, is a better defensive back prospect than Jalen Ramsey…not a ‘diss’ to Ramsey. And Davis is far superior to Vernon Hargreaves. The fact that those two guys (Ramsey-Hargreaves) are fought about as to how highly they’ll go in the top 5–10 overall, while Sean Davis isn’t even on the first-round radar…it’s ludicrous, but typical. At this stage last year, Byron Jones and Eric Rowe were mostly under the radar…only later to rocket up the draft ranks by draft day. I think the same could happen with Sean Davis.


Sean Davis, Through the Lens of Our CB Scouting Algorithm:

Davis led the Big 10 in solo tackles in 2014, when he was mostly a safety. He was 8th in the nation in solo tackles that season.

In 2015, as a cornerback, Davis was 2nd in the Big 10 Conference, and 6th in the nation in forced fumbles with five.

In 2015, as a cornerback, Davis had credit for only three passes defended…but by year’s end there were barely throws challenging him.

Davis had 17 tackles against Wisconsin in a game in 2014. He posted 11 career games with 10 or more tackles. Vernon Hargreaves, much lauded free safety/corner prospect, never had a double-digit tackle game in his college career. Jalen Ramsey did so twice in his career. Deone Bucannon turned in double-digit tackles 15 times during his career.

Davis posted a 6.64 three-cone time at the NFL Combine…best among DBs, third best of any prospect at the Combine. Davis had the third-best short-shuttle time at the Combine as well. Oh, and he was one rep short of posting the best bench press (21) of any DB prospect (22 by Miles Killebrew).

The Historical CB Prospects to Whom Sean Davis Most Compares Within Our System:

I’ve said it a couple of times, but Eric Rowe makes the most sense as a comparison. Bradley Roby also makes some sense, but Roby was a more physical/safety than Davis. I like Davis better as a coverage guy over Roby…no offense to Roby, who I think is an underrated cover corner/safety.

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*The ratings are based on a 1–10 rating scale, but a prospect can score over 10.0+ and less than 0.0

OVERALL RATING -- We merge the data from physical measurables, skill times/counts from the NFL Combine/Pro Days, with college performance data available on pass coverage/tackles, etc. and grade it compared to our database history of all college CBs, with a focus on which CBs went on to be good-great-elite in the NFL. We found characteristics/data points that the successful NFL CBs had in common in college, that most other CB prospects could not match/achieve.

Scoring with a rating over a 7.00+ in our system is where we start to take a CB prospect more seriously. Most of the future NFL successful college CBs scored 8.00+, and most of the NFL superior CBs pushed scores more in the 9.00+ levels...and future NFL busts will sneak in there from time to time. 10.00+ is where most of the elite NFL CBs tend to score in our system analysis.

COVERAGE -- A combination of on-field data/performance and physical profile data

SPEED -- Measurables from a perspective of straight-line speed, burst, etc.

AGILITY -- Measurables for lateral movements, quick cuts, body type, speed, etc. 

POWER -- A look at physical size, tackling productivity in college, other physical measurables. One of the side benefits/intentions here, is to see which CBs may be more of a model for a conversion to playing safety successfully in the NFL. Also denotes CBs who are more physical/will have higher tackle totals...over pure speed/coverage CBs.

2016 NFL Draft Outlook:

I see Sean Davis as a late third-round projection at best, and more often projected as a fourth-or fifth-rounder. That’s not going to be the case by draft week. He’s not going to soar as highly as Byron Jones did, but he may follow the path of Eric Rowe, who went from mostly ignored to #47 overall last year. Rowe should have gone higher in the draft. My guess is Davis will be right around that #50 mark on draft day two.

If I were an NFL GM, you can probably guess what I would do. I see Sean Davis as a possible shutdown corner of the future, with a worst-case scenario of being a Pro Bowl–level free safety. While others pay top dollar for Jalen Ramsey and Vernon Hargreaves, among a number of other names…I can slide in and maybe get the best-in-class DB for a bargain, so I would. Whatever it took to land him either in my set draft spot or trading up—I’m not leaving this draft without the extreme value that is Sean Davis.

NFL Outlook:   

There are two NFL paths for Sean Davis—either he continues to progress as a cornerback and he eventually becomes one of the better cover corners in the NFL, or he moves to free safety where he’s big enough and athletic enough to cover wide receivers as well as tight ends, and can chase down running backs in the open field. He really has it all. There are some plays I have watched of his from 2014 and 2015 that would make your jaw drop. Stellar Combine measurables are one thing, but it translating to tape is another. Davis is great on paper, but he’s even better on tape.