If you polled every member of the draft community about who their top two wide receivers are in the 2017 NFL Draft, until a couple of days ago, the general consensus would’ve been that Mike Williams and Corey Davis would fit that bill, with a few probably putting John Ross III into that discussion following his historic 4.22 second run in the 40 yard dash. On March 15, it was confirmed that Corey Davis would not be working out at Western Michigan’s pro day after being unable to work out at the Combine following offseason ankle surgery. Simultaneously, the draft community was thrown into panic regarding Corey Davis’s true standing as a top receiver worthy of a top 15 pick in this draft class.
Many concerns behind not having official numbers for Corey Davis stems from uncertainty around what his true 40 yard dash time is. There is speculation that he could run as fast as 4.45, but without a Combine or pro day performance to make it official, many have voiced their concerns about whether Davis is fast enough to be considered among the top prospects in this draft, let alone receivers.
Like a puzzle, what a wide receiver does to be successful on a consistent basis is comprised of many different pieces, with speed being just one of those pieces. Below you will see two traits that Davis performs at a high level regardless of what his 40 time is, he should still be in the conversation for top wide receiver in the draft.
Release at the Line of Scrimmage
If Davis is going to be able to utilize whatever speed he may possess, he has to be able to get off the line of scrimmage quickly in the NFL. At 6’2” and 209 pounds, he will have a size advantage over many starting cornerbacks at the next level, but it takes more than just being bigger than the other guy to win a matchup on the outside. Davis uses both foot quickness and good hand usage to win at the line of scrimmage with regularity.
Below you’ll see how Davis can use foot quickness to beat a defender when facing press coverage without a jam to quickly get off the line of scrimmage:
At the bottom of the screen, Davis lines up on the numbers. Eastern Michigan’s cornerback, Ross Williams (#14) lines up across from him playing with outside leverage in an attempt to limit the routes that Davis can run. At the snap, Davis begins to set up Williams by working outside initially, causing the cornerback to widen even more trying to maintain outside leverage. Davis gives a quick couple of chops of the feet causing Williams to lean toward the sidelines before Davis quickly and efficiently makes a cut back inside. Williams tries to reach out and grab Davis, but he is already getting past the defender and is now able to run any route of his choosing.
Here is another example of Davis facing press coverage except this time, the cornerback looks to get a jam on Davis as he is coming off the line of scrimmage:
At the bottom of the screen, we again see Davis lined up on the numbers, this time against Wisconsin cornerback Sojourn Shelton (#8) who is playing him straight up and lined up in press coverage. Given Davis’s size advantage, Shelton tries to jam him at the line of scrimmage to slow up his release and hopefully take him out of the play. At the snap, Shelton gets his hands up ready to jam Davis, however, Davis is ready for the jam and also quickly gets his hands up to counter the jam. Davis is able to free himself from Shelton’s hands while also working quickly to the inside giving him a clear path to accelerate off the line of scrimmage and quickly begin his route while leaving Shelton well behind him.
Many wide receivers excel at catching passes inside their frame where they are able to secure the ball against their body, but not every pass is going to be thrown perfectly to the wide receiver within their frame. At times, it is up to the wide receiver to secure the ball with his hands away from the extra security of pinning the ball against his chest, and this is where you can begin separating the good from the great receivers. Standing at 6’2 ¾” tall with 33” arms, Davis has the physical makeup to be able to cover a wide area to catch passes, but just having the physical specs isn’t enough. You have to still be able to catch the ball securely away from your body consistently. Davis isn’t 100% consistent in doing this, but you see enough to know that he is able to catch away from his body at a high level:
In a 2015 matchup against Michigan State, we see Davis lined up at the top of the screen off the line of scrimmage facing off against cornerback Vayante Copeland (#13), who is playing Davis straight up on the numbers. At the snap, Davis begins the stem of his route upfield as Copeland attempts to take inside leverage and turns his hips outside. Davis takes advantage of this, breaking inwards and slightly back toward the line of scrimmage as quarterback Zac Terrell (#11) makes his throw. The pass is above Davis’s head and slightly to the right, but Davis is able to pluck the ball out of the air in stride and quickly transition to a runner after the catch to pick up a decent amount of yards after the catch is made.
In the video below, we see another example of Davis’s wide catch radius except this time, he has to leave his feet in order to reel in the pass:
In the 2016 matchup against Ball State, Davis is lined up in the slot alignment near the top of the screen facing off coverage by safety Corey Hall (#8). Davis wastes no time and quickly gets off at the snap and accelerates directly towards Hall with the stem of his route. At about 13 yards into the stem of his route, Hall turns his hips away from the middle of the field, preparing to run with Davis up the seam. Davis plants and cuts to break into a post route toward the middle of the field, giving his quarterback plenty of room to work with. Terrell delivers the pass, but again it is high. Davis leaves his feet but is able to still secure the ball away from his body at head level before landing and taking a hit from Hall, who recovered quickly.
The Scouting Combine, as well as a prospect’s pro day, are two important elements to get the full picture of a draft prospect. These events allow you to put numbers to the tape that you’ve watched on a prospect to either confirm or make you go back and watch more, but they shouldn’t be the only thing weighed in a person’s evaluation. Davis was a four-year starter at Western Michigan so there is plenty of film available on him, and on tape, you can see he has good speed. He won’t be beating John Ross in a 40 yard dash, but he certainly isn’t running any 4.8s either. Regardless of what his actual 40 time is, he has many more tools that he can work with that will allow him to succeed at the next level.
To get the full scouting report on Corey Davis, as well as the other top 100 prospects in this year’s draft, be sure to get a copy of Inside The Pylon’s first draft guide. To ensure electronic delivery on April 1st and to get $5 off, pre-order your copy today at ITPdraftguide.com and use the promo code “DRAFTME17”.