Every year teams take chances on players in the NFL Draft, there is no doubt about that. On the other hand, sometimes sure-fire picks fall down the ladder further than expected and right into a team’s lap. The difference between the two is pretty simple: the former is considered a reach while the latter is considered a value or a steal.
Now, depending on which side of the semantical/subjective fence that you are on -depending on the player - it could easily become a reverse scenario than what I just described. Regardless, either situation is guaranteed to crop up every year.
What makes this topic so much fun is the conversation or debate that follow along with it. So which player did Tampa steal? There could be a couple of answers to this question, but there is one clear-cut winner here.
Biggest Value - Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn (2nd Round, 63rd pick)
The penultimate pick in the second round of the draft will be one of Tampa’s best players.
Davis not only represents the physical presence that the Bucs have needed in the defensive backfield for years - since Aqib Talib was traded in 2012 - but he also represents a philosophical change in Tampa. The trademarked Tampa 2 can still be effective these days, but with the combo of ever-increasing size and athleticism in receivers, the change in rules on defense, and the lack of a pass rush in Tampa - there is much to be desired with the zone-based system.
The top three receivers in the NFC South - Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, and Devin Funchess - are all at least 6-foot-3, 212 pounds. Tampa’s biggest cornerback since Talib has been Johnathon Banks. It’s pretty easy evident that Tampa has lacked the size and athleticism to guard the perimeter over the past years. The Bucs haven’t finished higher than 16th in the league in passing yards allowed over the past five seasons before sinking to dead last in 2017.
Davis’s presence will change all of that.
He is tall, long, and fast for his size. Don’t let his 4.56 40-yard dash at the combine fool you. His 4.44 at his Auburn’s Pro Day put him just .02 seconds behind the first receiver drafted in D.J. Moore. This combined with his size, could make Davis very special.
Take a look at the first two receivers drafted in D.J. Moore and Calvin Ridley. Both went to division rivals, so Davis will be playing against them at least twice a year. After checking those links, you can see how well he matches up against the new weapons.
Davis held Ridley to one of his worst performances in 2018 when Auburn played against Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Ridley finished with just three catches for 38 yards on the day, while the entire Bama passing attack was held to 103 total yards. He also played well against Christian Kirk, who was taken before him by the Cardinals.
The former Tiger excels at the line of scrimmage, where he uses his strength, length, and size to push receivers off routes and forces them into mistakes with their routes. To avoid repetition, check out Pewter Report’s Trevor Sikkema’s excellent breakdown of Davis in his latest Cover 3.
Davis’ weaknesses are modest, but can be troubling. He has issues with receivers that are very quick off the line of scrimmage and with complex routes as well. This was most evident in 2017 against LSU receiver D.J. Chark, who was a second-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Here you can see Davis misjudging the throw on a comeback route to Chark, resulting in a missed tackle and a long gain:
On this play, Davis bites on the double-move by Chark, putting safety Steven Roberts in a bad spot. Fortunately Chark fumbles the ball on this play, but with Tampa’s lack of production at the safety position and on the defensive line, this is something that could become all too real for Bucs fans if Davis doesn’t improve his game here:
He also tends to get a bit “grabby” when he is beat. That can be a big detriment to cornerbacks in today’s game with all of the rules that favor the offense.
However, all of these weakness can be corrected with good coaching.
Davis’s strengths far outweigh his low spots. He’s great at disrupting screens in the backfield as you can see here. This will be a huge asset when matching up against all three divisional opponents who like to use their running backs as receivers in a big way:
And as mentioned earlier, he is lockdown corner on the perimeter:
He will still have trouble matching up against your Julio Joneses and Antonio Browns of the league - but who doesn’t?
When Davis is at the top of his game he is a world-beater. This was made evident against the Mississippi State Bulldogs in 2017. Davis didn’t allow a single catch against any of the four receivers he played against while in man coverage and his performance rated him as the nation’s top player for Week 5 by Pro Football Focus. He beat out former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson for the top spot that week.
As the Bucs defense improves, Davis will be the perfect complementary piece that could return this defense to the glory days.
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