Given that the Buccaneers signed Tom Brady in March, the offensive side of the ball has received a ton of attention in conversations about the upcoming NFL Draft ever since. And while offensive tackle, running back and wide receiver appear to be the main positions of need for Tampa Bay, the other side of things could use some additions as well.
The Buccaneer defense was lights-out in the latter part of the 2019 season, and being able to keep Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh on board in March was huge. But there seems to still be a lack of clarity at the safety position. There are a lot of guys that are vying for the two starting safety spots, but it’s certainly reasonable to expect the front office to be looking for another later this month.
That brings us to the prospect we’re spotlighting today as our draft profile series rolls on: Ashtyn Davis, a 6-foot-1 safety out of Cal.
Ashtyn Davis’ Collegiate Career
Davis was on both the football and track and field teams during his time at Santa Cruz High School, but he wasn’t being recruited to play football in college. He excelled in hurdling events, though, and gained interest from some track and field programs. Ultimately, he landed at Cal.
He eventually earned a walk-on spot on the Golden Bears’ football roster in the spring of his freshman year. After that, he didn’t look back. He played in all 12 of the team’s games as a redshirt freshman in 2016, earning special teams MVP honors in addition. He won the award again as a sophomore in 2017, taking over primary kick return duties and finishing with 857 all-purpose yards. But he also saw time on defense, racking up 33 tackles and coming away with one interception.
Davis stepped up as a junior, starting all 13 games on defense in addition to returning kicks. On the year, he had 56 tackles, four interceptions (including a pick six), five pass breakups, 688 all-purpose yards and a kick return touchdown. The Associated Press, Athlon Sports and Pro Football Focus all named him to the All-Pac-12 First Team, while the league’s coaches voted him as an honorable mention.
Finally, as a redshirt senior in 2019, Davis elevated his game even more. He finished with 57 tackles, two interceptions, four pass breakups, six passes defended, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. The accolades came pouring in once again for him, as he was a finalist for the Burlsworth Trophy (given to the top player who began his career as a walk-on), plus he earned All-Pac-12 Second Team honors from the league’s coaches and the team’s Joe Roth Award “for his courage, attitude and sportsmanship.”
All the while, Davis was a huge part of Cal’s track and field team. He was a four-time All-American and a Pac-12 champion for the Golden Bears. Overall, it was a pretty well-rounded and storied college career for the former walk-on.
Obviously, Davis is an extremely gifted athlete. You don’t have as much success in both football and track and field as he did without possessing some exceptional physical traits. He has a lot of what you look for in a great safety, including speed, range, athleticism, ball skills and toughness. Plus, he certainly doesn’t lack versatility, having played in a variety of spots over his football career.
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com says Davis “has electric chase and recovery speed,” “range to play over the top from single-high,” “traits of a future ballhawk if recognition develops” and notes that he “does not lack toughness.” The guys at The Draft Network also have plenty of good to say about the Cal grad, with Kyle Crabbs praising his feet, ball skills, high motor and man coverage skills, while Joe Marino highlights his “dynamic” range, physicality, flexibility and versatility. Not to mention, this is a high-character guy by all accounts. There really is a TON to love about Ashtyn Davis.
Most draft experts agree that the area where Davis needs some more work is in the speed of his processing. His technique and tackling ability—primarily against the run—will benefit from some sharpening as well, but if he takes eyes and processing to the next level, he has all of the rest of the tools necessary to become a heck of an NFL safety. Zierlein projects Davis as a prospect who “will be [a] starter within [his] first two seasons,” while Marino says he “has immediate upside in subpackages and as a four-phase special team player with the upside to start by Year 2/3.”
Why The Buccaneers Need Ashtyn Davis
Things are unclear for the Bucs at the safety position. As noted earlier, there are a lot of guys in the room looking to earn starting roles, but Jordan Whitehead is perhaps the closest thing the team has to a lock for one of them. Behind him, Tampa Bay has to figure out if Mike Edwards, Andrew Adams or D’Cota Dixon can provide enough consistency to be relied upon as a full-time starter. Of course, the future of Justin Evans is also a big question mark after he’s missed so much time with injuries.
So, considering Davis’ upside, he would be a welcomed addition to the group. He has unreal potential and might take some time to develop, but there is definitely a chance for him to get in and contribute right off the bat. Like the other safeties on the roster, Davis possesses versatility, so it’s reasonable to expect defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to find the role that suits him perfectly.
And while there are questions about the 23-year-old’s ability to read and process what he sees from opposing offenses, as well as his in-the-box tackling skills, there is a lot that he does well.
Should It Happen?
Depending on how the draft plays out, I’m willing to answer with a hesitant yes. And the only reason it’s hesitant is because of the relative unpredictability as to where Davis will fall. Jon Ledyard of Pewter Report—admittedly taking somewhat of a gamble—has him as his top safety, giving him a first-round grade. In a recent mock draft, Pro Football Focus slotted Davis at No. 26 to Miami. So, if Davis is going in the first round, I’m not willing to take a huge leap and say it should be to the Bucs at No. 14. Now, if Tampa Bay wanted to trade back or come back into the later part of the first to take him, you wouldn’t hear any complaints from me at all.
But where this becomes a clearer “yes” for me is if Davis makes it to day two. There are plenty of other draft analysts out there that differ on where exactly he will land. Some have him as a second-rounder, while others project him to go in the third. If he’s there when the Bucs pick in the third, which is the No. 76 overall selection, I’d probably draft him in a heartbeat. As for the second, it’s a little bit more of a decision for me. But if Tampa Bay gets an offensive tackle in the first round, I’d be more willing to go safety at pick No. 45 and wait to go running back and wide receiver later on, given how deep those classes are.
But now that you’ve heard my thoughts on this prospect, it’s your turn, Bucs Nation. What do you think of Ashtyn Davis potentially suiting up for Tampa Bay in 2020 and beyond? Be sure to vote in the poll and discuss your thoughts in the comments section down below.
How Do You Feel About Ashtyn Davis For The Buccaneers In The 2020 NFL Draft?
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Draft Him No Matter What
Trade Back Candidate
I Wouldn’t Mind It
There Are Better Options