The 2018 NFL Draft Prospect series breaks down draft-eligible players, highlighting their college production as well as their NFL potential. Daily fantasy players should know about NFL rookies before they’ve played a down of professional football because they are among the most misvalued assets in all of DFS. People who know NFL rookies have a significant DFS edge. The draft will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, from April 26-28.
This piece is on Auburn cornerback Carlton Davis, who has declared early for the draft. For the total list of all players leaving school early, see our underclassmen tracker.
Junior | 6’1″ and 203 Pounds | Born Dec 31, 1996 (Age: 21) | Projection: Rounds 1-2
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.53 sec | bench reps: 16 | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: DNP | vertical: 34 in | broad: 124 in
It’s not surprising Davis is one of the draft’s top corner prospects given his NFL-ready size and demonstrated ability against the best competition the nation had to offer. The three-year starter proved more than capable of matching some of the best receivers in the Southeastern Conference while also making his presence felt in the run game. Davis stood out on an Auburn defense filled with future professionals, and his measurements and performance at the combine confirmed his status as one of the league’s next physical specimens at the position. In all likelihood, this April will Davis will become Auburn’s first cornerback selected in the first two rounds of the draft since 2008.
Davis totaled 28 pass deflections and four interceptions in 36 career games. The first-team All-SEC corner tallied a team-high 11 pass deflections in 2017 and limited most of the conference’s best receivers:
- Calvin Ridley: 3-38-0
- Christian Kirk: 8-62-0
- Terry Godwin (twice): 5-48-0, 4-54-0
- J’Mon Moore: 2-35-1
- D.J. Chark: 5-150-0
Davis allowed two touchdowns on a team-high 58 targets last season, but the 21-year-old has flashed enough ability to signal that the best may still be yet to come. The No. 1 cornerback on a top-20 defense in passing efficiency, he allowed one reception for every 16 coverage snaps — the 19th-best mark among all draft-eligible cornerbacks (Pro Football Focus).
It’s not surprising that the SEC speedsters Chark and Kirk gave Davis the most trouble last season, as he wasn’t consistently able to guard against double moves, and a lack of elite recovery speed proved fatal on a few occasions. Still, Davis is plenty adept at making an impact by playing to his strengths. His combination of size, physicality, and instincts make him a one-man wrecking crew for wide receivers to fend off on rush attempts and screens.
All of the traits that make Davis a great run defender also help him thrive in press coverage against under-sized receivers. His length helps make up for the lack of an elite first step, and he hardly made a habit of losing position to receivers on inside routes. Davis looks the part of a lock-down No. 1 corner on plenty of snaps, and he could make that dream a reality with better route recognition skills.
Last year, 75 percent of NFL teams utilized three-wide formations on over 50 percent of their snaps. The need for matchup-proof corners capable of playing man coverage with whomever lines up across from them is more important than ever. Davis doesn’t have the overwhelming production or athletic ability of fellow six-foot-plus prospects Minkah Fitzpatrick and Derwin James, but it’d be surprising to see him fall too far outside the first round given the league’s ever-growing need for competent corners. He might not have the immediate impact of a rookie such as Marshon Lattimore, but Davis could be lethal against complementary receivers sooner rather than later depending on his future defense and coach.
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