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2017 NFL Draft PREVIEW Scouting Report: WR Corey Davis, W. Michigan

Date:
March 1, 2017

‘Preview’ scouting reports are when I take a look at a small amount of tape and overall output data we have on a non-QB prospect before the NFL Combine and complete a preview report on what I’m seeing before I do a larger scouting study after the NFL Combine or Pro Days. Our computer scouting models cannot function properly without the NFL Combine and/or Pro Day data, so I’m not committing to these scouting reports being my definitive word on the prospect. Using what we have, I wanted to take a glimpse at some of the bigger names to share what I see initially.

When I watch Zay Jones on tape, I think he might be the best wide receiver in this class. When I watch Cooper Kupp on tape, I think he might be the best wide receiver in this class. When I watch Mike Williams on tape, sometimes I think he’s overrated a touch, but then sometimes I think he might be the ‘best in class’. When I watch Corey Davis on tape…I think he might be the best wide receiver in this class. I have 3–4 ‘best’ guys at wide receiver depending upon who I watched last. The NFL Combine is going to be the ultimate divining rod to separate and classify these top WR prospects.

I was watching Corey Davis tape today, and all I could think was ‘this looks like tall-Antonio Brown‘. His routes are nice. He makes all the catches. He has nice movement after the catch. All the things you love to see on tape…and then he dominated on the field. He didn’t dominate by being a 4.2 runner or because he has Calvin Johnson size/reach…he doesn’t possess super-speed or super-size. Davis just dominates because he’s a great, natural technician at wide receiver.

That’s not to say Davis isn’t an athlete. I think he may surprise everyone away with his 40-time and agility times, if he can participate (he’s questionable to work at the Combine due to injury). The more I watch him the more I realize – he isn’t being pushed to great numbers and status by a high volume of work. He’s creating the high volume/high output…he’s earned his numbers. Davis worked with a pretty limited QB in Zach Terrell…and Davis was so good that he thrived with weak QB play…so much so that now Terrell is actually considered an NFL prospect because of it. It’s not Terrell – it was Corey Davis that was the straw that stirred the drink between the two.

I watched Davis in the MAC title game versus Ohio and in their bowl game against Wisconsin – it’s the same guy both games, and in every game I’ve seen with Davis. No matter the competition or the stage – Davis is a great-looking wide receiver, only limited by the quarterback play from producing even higher numbers.

Davis has NFL size, speed, and hands. He also has NFL route-running ability, long arms, a great ability to catch passes at the high point, and has nifty moves after the catch. He really has a total package for a WR prospect. The question is going to be – his frame is a little thin, so how willing will he be to work over the middle and how physical will he get with NFL press corners. He shows to be an aggressor in college, but will his lanky frame allow him to do that in the pros? No matter what on the physicality for the next level, he’s still a legit prospect as a starting-level wide receiver for the NFL.

I’ve seen analysts’ whisper ‘drops’ about Davis, but like most times the ‘D word’ is used about wide receivers…it’s all wrong and out of context. Davis dropped 15 passes from 2014–2016…out of 264 catches – a drop rate of 5.4%…about the average for a high-target wide receiver in the NFL. Davis was targeted all over the field and had the defense gunning for him…he’s going to drop a few passes in that environment, especially being led over the middle by poor QB throws. I don’t see that ‘hands’ are a cause for concern at this point.

I think the only reason Mike Williams is ranked ahead of Corey Davis across the board at this point is because Williams went to National Champion Clemson and Davis went to disrespected Western Michigan. Safer to go with the Clemson side of the story. It’s a hard pill to swallow for analysts, and they never swallow it – they won’t push guys from East Carolina, Western Michigan, or Eastern Washington over Clemson, Washington, and Ohio State. It’s too risky to push the small school guy if no one else is. Scouts, GMs, and analysts make this mistake constantly…and never learn from it. Ask Northern Iowa’s David Johnson or Central Michigan’s Antonio Brown…the two best players at their respective positions in the NFL.

Zay Jones and Corey Davis are fighting for the same space in the national draft rankings…bigger, downfield, reliable hands receivers. Davis has a slight edge over Jones because he’s maybe two inches taller, so if Davis measures faster than Jones at the NFL Combine, he wins the draft battle between them going away.

Davis has to make the case against Cooper Kupp that he’s a more savvy, technically-gifted receiver. That’s going to be a tough call…and so close that the speed-agility will probably be the tiebreaker among them as well. Davis has more national draft momentum than Kupp, so it would take a shocking speed-agility number from Kupp to change the national rankings.

Can Davis get past Mike Williams and become the top-ranked, first-selected WR prospect in 2017? Davis is going to have to be able to run at the NFL Combine, and run a 40-time in the 4.4s for the momentum to change. I suspect Mike Williams is going to smartly duck the Combine and sit on his inflated draft status. If Williams runs, and posts a 4.55+ 40-time, his draft stock may crumble a bit, but any change at the top would probably have to come from Davis being able to run an attention-grabbing speed.

There is a lot riding on the NFL Combine for Corey Davis, whether he is able to participate or not. He could jump to #1 post-Combine or fall to #3-4-5 among the WR prospects. At this stage, I think Davis is one of the 3-4 receivers that claim ‘best in class’ among WR prospects – Davis, Zay Jones, and Cooper Kupp are my #1 guys depending upon what day you and ask…occasionally, I wonder if it’s Mike Williams. Oh, I cannot wait for the NFL Combine!

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About R.C. Fischer

R.C. Fischer is an NFL Draft analyst for College Football Metrics, and a football projections analyst and writer for Fantasy Football Metrics. 

Learn more about RC and the College Football Metrics system >>