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2018 Rewind Study: Corey Davis (Is This Guy a #1 WR or a Total Hoax?)
-- Our offseason 'Rewind' reports are where we look at an individual player's previous season(s) of work--analyzing and researching it for clues on whether it was a 'blip' performance, or signs of future greatness...or signs of a mega-bust approaching. --
OK, so why do a ‘Rewind’ on Corey Davis? Simple…I cannot figure this guy out. Something isn’t reconciling. We’re told he’s great. He was drafted as ‘great’ (#5 overall pick in 2017). He was great in college. If you’re skeptical about him people look at you like you’re a loon…EVERYONE buys into Corey Davis. If everyone likes Corey Davis so much…why is he trading a WR3 ADP valuation? Why do people keep asking me about him in a ‘whadda we think here?’ kind of unsure way?
Why am I never comfortable with my answer? I fear I end up giving the fantasy analyst con artist answer, unwittingly/semi self-projectingly, I say: “He’s pretty good and the team obviously likes him, sure he could be a top 15 WR this year…but maybe not if the offense doesn’t click under the new coaching staff.” My answer leaves me an ‘out’ from being wrong…but that doesn’t help anybody.
One of the hardest things about being a fantasy analyst, or anything analyst, is people love your monster winning calls and they remember your wildly wrong calls and forget everything else in-between. As a human, I’m ‘aw shucks’ uncomfortable by praise…but then I stew for days/week/years over something that went wrong, and I can’t sleep when someone sends me an email or whatever that I’m an idiot because such and such really was good or bad against our call, etc. (and then when proven right over time…no one returns to praise/apologize). We don’t remember praise for long, and we clutch onto criticisms and wear them like a cloak. Why we humans are mostly built like this is baffling…and sad. And it’s dangerous and limiting as a professional gambler or analyst.
I cannot win at fantasy football or handicapping B*** S***ting myself. I hate when I cannot get my arms wrapped around a player; when I cannot figure them out as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ’indifferent’ pretty quickly. Most of my list of potential ‘Rewinds reports’ for the summer have to do with high-profile players I don’t feel in my gut like I’ve got a handle on. Corey Davis is maybe at the top of the list.
When I do any type of Rewind study, I love being reinforced on being right. I also can handle being shown I was flat wrong, and I find the reason why and change my position. What drives me nuts is when I make several scouting views/studies on a player and I just can’t seem to lock on an answer. With Corey Davis, I watched his Western Michigan tape…and I thought he was good but kinda dull, but supposed to be the top guy…and maybe he’s tall Antonio Brown…or maybe he’s just average/solid good as an NFL WR? There was no Combine or Pro Day to work with, so it made it worse flying blind, analytically, on his pre-Draft scouting.
His first game as a pro, after missing a lot of preseason with his ‘injury’, I thought I saw a spark in the live watch (6-69-0/10). Then, I went back and watched the game on tape later the following week and I retracted my enthusiasm a bit. Davis looked OK, not great. Then he was a dull/dud for several weeks after a hot Week 1, and I noted it as such…while every fantasy analyst was sure he was breaking out every other week. He never really did. He had a couple of TDs in the playoff game against the Pats, and you thought maybe he had arrived now…and then you realized it was somewhat meaningless work in a blowout.
I find myself wanting to like Corey Davis because that’s the smart football thing to do…but every time I slow things down and really study his tape, I walk away bewildered – I’m not excited but I think I’m supposed to be.
So, with this perplexing range of emotions, I decided to study Davis’s 2017 all in one swoop and see if I could get a better feel. I watched his 2017, and here’s the verdict I’m rolling with…
I’m done trying to guess or assume or leave the door open for Corey Davis to be an ‘A’ wide receiver prospect. No matter how many times I watch his tape, I never get excited about anything I see. I don’t hate anything, but I’m not super-impressed with anything. I’m done playing hide and go seek for his supposed elite talent. If he hasn’t jumped out at me by now, I’m going to stop making excuses and leaving the door open in case I’m wrong. He’s ‘good’…that’s all. Not ‘great’, not ‘terrible’…he is simply ‘good’.
Being labeled ‘good’ isn’t necessarily good here. A lot of people want to trade in Corey Davis futures because he’s supposed to be great. If he becomes great, I’ll issue an apology…but, man, I just do not see great ever any time I watch.
Could be he be a WR1 for fantasy? Yes. He could get overrun with targets like Keenan Allen and be a ‘B’ talent WR putting up top 5 or so fantasy WR numbers. But note that it will take the overabundance of targets angle – because it’s not coming from Davis being some sort of special entity.
Two games stood out to me watching Davis’s 2017…and I put more emphasis on later-in-the-season games to not judge him too early in his first few games getting his feet wet. The games that stood out were a late season game against the Rams and the Patriots game in the playoffs.
The Rams simply were not concerned about Davis. The Rams DBs/Trumaine Johnson seemed much more concerned with Rishard Matthews. Secondary coverage guys would cover Davis quite a bit…and Davis didn’t expose or abuse that. It jumps out at me that Davis cannot separate well from weaker coverage. It also jumps out that Davis seems to be running the same pattern about every play…3-4 yards fire out in soft coverage, and then a quick turn in for a slant (sometimes out towards the sidelines). It’s the simplest route to run against soft coverage and he would run it and make a timing throw catch and get stopped for a small gain. Everything Davis seemed to do all season was simple routes – short, safe slants and timing or comeback routes on medium-deep routes. Davis never just overwhelmed defenses with his amazing talents. He just ran his simple routes and tried to catch what he could. I rarely saw him ‘burn’ coverage or do something ‘wow’ after the catch.
In the playoffs, versus the Patriots, where he scored 2 TDs, he really didn’t standout either. He’s never bad, he’s just not the guy the offense is forcing to, nor a guy the defense is overly concerned about. He’s very capable. He has size that creates issue if a DB is shielded behind him, but I didn’t see Davis getting physical with his big body. He plays much more passive than I’d expect. He didn’t play scared like DeVante Parker does, but it was very matter-of-fact, uninspired work, to me. Davis just seems to be going through the motions. It could Mike Mularkey was a total offensive design disaster…you can’t rule that out.
The Rams and Patriots late in 2017 season/post season, two great head coaches and coaching staffs…I didn’t see respect for Corey Davis. In watching Davis’s 2017, I saw no reason they should.
In a high-functioning offense/pass-game, I could see Davis producing WR1 numbers. He’s a very solid, capable WR with a nice size and reliable hands. On Tennessee, where Marcus Mariota is more non-traditional…more quick read and fire…more non-beholden to one receiver…I see Davis as hitting Rishard Matthews’s best numbers at best (which is typically more WR2). I don’t see Davis as a better receiver than Matthews, as a talent, either – and I have always backed Matthews as a borderline Pro Bowl WR talent. I don’t see where Davis is much better than Rishard.
My two summary ‘Rewind’ points here…
1) Corey Davis is ‘good’…not ‘great’. If he shows me ‘wow’, I’ll change my stance but all I ever see is ‘good’.
2) Davis is a solid ‘B’ talent on a ‘C+’ passing game and that mixture can almost not produce a WR1…especially if Rishard Matthews is functioning and Dion Lewis is taking cheap, easy targets.
I recognize Davis’s top 10 NFL Draft status, and that will give him extra opportunity…but in no way have I seen, so far, that he is a top 10 draft talent.