Next Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship between Alabama and Georgia will feature a number of blue-chip prospects garnering immense interest from scouts representing all 32 NFL teams. And one player, in particular, will be impossible to miss.
Checking in at 6-foot-6 and 340 pounds (per school measurements), Georgia senior Jordan Davis is a destructive force at the point of attack as the Bulldogs’ designated run stopper. No. 99 combines extraordinary size with exceptional strength, power and quickness to control the line of scrimmage as a true nose tackle manning the A-gaps (between the center and guard). He swallows up blockers as a power player with long arms, heavy hands and a strong anchor. He also displays impressive agility and athleticism for a man of such size. This was evident in Georgia’s New Year’s Eve beatdown of Michigan, when Davis chased down Blake Corum on an outside run, dropping the Wolverines’ speedy back for a loss. With few defensive tackles capable of matching Davis’ skills as a run stopper, NFL defensive coordinators will covet his presence as an early-down defender.
That said, run-stuffers do not warrant serious consideration at the very top of the draft board in a league that skews heavily toward the pass. Defenders with the capacity to disrupt the passing game are all the rage. That’s just not Davis’ game. He has two sacks this season and seven total in his four-year career at Georgia.
While nose tackles are important to the fabric of many NFL defenses, they’re not generally viewed as marquee draft stocks. Yes, elite defenses are strong down the middle, but team builders do not want to drop a top pick on a defender who fails to register sacks, QB hits, pass breakups or interceptions. Consequently, first-round nose tackles are rare in today’s NFL. That said, two recent examples spring to mind: Vita Vea and Dexter Lawrence. Vea was taken 12th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2018 NFL Draft. One year later, the New York Giants nabbed Lawrence at No. 17. Both have been productive players at the NFL level — in fact, Vea’s a crucial piece on the reigning Super Bowl champions.
So, could Davis be the next NT to hear his name called on the draft’s opening night?
Well, Vea and Lawrence both had more pass-rush production (pressures + sacks) than Davis at the college level. They also showcased a higher level of endurance, which is no small thing when it comes to such BIG prospects. According to Pro Football Focus, Vea averaged 41 snaps per game in his final season at Washington. Lawrence logged 36 snaps an outing during his last year at Clemson. Davis? He’s playing just 24 snaps a game this season. Granted, the Dawgs’ defense is absolutely loaded with talent, so playing time for everyone’s at a premium. But still, evaluators will wonder if Davis needs to be kept at a strict pitch count for maximum output.
At the end of the day, I could see Davis being graded as a mid-to-late first-round pick on most boards, though it wouldn’t be shocking to see him fall to Day 2. He’s an immovable object against the run game, and frankly, there just aren’t many human beings walking the planet with his mix of size, strength and agility. But given that today’s NFL is undoubtedly a passing league, run-stuffer value just isn’t what it used to be.