2020 NFL Draft: Sun Belt Conference Scouting Reports

PFN Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline's scouting reports for 2020 NFL Draft prospects in the Sun Belt, including Akeem Davis-Gaither of Appalachian State.

Appalachian State Mountaineers
2020 NFL Draft Prospects

Akeem Davis-Gaither, OLB

Positives: Athletic run-and-chase linebacker who makes plays in every area of the field. Instinctive, shows speed in every direction and quickly reads and diagnoses the action. Fires up the field to fill gaps in run defense, easily collapses laterally outside the box in pursuit of the action and shows a closing burst. Quickly gets out to the flanks to cut off corners from ball carriers. Gets tremendous depth on pass drops, covers a good amount of area and effectively makes plays in space. Incredibly quick and agile and sells out to make the play. Breaks down well, stays on his feet and effectively uses his hands to protect himself. Nicely redirects to the action or ball carrier.

Negatives: Weight is more reminiscent of a safety than a linebacker. Struggles to get off blocks and gets easily knocked off balance by the initial hit. More of a drag-down tackler. Suffered a stress fracture in his foot that required surgery to fix.

Analysis: Davis-Gaither is a tremendous pursuit linebacker and an outstanding athlete with the ability to quickly get to the action from any and every angle. He’s a scheme-specific player, but if he’s used properly, Davis-Gaither will have a long and productive career at the next level.

Darrynton Evans, RB

Positives: Hard-charging, downhill ball carrier who plays to his 40 time. Patient, waits for blocks to develop and displays a terrific burst through the hole. Possesses the speed to beat defenders into the open field and run to daylight. Tough to bring down, fights for yardage and plays bigger than his listed size. Builds a lot of momentum, keeps his feet moving and picks up a lot of yardage off initial contact. Helps the quarterback sell ball fakes and catches the ball well out of the backfield.

Negatives: Not a creative runner who makes defenders miss or improvises when plays break down. Gets into trouble when he tries to run east and west and isn’t a true perimeter runner. Thinks too much when he should just react.

Analysis: Evans was a terrific back for Appalachian State the past two seasons and has the physical skills to be a situational ball carrier at the next level. He must round out his game and play in a system that does not ask him to run laterally, but Evans should be a good rotational back at the next level.

Jordan Fehr, ILB

Positives: Tough, hard-working linebacker who stacks well against the run. Forceful up the field, uses his hands to protect himself and wraps up tackling. Stout defender who quickly locates the ball carrier and sells out to make tackles.

Negatives: Stiff. Shows nothing in the way of lateral pursuit speed and has limited range.

Analysis: Fehr was a solid college linebacker who does not project well to next level, as he lacks the size and speed for the NFL.

Victor Johnson, OT

Positives: Solid college tackle with the physical dimensions to be used at guard in the NFL. Sets with a wide base, starts with proper knee bend and keeps his head on a swivel. Explosive at the point, stays square and anchors in pass protection. Picks up assignments, sees the blitz and works well with linemates. Fights hard through the whistle.

Negatives: Bends at the waist and lacks balance. Gets tall as the play proceeds. Lacks footwork off the edge.

Analysis: Johnson was a consistent, durable starter for Appalachian State and possesses the size, arm length and strength to line up at guard in the NFL, but he must improve the consistency of his fundamentals.

Arkansas State Red Wolves
2020 NFL Draft Prospects

Omar Bayless, WR

Positives: Reliable receiver who comes off a tremendous senior campaign. Smart, tough and plays heads-up football. Fluidly releases off the line of scrimmage, works routes and stays low out of breaks. Plays with balance and body control and extends his hands to snatch the ball away from his frame. Uses his frame to shield away defenders, adjusts to the errant throw and gives effort after the catch. Works hard even if he is away from the play.

Negatives: Takes his eyes off the ball on occasion. One-speed wideout who lacks burst and quickness.

Analysis: Bayless was graded as a street free agent by scouts entering the season, but after a tremendous senior campaign he will now fight for position in the closing rounds of the draft. He was a leader for Arkansas State on and off the field, and Bayless would be a good addition to team as its fifth wideout.

B.J. Edmonds, S

Positives: Hard-hitting safety who also displays potential as a punt returner. Fires up the field, gives effort against the run and possesses a closing burst. Remains disciplined with assignments, shows above-average range on the field and wraps up tackling. Plays heads-up football and works well with cornerbacks in coverage. Hard hitter who dislodges the football from opponents.

Negatives: Does not always take proper angles to the action and occasionally removes himself from plays. Not a stout safety.

Analysis: Edmonds has fallen by the wayside in the scouting community, but he offers potential as a ninth defensive back and return specialist. He’d be best in a zone system where he can face the action.

Darreon Jackson, S

Positives: Physical safety who works hard to get involved in the action. Displays the ability to explode out of his plant, has a closing burst of speed and wraps up tackling. Displays soft hands for the interception and the ability to pluck the ball from the air. Plays faster than his 40 time and moves laterally with speed.

Negatives: Indecisive. Lacks long speed.

Analysis: Jackson was graded as a potential priority free agent entering the season, but he lacks the size and speed for the next level. He’s a hard-working safety who will have to make his way onto a roster via special teams.

Kirk Merritt, WR

Positives: Athletic, physically gifted receiver who extends to make the reception away from his frame and quickly turns upfield after the catch. Displays a burst of speed in the first 10 yards, runs with proper lean and nicely adjusts to the errant throw. Tracks the pass in the air and displays hand-eye coordination.

Negatives: Showed a lot of indecision and hesitation last season. Never displayed a true line of development in college. Not a natural hands catcher.

Analysis: Merritt was highly thought of in the scouting community, but he’s an athlete who never pulled it all together. He possesses high upside, but he may need a coach to get into his head to get the best from him.

Kevin Thurmon, DT

Positives: Explosive three-technique tackle with an underrated game. Athletic and flashes power in his lower body. Mostly plays with proper pad level, gets leverage on opponents and is tough to knock off his feet. Strong, gives effort and easily changes direction. Fluidly moves about the field and shows the ability to chase plays out into space.

Negatives: Inconsistent get-off from the snap of the ball. Really doesn’t use his hands well and must develop more moves. Often outpositioned from the action.

Analysis: Thurmon has flashed ability the past two years and is a solid athlete with big upside. He needs to be more consistent in all areas of his game, but Thurmon should get practice-squad consideration this summer at the very least.

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