Few 2023 NFL Draft scouting reports have traveled up and down the board like Clemson DT Tyler Davis’ over the past few years. Once viewed as a potential future first-round pick after a dominant freshman season, Davis has dipped into obscurity, lost amidst a talent-laden defensive line. Can Davis rediscover his early-round upside?
Tyler Davis NFL draft profile
Davis’ collegiate career started about as hot as could be. A high four-star recruit out of Apopka, Florida, with a documented 31.2″ vertical jump, Davis signed with the Tigers intent on joining a long line of NFL defensive tackle products to walk Clemson’s halls.
In the five years before Davis’ arrival, Clemson produced draft picks like Grady Jarrett, Shaq Lawson, Kevin Dodd, DJ Reader, Carlos Watkins, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, and Austin Bryant. After a true freshman season in which he amassed 6.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss, Davis appeared to have an express ticket to that same train.
But the following years were not so kind to the once-highly lauded prospect. He fought through injuries to pick up two sacks and five TFL’s in 2020 and then trudged to just 1.5 sacks in 2021 before suffering a torn bicep. Two years later, Davis is overshadowed on Clemson’s line by new emergents like Bryan Bresee, Myles Murphy, and Ruke Orhorhoro.
Despite his regression, however, Davis remains a consistent part of Clemson’s rotation, and he’ll have one more chance to boost his stock in 2022. Looking at his tape, where does he stand now, and what does he still need to improve?
- Position: Defensive Tackle
- School: Clemson
- Current Year: Senior
- Height/Weight: 6’2″, 300 pounds
Tyler Davis scouting report
One of many 2023 NFL Draft prospects on a stacked Clemson defensive line, does Davis have the tools to garner interest next April? Let’s dive in.
Davis’ profile is underpinned by an excellent combination of natural leverage and proportional length. The Clemson DT stands around 6’2″, 300 pounds, sporting a dense, compact, and well-proportioned frame. He also has above-average proportional length for his size, which he can use to compete against larger linemen.
Off the line, Davis is incredibly explosive, and he brings great energy and twitch off the snap. He has the first-step quickness to pierce through gaps and quickly compress pocket space, and he has the foot speed to carry and sustain acceleration upfield. Overall, the senior DT has a combination of high-level explosiveness and natural leverage that’s coveted in prospects.
Davis also has the lateral quickness and athleticism to adjust rushing angles mid-rep. He can also use his lateral mobility and flexibility to adjust leverage and wall off runners when anchored. Davis’ upper-body movements are noticeably sudden. He carries plenty of stored potential energy in his frame and possesses rotational freedom for torque generation. Moreover, Davis’ natural twitch grants him enormous potential with his hand usage. He loads up energy ahead of punches and brings exceptional knock-back power.
For his size, Davis flashes impressive raw power. The Clemson DT can wrench open lanes on the interior, even when his hands aren’t cleanly placed. He has the raw power to forklift blockers off the line and generate easy displacement. Davis has shown that he can effectively channel and drive power as a pass rusher with well-aligned leg drive and full extensions, though he should work to do this more consistently.
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In hand-fighting situations, Davis has flashed the ability to strike with force and precision. He has violent hand capacity and can quickly swim past blockers with arm-over moves. There are also glimpses of Davis countering with fast, heavy hands while transferring his weight into his next rushing move. He’s an urgent pass rusher who has the energy to convert on second-effort attempts, and he doesn’t relent in pursuit.
Davis also brings appeal as a run defender. His anchor is relatively strong in run defense for his size, and he has the grip strength to maintain levers and stand his ground. Additionally, the Clemson DT brings a degree of torso flexibility that allows him to absorb power output from blockers while maintaining gaps.
Davis’ aggressiveness in pursuit shows up here as well. He can use bursts of energy to quickly disengage blocks when ball carriers come near him. He has the play strength to make solo tackles and envelop runners when they enter his gap, and he consistently hustles in pursuit, chasing plays with good speed and effort.
Davis has also shown that he can handle double teams with his natural strength and leverage, freeing up teammates to potentially make plays. He actively gets his hands up to obstruct throwing lanes and deflect passes at the line. Finally, Davis has some alignment versatility with his physical tools. He can line up at 3-tech, at 4i and 5-tech, or farther inside.
Davis’ areas for improvement
First and foremost, injuries are a notable concern for Davis. He was hurt often in 2020 and lost most of 2021 season to a torn bicep. That history is enough of a red flag to bump him down the list of prospects next April and maybe even remove him from some teams’ draft boards altogether.
Expanding to the tape, Davis does have a mix of operational flaws and physical limitations. While his proportional length is above-average, his overall length is not elite, and could be notably outmatched in some battles. He also doesn’t have elite functional play strength or power capacity which may put a slight cap on his upside.
Another notable flaw in Davis’ tape is his operational leverage. Even with the natural leverage afforded by his height, Davis plays too tall too often. His pads sometimes drift too high at contact, and he can be more diligent in maximizing leverage acquisition ahead of rushes.
Despite having a few years of starting experience, Davis is more top-heavy than preferred for his size and too often lurches past his center of gravity. At times, the Clemson DT doesn’t properly load his base when shooting forward and exerting power, and his tendency to drift upright can cause power exertions to stall. Meanwhile, in run defense, Davis sometimes gives up too much surface area when trying to splice through gaps, and he doesn’t quite have the mass to consistently eat double teams.
Davis can also strive for more consistency as a pass rusher. He doesn’t always fire off the snap with a pass rush plan and can be more proactive in setting up blockers. He can also be late resetting his hands and stacking counters when seeking to shed blocks, and his counters aren’t always clean or precisely executed which can impact his ability to break free in pursuit.
Davis is still more of a straight-line rusher who relies too heavily on explosiveness and power exertion. He also has room to further refine his positioning and body control in tight quarters. At times, Davis can do a better job of loading up potential energy in his stance. His feet are sometimes even with one another when he gets into his stance which doesn’t effectively load energy in his lower body.
Current draft projection for Clemson DT Tyler Davis
Davis has the tools to potentially factor into the Day 2 conversation. At the moment, early-to-mid Day 3 may be the better bet. Injuries have stagnated his growth and production since his freshman season, and Combine medicals could dilute his stock even further. That said, provided Davis stays healthy, ends his college career on a high note, and tests well, he has the talent to sneak into the Top 100.
At his best, Davis is a twitched-up ball of energy on the interior with terrific hand and foot speed as a rusher. With his proportional length and natural leverage, he can attack the torso and levy violent extensions, and he has the burst to channel further energy ahead of contact. With his twitch, Davis can offset blockers, and his lateral agility enables him to rush from different alignments.
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Davis still needs to further refine his hand usage and be more consistent with stacking counters. Moreover, he undermines his natural leverage at times with poor pad level and insufficient lower body maximization.
The 2023 NFL Draft’s interior defensive line class is a bit murky after the top few prospects, but for odd-front teams who value alignment-versatile linemen, Davis could be a buy-low steal in the middle rounds. He has starting upside and can factor into a rotation right away.
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