Every year, the NFL Draft provides us with a small-school sleeper whose athleticism and versatility help win the hearts of fans and a spot on an NFL roster. In the 2021 NFL Draft, that prospect is Central Missouri tight end Zach Davidson.
Zach Davidson NFL Draft Player Profile
- Position: Tight End
- School: Central Missouri
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’6 1/2″
- Weight: 245 pounds
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report
Positives: Outstanding small school tight end prospect with the ability to play at the next level. Fluid releasing off the line of scrimmage, tracks the pass in the air, and displays focus as well as concentration. Times his receptions, gets vertical in a crowd, and extends to snatch the ball from the air.
Displays good route discipline and eye/hand coordination and makes the difficult catch in contorted positions. Possesses soft hands and works to pick up yardage after the catch. Stays square as a blocker, gets leverage at the point of attack, and blocks with strength.
Negatives: Lacks a second gear and doesn’t stretch the seam. Has a thin build and must physically fill out.
Analysis: Davidson was a terrific small school tight end who is reliable as both a pass catcher and a blocker. He lacks elite athleticism but comes with the size, growth potential, and upside to develop into a second tight end in the NFL.
Zach Davidson Player Profile
Davidson isn’t just your average small-school NFL Draft prospect. The 6’6″-plus pass catcher may well be an All-American tight end, but his appeal stretches far beyond that. While he was catching passes, scoring touchdowns, and breaking records for Central Missouri in 2019, he was also booming punts to an extremely high standard too.
He may well be the poster boy for versatility in this 2021 NFL Draft class.
His newfound fame and adulation are a long way from his humble beginnings in Webb City, Missouri. A depth chart piece at tight end for Webb City High School, Davidson put his athletic ability to better use on the basketball court. By a twist of fate, the football team would need a punter, and by his junior year, he was a valuable piece on a successful high school team.
During his time punting for Webb City, they won two state championships. Additionally, Davidson earned first-team All-Conference, All-District, and All-State honors. Despite this, he was an unranked high school prospect per 247 Sports, and his offers were limited to Division II and NAIA programs. He opted to travel a little out of his hometown, landing at Central Missouri in 2016.
Zach Davidson’s college football career at Central Missouri
As a punter who measured in at over 6’6″ and weighed less than 200 pounds, Davidson redshirted and hit the weight room to add some bulk to his frame. Even as he made the field in 2017, the potential to be an NFL Draft tight end couldn’t have been further away. However, he excelled as a punter, breaking the school record with an average of 44.3 yards per punt.
Proving to be accurate — 14 punts inside the 20 — and also powerful with a long of 66 yards, he earned second-team All-MIAA honors. His impressive punting performances continued in 2018, as he led the conference with a 42.8 yards per punt average. However, his redshirt-sophomore season would be the beginning of his ascension as a dual-threat tight end/punter.
Having already secured his first touchdown against Missouri Western, Central Missouri faced Pittsburg State in late October 2018. Davidson boomed his longest punt of the season, a 64-yard missile. Meanwhile, he caught two catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. He ended the season with 15 punts inside the 20 and 11 catches for 239 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns.
Impressive senior season and pro day improve Davidson’s 2021 NFL Draft stock
As a junior, the taste of success was just a precursor to a senior season where he exploded as a tight end. Davidson set a program record for touchdowns by a tight end, hauling in 15 scores. Those included 4 touchdowns against Missouri Southern. With three 100-yard games, he amassed 894 receiving yards at a remarkable 22.35 yards per catch. Meanwhile, he still managed to hit a 40.3-yard-per-punt average and pin 19 punts inside the 20-yard line.
As a result of his incredible senior performances, Davidson earned first-team All-MIAA honors as both a punter and tight end. He was also named as a Division II first-team All-American. Unfortunately, his opportunity to enhance his stock further was denied by the canceled 2020 college football fall season. Rather than play in the spring, he opted to declare for the 2021 NFL Draft.
He would, however, have one further opportunity to shine in front of NFL personnel. Davidson blew everyone away with an incredible athletic performance at the Missouri Pro Day. He earned a RAS of 8.79, showcasing great explosion and agility grades. He demonstrated impressive speed with a 4.64 40-yard dash at 245 pounds.
Zach Davidson’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
Davidson’s size and athletic profile make him an intriguing tight end prospect in this 2021 NFL Draft class. Due to his relative inexperience at the position, he will likely be viewed as a developmental prospect. However, his impressive productivity in college should mean that he makes an early impression on an NFL team in training camp. Although he is considered a tight end prospect, he still works on his punting technique, representing value.
Some teams with a need at the tight end position include the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, and Arizona Cardinals.
Want more 2021 NFL Draft prospect news? Want to do your own mock draft?
Dive into PFN’s Free NFL Mock Draft Simulator and test your own drafting acumen. Continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter (@PFN365) to stay in the loop on all things college football and the NFL Draft landscape.
Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.