Saturday, 19 December 2009

Re-addressing Anthony Davis

Back in mid-November I had a chance to scout Rutgers left tackle Anthony Davis. Tim Ruskell was still Seahawks GM at the time and my initial assessment was that he was unlikely to end up in Seattle. Aside from being an ill-fit for the zone blocking scheme, he was also an underclassman with some commitment issues (arriving at camp well over weight and being forced to work with the second team as a result).

However, a lot has changed since then. Ruskell is no longer part of the franchise and some of his philosophies have likely followed. We still don't know who the next GM will be, but there's always a chance the new guy will be more willing to invest a high pick in a junior who isn't necessarily the model student. It can't have gone unnoticed that head coach Jim Mora has openly criticised the attitude and toughness of his offensive line. Others have questioned scheme and size. If the Seahawks wanted a bigger guy on the line, at 6'6" and 325lbs - Davis could be more of an option now.

The weight issues are well publicised these days. As mentioned above, he's had some trouble maintaining a target weight. When I watched him earlier in the year, he had good definition and certainly looked the part of a NFL lineman. It could be a case of a good coaching staff taking him under their wing, making sure he works hard and maxing out the benefits whilst restricting the potential to let go.

In my original assessment, it was hard not to be impressed with his one-on-one combat. He was virtually unbeatable against USF, against two of the better opponents he'll face in college football (George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul). His pass protection was certainly above average, when he locked on to a guy he was consistently able to drive them out of the play and keep the quarterback on his feet. However, he showed little determination to block off or progress to the next level and played with very little ferociousness.

It reminded me a little of Eugene Monroe at times. Very good in pass protection when he's asked to block one guy, but not really interested in getting to the second level to hammer a linebacker. Like Monroe, Davis is probably better suited playing on a bigger line in a man scheme. The Seahawks would have to be prepared to adjust their zone blocking scheme to incorporate a lineman like Davis and get the best of his abilities. It's not impossible - Ryan Clady wasn't an obvious choice for the ZBS, but has enjoyed his first two years in the NFL playing in Denver's scheme.

One series I've enjoyed reading this season has been KC Joyner's 'Draft Lab' on ESPN Insider. Using a system to dissect plays whilst scouting, Joyner determines if a prospect justifies the hype or is over rated. This week his subject was the Scarlet Knight's lineman, so here's some select quotes:

"In the Cincinnati game, Davis didn't look NFL-ready; in fact, he looked like he should be benched. He gave up four splash plays (defined as when a defender does something to negatively impact a passing play) and was defeated on two of the five blocks he made at the point of attack (POA) of a run.

Now contrast that to his performance against South Florida defensive end George Selvie. Davis completely dominated him. He did not allow a single splash play in the 15 one-on-one pass rush situations between these two. Selvie tried eight different pass rush moves or move combinations and Davis was able to neutralize every one of them. This performance was more indicative of Davis' overall play in the other four contests where he gave up only four splash plays.

This inconsistency also showed up in Davis' run blocking metrics. The plus side is that Scarlet Knight runners gained 5.5 yards per carry when Davis was among those blocking at the point of attack. The minus side is that if penalties and blocking mistakes are included into the total, Davis had nine POA losses in only 55 blocks. That equates to an 83.6% POA win percentage, a total that would have ranked 17th among NFL left tackles last year. If Davis can only manage that mark in college, it stands to reason the percentage could drop at the professional level.

The scouting eye indicated a significant issue with Davis' ability to block downfield. Rutgers play calls often had Davis releasing to engage a linebacker at the second level and he was very quick to get to where he needed to be. Once he got there, however, Davis had a bad habit of not moving his feet. He would run to get in front of the linebacker and then plant himself and the linebackers would often get around him quite easily because of this.

That weakness can be coached out of him, but it's really a microcosm of Davis' entire game. He has the ability to be a truly great player but he's inconsistent in some ways and raw in others. Pair him up with the right offensive line coach and he could be the next Ryan Clady. Pair him up with the wrong coach and he could be a complete bust.

The Football Scientist lab result: This is one of the hardest Draft Lab calls of the year but seeing as how he'll likely be a top 15 pick despite being a coaching project, the pendulum has to swing towards overhyped." - KC Joyner, ESPN Insider

In my next mock draft, I'm going to include Davis as a top ten pick. Our resident scout Kyle Rota has already given him such a projection. At this stage, despite the inconsistencies, I think Davis has greater potential than the over rated Russell Okung. The X-Factor could be Charles Brown - a lineman who has impressed me more than any other in 2009, but simply cannot progress into the NFL weighing at 290lbs. If he can add 15-20lbs before the combine and maintain his athletic qualities in work outs, he could be this years Jason Smith.


Michael said...

Michael Oher Part II.

This guy has been so overanalyzed it is scary.

It would be a sound bet that Joyner's analysis would hold the same statistics for Okung, Fox, Williams, Brown, Campbell.

Oher was ripped for inconsitencies in his technique, as well as questioning his football IQ. Oher is now perhaps the best pick of 2009.

Big dudes that have great athleticism are a start. One must know the drive of the individual to separate greatness from bust. If Davis has drive and heart; and I'm not talking Curry type BS, then he is an Oher in waiting.

Anonymous said...

I'll try to watch a little of this game tonight to get a look at Davis. If nothing else, having Davis & Campbell declare in the past 2 days improves the chances of being able to add quality to the OL at some point in round 1 and/or 2. As much as I like Spiller, drafting a RB while the OL is so poor is kind of like putting the cart before the horse and, in my opinion, a bad idea. If we can improve the OL, we could potentially get more out of the RB position, even if it lacks the talent of someone like Spiller.


Anonymous said...

Davis plays in a zone blocking system in college.

Anonymous said...

What a great resource!

christopher said...

Cool! thanks for posting. I hope you can also post links to offline videos so that I could watch the games I missed. I used to have so much time but because of my work I am not able to watch it live.

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