Chargers Draft Talk: Examining The Jordan Davis Case
Usually, before free agency begins, mock drafts are almost always the same for certain teams. Media members see one big need and then they all come together and join in on a mock draft choir in these scenarios. For the Chargers, that player was Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis.
Then the combine happened and Davis tested like an absolute freakazoid, and the Chargers signed Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson. Davis’ range in mock drafts has drastically changed and the big need for the Chargers has moved to the offensive line. Still, the smoke between the two parties has subtly remained a distant possibility. The question is if he is on the board would he still be a no-brainer for a team that could not stop the run, and that fact was its achilles heel.
Defensive tackle traditionally is not a position worth a first-round investment, especially a run-stuffing nose tackle like Davis. In 2021, the first defensive tackle off the board was Christian Barmore when the Patriots took him with the 38th pick in the draft. Generally speaking, you’ve got to be a truly otherworldly player at the position to go high in the first round. That means you are bringing elite film, elite numbers, and elite athletic numbers to the table – or at least two of the three. Usually, part of the numbers equation is the requirement of being a certified pass rusher. As is the case for players like Ed Oliver, Quinnen Williams, and Jeffery Simmons.
In terms of run-stuffing nose tackles, there are two notable recent examples that compare to Davis’ situation: Derrick Brown and Vita Vea. Brown went to the Carolina Panthers at #6 overall in 2020, and Vea went to the Buccaneers #12 overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2018 (and recently got a huge bag). The sheer size and physical profile the three players all bring to the table are very similar. Although, that’s if Davis maintains his 340-pound weight and not the 360 pounds he played at during college. Brown isn’t the kind of combine freak that Davis and Vea are, but his movement skills on tape were certainly elite.
The problem for Davis is when it comes down to the production. People forget how explosive of playmakers Vea and Brown were because they have carried that “run-stuffing” tag with them throughout their playing careers.
In his two seasons as a starter at Washington, Vea totaled 71 total pressures and 8 sacks. Brown was a three-year starter at Auburn and totaled 87 pressures and 15 sacks. They both brought elite production against the run AND the pass, which is the reason both players went in the top 15 in their respective drafts. That’s not the case for Davis who totaled 30 pressures and 8 sacks across four seasons at Georgia in his career.
The other thing is, Davis doesn’t really have elite production as a run defender either. A large part of that is the very low snap count from his time at Georgia. If you filter the PFF setting to interior defensive linemen with 50% of their team’s run defense snaps, Davis doesn’t even meet that threshold. His 157 run snaps across the regular and postseason were tied for 294th most in the country last season.
The two elite production traits Davis does have though, are his run-stop percentage and his average depth of tackle. Both of which were truly top-notch this past season, but only for this last season. That’s another key difference between Vea, Brown, and Davis. The first two were elite across multiple seasons, while Davis was elite in two certain areas for only one season.
That being said, Davis has one trump card that other run-stuffing defensive tackles simply cannot bring to the table and that is obviously his physical testing. We have literally never seen a player his size move and jump as well as he did at the Combine. He is truly a one of one player. The question for whoever drafts him will be, can they bring out the elite production traits by ramping up his snap load? Or will it be more of what happened against Alabama when they deliberately tried to keep him on the field?
As it pertains to the Chargers, my personal opinion is that Davis does not meet the production threshold you should be looking for when it comes to a potential top 20 selection. Due to that fact, he is not on my board for the 17th overall pick. If you’re asking me to potentially choose between the top offensive guard in the draft or Davis, I’m going to choose the guard. The same thing applies to significantly upgrade the deep threat (IE Chris Olave) vs Davis.
That being said, I would understand why the Chargers would take him with that pick if he is on the board. Taking Davis would be very comparable from a roster-building standpoint to what they did last season with the offensive line when they identified the primary weakness on the roster and threw a ton of premier resources at the problem. Adding Davis into the room with Joseph-Day and Johnson would arguably turn a major weakness into a big strength of the team. So from a philosophical standpoint, I’d get it. Plus there aren’t many better defensive line coaching staffs in the league than what the Chargers have with Brandon Staley, Jay Rodgers, and Giff Smith. So theoretically, Davis would be falling into a great situation from day one, which is often a crucial aspect of player development.
Ultimately, picking in the top 20 is about adding premium talent at premium positions and mitigating risk as much as possible. If you draft Davis and he is only able to reach his floor as a player, which is a good run defender, then you just took a big swing and miss on the first round – without having a second-round pick mind you. If the Chargers want to further solidify the run defense, they can take a nose tackle later on that won’t bring the same risk to the table.