This article is the third in a series of articles breaking down all six of the Titans 2019 draft picks. You can check out our breakdowns of Jeffery Simmons and A.J. Brown using the links provided below:
Check back later for more on Amani Hooker, D’Andre Walker, and David Long.
When the Titans released starting right guard Josh Kline earlier this offseason, I believed that to be a signal that the team was planning on spending a high pick on a replacement in the draft. My original stance was that the team would be making a mistake if they waited until pick 82 in the third round to address the interior of the offensive line.
However, given the way the draft played out — Chris Lindstrom and Garrett Bradbury going before 19 and Erik McCoy, Dalton Risner, and Elgton Jenkins going before 51 — the Titans were left looking at a board that surely had Jeffery Simmons and A.J. Brown as the best overall players available when their turns came up in the first two rounds. If that’s the case, the Titans made the right call. It’s far more important to get a good player than it is to get a player at the right position.
By the time the Titans selected Nate Davis out of Charlotte with the 82nd overall pick, only one additional offensive lineman had come off the board — Wisconsin’s Michael Deiter — so grabbing A.J. Brown at 51 really didn’t end up penalizing Jon Robinson unless he was significantly higher on Deiter than he was on Davis. Given the pre-draft time spent with Davis, I think it’s safe to assume that Davis was at least close to Deiter, if not ahead of him entirely on the Titans board.
In a sense, Davis might be the draft pick with the most pressure on him entering the 2019 season. We know we won’t see first round pick Jeffery Simmons right away and while there is a lot of excitement surrounding second round pick A.J. Brown, the Titans have some other quality weapons in Corey Davis, Delanie Walker, and Adam Humphries to carry the load if Brown takes some time to adjust to the NFL game. Nate Davis doesn’t have that luxury. There is going to be real pressure on him to be the day one starter at right guard — something he hasn’t shied away from in interviews — over more experienced guys like Kevin Pamphile and Corey Levin.
Charlotte has only had a football program since 2013 and just joined FBS and Conference USA in 2015, Davis’ redshirt freshman year. Ironically, the only other NFL draft pick that Charlotte has produced since starting the program was outstanding Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, who Davis would be lined up across from in his first NFL game if he does, in fact, win the starting right guard job before Week 1.
Davis served a four game suspension at the start of the 2018 season due to an undisclosed NCAA violation (I’ve seen this mentioned as an academic suspension elsewhere, but not confirmed by any credible reporting). Besides that stretch, he was a four year starter with 37 collegiate starts under his belt, mostly at right guard. He was moved to right tackle for the majority of the 2018 season out of necessity, but Davis profiles as a guard and wants to be known as an “interior offensive lineman”, adding that he has worked on snapping on his own time as well.
Charlotte OG Nate Davis said he's not just a right guard or a left guard — he's an *interior offensive lineman*— Marcel Louis-Jacques (@Marcel_LJ) February 28, 2019
And yes, that includes center pic.twitter.com/u2UI2xfwM4
It’s hard to find much information about Davis outside of football, but our own Justin Melo’s excellent interview with him this spring gives some insight. He comes across in interviews as a sharp guy and a good communicator, two attributes that will help him tremendously on the offensive line.
There aren’t a ton of applicable stats for offensive linemen, but what little we do have is favorable for Davis. PFF has him credited with just 7 sacks allowed over 37 starts at Charlotte which is an outstanding achievement.
Davis grades higher as a pass blocker for PFF than he does as a run blocker despite often being described as a mauler due to his ability to generate movement at the point of attack. The popular grading service also rated Davis as their third ranked “true” guard in the draft class and fifth overall among interior offensive linemen behind Elgton Jenkins, Garrett Bradbury, Chris Lindstrom, and Hjalte Froholdt.
Davis has a very compact build at 6’-3” and 316 pounds with thick, powerfully built frame. His testing numbers at the combine were mostly below average to average.
However, this is a case where the combine results and the eye test will tell you two different things about a player. Davis earned rave reviews from his work in the field drills portion of the combine.
Guys that stood out in the mirror drill: Ryan Bates, Bradbury, and Nate Davis. Dillard’s base was way too narrow. Derwin Gray’s frame/build— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) March 1, 2019
NC State's Garrett Bradbury and Charlotte's Nate Davis did really well in OL drills. Wisconsin's reps looked well-versed technically. Andre Dillard looked great until that last lateral drill when he was winded. Hjalte Froholdt did well in that last lateral drill.— Josh Edwards (@JEdwar247) March 1, 2019
If you want to judge for yourself, you can check out most of Davis’ combine workouts in the video below.
Where you land on Davis’ athleticism — something that is generally viewed as a critical trait for zone blocking offensive linemen — likely comes down to how much you trust measured results versus how much you trust your eyes. Personally, I don’t believe Davis to be an elite athlete on the level of Garrett Bradbury or Chris Lindstrom, but he’s light, quick feet for a guy with his size and power and appears to have no trouble making quick movements in a small area.
For their part, it’s apparent that NFL scouts felt he could be a great fit in zone blocking schemes. Out of his ten reported pre-draft visits, six of them were with some of the heaviest practitioners of ZBS in the league (Vikings, Bears, Rams, Redskins, Falcons, and Titans). Davis himself claims that he prefers working in a zone blocking system.
Titans pick No. 82 is guard Nate Davis. Davis can play all positions along the offensive line. He'll instantly challenge for the starting RG spot. Davis said his preference is in a zone scheme which is exactly what the Titans employ. https://t.co/WrgPD4ouHC— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) April 27, 2019
So let’s compare testing numbers and workout videos to what we see on film from Davis. One note before we jump in. I tried to spotlight Davis on each clip so you can see where he is, but since he jumps from guard to tackle, just make sure you’re looking for #64. He can also be identified by the neck roll that he wears on his shoulder pads.
The first thing that jumps out is his “frog stance” that he uses. It’s certainly a unique starting point for an offensive lineman, but it seems to work for Davis. I’m not sure whether the Titans staff will try to tinker with that at all this summer, but the concern surrounding this starting point would be whether it would cause him to pop straight up after the snap rather than firing out as you’d like to see. The good news is that the stance shows outstanding lower body strength and flexibility which are physical traits he can work with even if the stance itself isn’t ideal.
You can see a good view of the frog stance below, but let’s jump into his pass protection ability first. Davis has a naturally wide base (maybe even a bit too wide here) which gives him a powerful platform to work off of, but the thing that jumps out to me is the movement of his feet. As an offensive linemen, you really want to keep your feet on the ground as much as possible while taking small steps to mirror your opponent’s movements. Big steps lead to getting beat. He also does a nice job of being aggressive and making contact with his opponent at or near the line of scrimmage. You can see all that in this rep here.
Here’s another example, this time from the Senior Bowl. Davis is facing a bull rush here and while he does give up a little ground, he ultimately is able to sink his hips and stop the defender’s momentum. Davis did an excellent job throughout the week at the Senior Bowl, answering some questions about his ability to hang with a higher level of competition and boosting his draft stock in the process.
Here is another rep against an attempted bull rush in the Senior Bowl. Again, another nice win as he’s able to drop his anchor and hold off the rush. He does get caught with his hands a little wide here though which isn’t ideal. You’d like to see him get those hands inside on the chest plate rather than outside on the shoulders, but he finds a way to get the job done.
Davis played right tackle for much of the 2018 season for Charlotte out of necessity, but that’s not where he’ll play at the NFL level. The Titans announced him as a guard on draft night and Davis has said himself multiple times that he’s an interior lineman. However, he was pretty solid at tackle when he was used there despite being out of position.
Here is an example of him working at tackle in pass protection, and again, the technique isn’t perfect, but he gets the job done. He commits an offensive line sin by crossing his feet (spotlighted mid-play), but you can see the athletic ability here.
Davis is very much a work in progress from a technique standpoint in pass protection, but he was still quite effective during his college career. I would expect good coaching and hard work on his part to smooth out some of these issues and take Davis’ game to the next level.
As a run blocker, the first thing that jumps out is the raw power and aggression that Davis brings. He’s very good at latching on and then driving his legs to push defenders off the ball. You can see that in this example here as he gets a defender on roller skates and takes him on a 10-yard trip downfield.
I love Davis’ attitude. He blocks through the whistle on nearly every play and seems to really take joy in imposing his will on defenders. Here is another example of him taking a defensive lineman on a ride.
Here’s another example. This time Davis is pulling from his right guard spot. He latches on to the corner and takes him for a ride all the way to the sideline. Even more than his power, Davis’ grip strength stands out as his strongest trait. Once he gets his paws hooked into a defender, it’s pretty much over. Very rarely do you see defenders successfully disengage from Davis after he gets his hands on them.
One more example of blocking through the whistle. Here, he’s working a combo block, pinning the playside defensive tackle and then climbing to the second level (something he will be asked to do for the Titans quite a bit). He does a great job with both blocks and ends up taking the linebacker all the way to the goal line where they get a little chippy at the end of the play.
Davis’ raw power is evident across his tape. Here you can see him drive back the defensive end using great leverage, eventually bending the end back over the pile.
We’ve already seen a little bit of Davis in space, but let’s take a closer look here. Davis got a lot of work as a pulling guard in Charlotte’s offense. He consistently takes good angles and looks natural on the move despite his below average testing numbers.
Watch him adjust his direction here as his target tries to slide outside.
Davis isn’t going to play tackle at the NFL level so this next clip isn’t quite as applicable as some of the others, but this is a textbook reach block on an outside zone run. While his actual responsibilities will vary when he kicks inside to guard, this play shows his lateral quickness off the snap and good feet to reach and turn the edge defender. Those traits will be applicable to his job no matter where he lines up inside.
As a run blocker, Davis can sometimes get in trouble when he gets caught lunging off balance at a defender. You can see an example of that here, though he is able to eventually recover and keep fighting until he buries the defender behind the play. Davis will need to make sure he stays in control and on balance at all times in the NFL.
Davis is far from a finished product, but you can see a lot of tools that you like to see from a young offensive lineman. He’s got natural power, outstanding grip strength, a nasty demeanor on the field, and quick, light, and active feet.
There have been some concerns about his arm length, but I’m not sure I’m buying those. He has 33 1/8” arms, longer than a host of success interior lineman including David DeCastro, Matt Paradis, Jason Kelce, Mitch Morse, Maurkice Pouncey, Kevin Zeitler, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin. That’s essentially a who’s who of top interior linemen in the NFL today.
For Davis to join that elite group he’ll need to clean up some technique issues that show up on film, but you can see the tools there. He will be tossed into the competition immediately for the starting gig at right guard with Kevin Pamphile, Corey Levin, Aaron Stinnie, and Hroniss Grasu. I don’t know that I’d Sharpie Davis in as the starter there just yet, but he will almost certainly get a long look in camp and preseason.