From signing Davon Godchaux and Henry Anderson in free agency, to re-signing Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise Jr. and Carl Davis, to selecting Christian Barmore in the second round of the draft, the New England Patriots invested considerable resources along their defensive line in 2021. With all of them remaining under contract heading into 2022 as well, there does not appear to be a serious need to add further upgrades to the position group.
However, last season showed that it does indeed remain a work in progress. Sure, Barmore appears to be a cornerstone of the unit for years to come, but the Patriots as a whole had a hard time along their D-line in 2021: the lack of a big-bodied nose capable of occupying blockers for an extended period of time forced others to play out of position and weakened the structural integrity of the entire defense.
If the Patriots want to address this issue after a rather inactive offseason thus far, there is no better place to start than the draft. And there is no better player to add to the equation than Georgia’s Jordan Davis.
Name: Jordan Davis
Position: Defensive tackle
School: Georgia (Senior)
Opening day age: 22
2021 season: 15 games; 32 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss; 2 sacks; 1 rush touchdown
Size: 6063, 341 lbs, 34 arm, 81 1/8 wingspan, 10 3/4 hand
Expected round: 1st
Strengths: There is no other way to say it: Davis is a freak. Standing at 6-foot-6 and 341 pounds, he is a mountain of a man and incredibly hard to move off his position at the line of scrimmage. He eats up blocking attempts due to his immense size and successfully closes down lanes regardless if asked to two-gap or shoot up the field. Having him on the field makes life easier for all those around him.
Davis combines his size with some elite — and we mean ELITE — athleticism. In fact, using Kent Lee Platte’s Relative Athletic Score as a point of reference he might just be the best athlete the defensive tackle position has produced in the last 35 years:
Jordan Davis is a DT prospect in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 10 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 1 out of 1459 DT from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/kiFBcmsByh #RAS pic.twitter.com/YKixPqMs11— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 26, 2022
Despite going up against strong competition in the SEC, Davis has shown that he knows how to use his athleticism. He moves faster than you would expect a man of his size to move, and catches offensive linemen of guard with his quick get-off at the snap and short-area agility. Combine this with a natural feel for locating the football in traffic and you get as disruptive a player as any in this year’s draft — both against the run and against the pass.
#99 Jordan Davis with the stack and shed and making it look casual pic.twitter.com/RIK0ynwCWO— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) April 12, 2022
Davis has a stout anchor and combines it with tremendous upper-body power and flexibility. Containing him for more than a few split-seconds is near-impossible, especially in one-on-one situations: he will take advantage of any lapse of technique or wrong read and blow up plays before they are allowed to develop. Offenses need to be on their A-game to keep him in check.
Here's Jordan Davis eating a quarterback pic.twitter.com/4f36cVEAuf— Justis Mosqueda (4 top-59 picks haver) (@JuMosq) February 20, 2022
Weaknesses: Davis is the total package, but there are a few questions nonetheless. His short-area mobility is impressive, but his long range is not: he will not be chasing down ball-carriers on stretch plays anytime soon. He also has sufficient strength but is not the most powerful athlete when on the move.
Furthermore, he projects best as a package player with limited initial upside as a pass rusher. Unless he improves his conditioning or loses some weight, seeing him become a Vince Wilfork-esque presence playing 70-plus percent of defensive snaps seems unlikely; Davis averaged just 25 snaps per game at Georgia last season.
What would be his role? Davis’ athleticism makes for an intriguing projection, but he appears to be best suited to start his career as a two-gapper at the heart of the defensive line. The Patriots have been missing a true big-bodied nose ever since the departure of Danny Shelton, and Davis would be just that for them: a gap-controlling player who decides where the line of scrimmage will be set on every play he is a part of.
Does he have positional versatility? You play him at 1-tech and have him shoot through the A-gap? He can do that. You align him in a 3-tech spot and watch him blow up guards? He can do that as well. You use him as a nose and shut down two gaps at once? No problem. You employ him on special teams to disrupt field goal and extra point attempts? Of course. Within what he does, Davis is a very versatile player.
Who is his competition? Davis is a unicorn, and he would not have any competition upon entering the Patriots’ roster. He would be NT1 right away and as such either free up other players to move into different spots better suited for their skillsets (e.g. Davon Godchaux) or push them down the depth chart (e.g. Carl Davis). Regardless, he would be a Day 1 starter and top-level lineman alongside Christian Barmore.
Why the Patriots? A while back, Bill Belichick mentioned that there are not too many 340-pound players available. Davis is just that, and combines his size with a rare athletic profile. He would be a perfect fit for what the Patriots are looking for along their defensive line, and give them the big, disruptive player they have been missing at the nose tackle spot. In turn, he would have a transformative effect on the defensive front and what was a shaky run defense in 2021.
Why not the Patriots? The only reason why the Patriots would not entertain the idea of adding Davis in the first round is if he is not available. Unfortunately, that is a realistic scenario: the 22-year-old might come off the board in the mid-teens which would probably be too early for New England’s liking and trade-up capacities.
Verdict: If Davis drops into the Patriots’ range or even lap at No. 21, picking him would be a no-brainer. While they have more drastic needs to address such as cornerback or the interior offensive line, adding him to their defense would single-handedly make the entire unit a better one. Pairing Davis and Christian Barmore would bring back memories of the mid-2000s, when Vince Wilfork, Richard Seymour and Ty Warren manned New England’s D-line.