Back in 2015, despite the preseason hype, Auburn football went a paltry 7-6 and beat Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl. We watched Alabama get another national championship, and things felt really stagnant on the Plains with concerns over Gus Malzahn’s job taking hold.
One of the positives that season was a skinny freshman from Miami named Carlton Davis, who earned a start against Mississippi State early in the season and never let that spot go in his time at Auburn.
As a freshman, Davis earned an All-SEC Freshman team nod, and was mentioned as a Freshman All-American by some publications with 56 tackles and three interceptions that season. In 2016, Davis was cemented as a starter and teams began to throw away from him as his reputation grew. Then, this past year, he advanced even further, becoming a true shut-down corner, and got tabbed on the All-SEC First Team, and as an All-American (First Team - SI, Second Team - Walter Camp, AP, AFCA).
Davis put on weight, got stronger, and has blossomed from a lanky freshman into a borderline first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
The official numbers from the NFL Combine are as follows:
- 40-yard Dash - 4.53 seconds
- Bench Press - 16 reps
- Vertical Jump - 34 inches
- Broad Jump - 124 inches
Lance Zierlein’s quick analysis of Davis’ strengths and weaknesses looks like this —
Davis’ combination of height, weight, length and ball skills make him a nuisance that college wide receivers could do without on Saturdays. Davis has some struggles mirroring routes in space and is best as a full-time press corner who is able to use his length and strength to take wideouts out of their game. Davis plays with confidence and some edge and was able to show and prove against NFL-caliber talent over the last three years. In the right scheme, he could become a high-impact starter.
According to his full profile on NFL.com, Davis is drawing comparisons to Richard Sherman, with his “hands like garden rakes” and “relentless timing and aggression”. People who’ve seen Davis play over the last three years at Auburn know that few receivers have gotten the best of him. Most notably, Mike Williams at Clemson comes to mind, as he and Deshaun Watson hooked up several times in the 2016 opener. Other than that, you’d be hard-pressed to find a time that Davis was outmatched.
So, what does Davis need to improve upon to find a starting role and become a truly elite corner in the NFL? It’s basically his ability in space. Carlton Davis was fantastic at being physical, especially with that 200-plus pound frame that he’s built, and in press man coverage he was usually going to be disruptive. However, when he’s asked to play off or in zone, it’s been more of a struggle. With how active his hands are, he’ll need to back off of that or risk pass interference penalties in the pro ranks. Also, he’ll need to get a little tighter with his footwork, as he’s noted as having trouble with backpedaling and turning, and also in close quarters.
Fortunately for Davis, his list of strengths outweighs the weaknesses. When he’s locked in one-on-one, he’s not going to give much ground, taking receivers into the boundary or other areas where a perfect throw must be made. He’s also got the prototypical cornerback build, being tall enough to prevent a big receiver from catching one over the top, and heavy enough to prevent being thrown down by a stout pass-catcher.
Right now, Davis is rated by NFL.com as the second-best cornerback in the class, only behind Denzel Ward from Ohio State. At least one publication has Davis being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, but he seems to be a solid consensus second-round pick overall.
The NFL Draft begins on April 26th. Auburn could have several guys selected over the course of the event, so tune in for the three-day affair. War Eagle!