Auburn’s defensive renaissance began in 2015, but I believe it kicked into overdrive a year later when a redshirt sophomore from Mobile took over at middle linebacker.
Davis took the job in the spring of 2016 and never let go. In his final three years at Auburn, he started all 40 games, racking up 266 total tackles and 29 TFL with 7 sacks. He got better as 2016 went along with 4 TFL in the Iron Bowl and a team-high 8 tackles in the Sugar Bowl. He did the same in 2017 with 10 tackles and a sack in the win over Alabama, 10 tackles and a TFL against UGA in the SEC Championship Game, and 7 tackles and a fumble recovery IN WHICH HE WAS ROBBED OF A TOUCHDOWN against UCF in the Peach Bowl.
By his senior season, Deshaun was the heart and soul of Auburn’s defense and a consensus all-SEC player. He registered 116 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and was, I swear, about 1 inch from an interception on an LSU touchdown that he would have returned for a score himself. If he had pulled that off, it would have capped one of the greatest defensive performances in Auburn history, as he had 13 tackles, 4 TFL, and 1 sack on the day.
Why run through all of Davis’s college accomplishments rather than his pro prospects? Well, the NFL sees him as undersized, and there are questions about his pass coverage. With the pass-heavy offenses of the league, a run-stuffing “defensive QB” just isn’t a draft need anymore. Those players can be found as undrafted free agents, which is where Deshaun is expected to land. On some level, that can be a better fit, because UDFAs usually have a few teams to choose from, and they can pick the best situation for them. Conversely, some 7th round draft picks wind up in a situation that doesn’t fit their skills, and they wind up bouncing around on practice squads.
My personal opinion? Some NFL coaching staff is going to grab Deshaun Davis as camp filler, and he’ll become one of their favorite players. He has a great attitude, a fantastic football mind, exceptional leadership qualities (he’s been defensive captain both in name and in effect for 3 years), and a tenacious work-ethic. And when his days in the NFL are done, I’d be willing to bet he’s the next Travis Williams too.