Corey Davis – Western Michigan
WR 6’3″ 205lbs
I’m sure a lot of talk right now is going to be about how Mike Williams is the clear cut #1 in this year’s class. Press the pause button. Even if you’re not willing to overlook Corey Davis’s soft schedule in the Mid-American Conference, there’s at least got to be a conversation. (I’m on the Davis side of it, for what that’s worth, and I’m pretty sure I’m in good company. I’ve already heard Nick Whalen of DLF and Matt Kelley of RotoUnderworld putting Davis atop this group of pass catchers.)
I am willing to admit that it’s difficult to get a “perfect” (I use that term very loosely) read on a small school receiver, but there are traits that shine through regardless of competition. Off the bat, his speed/size combination is obvious. He is 6’3″ and reportedly runs the 40 in the range of a mid 4.4- but occasionally you forget just how big he is.
Davis is quick off the line, getting separation like a much smaller receiver- likewise, his ability after the catch is not what you’d expect from a player his size. He is incredibly aware of what is going on defensively behind him; he is already preparing to plant and reverse pivot at the catch point if a corner over pursues. Davis also can be a subtle route runner, creating separation at the break in routes more than he does with speed. Davis utilized double moves to get open vs Michigan St (which points to both polish as a route runner and also to his recognition of and adaptation to better competition.)
Against lesser competition, his sheer athleticism is overpowering, but having the ability to be a technician will help at the next level. Davis has tremendous hands, often making plays in spite of subpar quarterback play- he even bails out his QB by working back to the ball when there’s a breakdown with the O-Line.
But, I think of all the traits that he possesses, I love his versatility most of all. Davis can get open vertically, he can make plays in traffic, he can execute timing routes, he can high point (like the play in the Cotton Bowl vs Wisconsin over two defenders,) and he is strong on underneath routes. His post-catch transformation from receiver to runner is nearly instantaneous, and this can be utilized on screens and jet sweeps.
If it sounds like I’m gushing, I probably am. There are negatives to Davis- he occasionally doesn’t play to his size, his competition was vastly underwhelming, and he sometimes loses yardage trying to make the spectacular play after a catch. But overall, I’m buying in big time. It’s still early, but barring a horrendous combine & landing spot, Corey Davis is my pick of the 2017 WRs.