Part 5, DL: Will Jordan Davis devour NFL offenses, too?
He dazzled in shorts, but how do Davis' skills translate? Also, what do scouts think about Devonte Wyatt's off-field issues? Everything you need to know about the D-Line class inside…
This is the 38th year Bob McGinn has written an NFL draft series. Previously, it appeared in the Green Bay Press-gazette (1985-’91), the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (1992-’17), BobMcGinnFootball.com (2018-’19) and The Athletic (2020-’21). Until 2014, personnel people often were quoted by name. The series reluctantly adopted an all-anonymous format in 2015 at the request of most scouts … The 12-minute, 50-question Wonderlic test was not administered at the NFL scouting combine this year, possibly for the first time. Therefore, players generally took the test at spring timing days in 2021 or at pro days in the past two months. The NFL average score is about 19.
Today: Defensive Line.
Thirty years ago, Clemson’s Chester McGlockton ran 40 yards at the NFL scouting combine in 5.05 seconds. He stood 6 feet 4 inches and weighed 337 pounds, but with his tendency to balloon up there’s no telling what he might have been a week later.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a 350-pounder run like this guy runs,” Ron Hughes, the Detroit Lions’ director of player personnel, said in April 1992. “But he’s got some holes in him, too.”
Holes? McGlockton didn’t try on half the plays at Clemson, was an obnoxious individual and didn’t like practicing.
McGlockton, with his 29-inch vertical jump and 8-8 broad jump, was praised for what was then regarded as one of the greatest big-man workouts ever. His story has currency because of what Jordan Davis did at the combine in February.
Davis’ numbers reverberated from Lucas Oil Stadium: 6-6 ½ and 341, a 4.78 40, a 32-inch vertical jump and a 10-8 broad jump. Almost overnight, the Georgia nose tackle achieved a strange notoriety for what he did wearing shorts and a T-shirt.
For a variety of reasons, McGlockton was one of eight interior defensive linemen cited by today’s fraternity of scouts as comparable in some ways to Davis. Scouting lives on comparisons between one player and another, and so it was with Davis.
Here are sketches of the eight players.
1991: Louisville’s Ted Washington (6-4, 303) was the 25th pick by the 49ers. I’m looking at the Group 4 combine results sheets, and his weight really was just 303. A month later, he was reportedly 330. Pro Football Reference lists 365 as his career weight. Citing various injuries, he didn’t run the 40. Playing for seven teams, he started 204 of 236 games and finished with 34 1/12 sacks. He made the Pro Bowl four times. Said Green Bay VP Tom Braatz before that draft: “He’s not going to run down anybody. He’s a size-strength bull rusher.” Said an NFC executive this month: “Ted Washington is the comparison. No, he couldn’t run like Davis, but he could control the middle like him.” (Note: Former Bears center Olin Kreutz explained on a Go Long Happy Hour why he believes Washington should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.)
1992: McGlockton was the 16th pick by the Raiders. He started 151 of 179 games, made four Pro Bowls and registered 51 sacks. “Chester should have been the greatest defensive tackle in the history of the game,” one scout said. “Maybe this guy (Davis) is like him.”
1994: Ohio State’s Dan “Big Daddy” Wilkinson (6-3 ½, 327 at the combine) was listed at 340 for his career by PFR. He didn’t run in Indy, but dropped his weight to 313 for a March workout in which he ran 4.85. Years later, a Bengals scout told me they clocked him at 4.72. At the time, Hughes said Wilkinson was the best defensive tackle since Mean Joe Greene. Other scouts said he reminded them of Reggie White and Cortez Kennedy. “To my way of thinking, you really, really need to get people after the passer,” Bills GM John Butler before the draft. The Bengals took him with the top pick of ’94. Wilkinson never made the Pro Bowl but started 182 of 195 games and finished with 54 ½ sacks.
1994: Sam Adams of Texas A&M went eighth to the Seahawks. Citing injury, he didn’t run at the combine. “I hear guys say he’s got talent like Bruce Smith,” Broncos scouting director Jeff Smith said. “He’s got that kind of talent, but he’ll have to mature.” What the 6-2 Adams, who was 292 at the combine, eventually did was change his body until he became a 350-pound nose tackle but one still possessing the ability to run and make plays. He started 177 of 226 games for seven teams, finishing with 44 sacks and three Pro Bowls.
2001: Georgia’s Marcus Stroud (6-6, 321 at the combine) ran 5.12 with a 30-inch vertical and a 9-2 broad jump. He was most often compared to Washington. “Ted Washington is wide but this kid isn’t wide,” Saints GM Randy Mueller said. “But he’s strong and powerful at the point like Washington.” Drafted 13th by the Jaguars, Stroud would go on to start 129 of 146 games, log 29 ½ sacks and make three Pro Bowls.
2002: Tennessee’s John Henderson (6-7, 306 at the combine) ran 4.98 at pro day to go with a 27 ½ vertical and a 9-2 broad jump. His career weight was listed as 335 by PFR. “He doesn’t fit all this movement stuff,” Titans director of player personnel Rich Snead said. “But when you watch him take off and run, there’s five or six plays a game no one else can do.” Drafted No. 9 by the Jaguars, he started 125 of 146 games, had 29 sacks and made two Pro Bowls.
2002: With the 15th selection, the Titans took Tennessee’s Albert Haynesworth (6-5 ½, 320 at the combine). He didn’t run the 40 there, but a few weeks later ran in the mid-to-high 4.8’s on a hard indoor track in Knoxville. Teams converted that to 4.93 on FieldTurf. His vertical jump was 30, his broad jump was 8-7. “This is a huge man who can absolutely dominate a football game, the whole game,” one scout said. “He’s exceptionally quick and can run like hell. Talent-wise, this guy is like McGlockton.” PFR listed his career weight at 335. “Haynesworth was so much more creative as a pass rusher,” an AFC scout said last week in making the comparison to Davis. In 123 games (92 starts) he tallied 30 ½ sacks and made two Pro Bowls.
2012: At Memphis, Dontari Poe (6-3 ½, 346 at the combine) played three seasons for teams that went 5-31 and fielded hideous defenses (yield of 36.6 points per game). Until Indy, he was nowhere at D-tackle behind Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox and Louisiana State’s Michael Brockers. Then, at the combine, he ran 4.90 with a 29 ½ vertical and a 8-9 broad jump (plus a crazy 44 reps on the bench press). “He made it even worse for himself when he blew away the combine,” Chargers GM A.J. Smith said. “It just became more magnified. ‘Oh, my God, look at the gifts this man has.’” Poe went 11th to the Chiefs, one slot before Cox and three before Brockers. He started 125 of 128 games, posted 20 ½ sacks and reached two Pro Bowls.
Now comes Davis’ turn. It’s difficult to compare workout numbers from today to a generation ago because the training methods are so vastly superior. Helping football players prepare for the combine 40, tests and drills is a cottage industry. Nevertheless, every move Davis makes in the NFL will be analyzed like never before because of his performance at the combine.
“He’s got the story and everybody loves him,” said one personnel man. “I just don’t know what you do with him in the modern game. You’d like to have him, but if you’re not rushing the passer I don’t want anything to do with you in the first round.
“You get the quarterback, you get the playmakers and a guy to mess up the quarterback. It’s a pretty simple concept. Matthew Stafford, now Cooper Kupp and, on defense, Aaron Donald. Davis is a giant, but he’s not in on passing downs.”’
This is a strange class of interior players in that DeMarvin Leal is the only underclassmen among the top 10. That number was 5.2 top-10 juniors over the last five years. A partial explanation would be that this group isn’t up to snuff with those of the past when it comes to talent.
“There’s no one you’re saying is going to be a difference-maker,” said one scout. “If you get them at the right time, yeah. But I would not overvalue any of these guys.”
Seventeen scouts were asked to rank the players 1-2-3-4-5, with a first-place vote worth 5 points, a second-place vote worth 4 and so on.
Davis led with 75 points and 10 firsts followed closely by his teammate, Devonte Wyatt, who had 66 and six firsts. Rounding out the vote were Logan Hall (26), Leal (25, one first), Phidarian Mathis (24 1/2), Travis Jones (20 ½), Perrion Winfrey (13), Matthew Butler (two), Zach Carter (two) and Neil Farrell (one).
RANKING THE DEFENSIVE LINEMEN
1. JORDAN DAVIS, Georgia (6-6 ½, 341, 4.78, 1): Everyone in the league is confident that he can stop the run. “You run right at him and he’s strong as an ox,” said one scout. “He tosses guys.” Finished with 91 tackles (12 1/2 for loss), never forced a fumble in a four-year career. “He will flat overpower blockers,” said a second scout. “He plays square and can move laterally along the line of scrimmage. When he exerts his will he can’t be moved off the line of scrimmage. He’s blessed with agility, quickness and strength. You can see him get out and chase. He’s got rare speed to close on guys coming out of the stack. (Vince) Wilfork was a dancing bear early in his career, and he’s definitely faster than Wilfork. The big question is, what can he give you as a pass rusher?” In 47 games (33 starts), he had seven sacks. “No matter what his 40 time is, he’s never going to be a pass rusher in this league,” a third scout said. “He’s just too big. It’s a problem. He is outstanding at what he does, but how many plays a game is that going to be? I’d like to have him, but for 25 snaps a game I don’t know if that’s really worth taking him there (first round).” Georgia removed him on passing downs. He averaged just 25.2 snaps in 2021, 32.9 in ’20. “He’s got to play more often and work on his conditioning,” said a fourth scout. Weighed as much as 370 in Athens. Scouts liked the fact that he weighed 341 at both the combine and pro day. “His weight problem worries me,” said a fifth scout. “They ran him on the treadmill every day after or before practice. Great kid, but I don’t know that he loves, loves, loves football.” Scored 18 on the Wonderlic test. “I think he’s two generations late,” said a sixth scout. “The Gilbert Browns, nobody really does that anymore and that’s kind of what this guy is. Except he’s 6-6. He’s a 3-4 nose and somewhat of a two-down player. I recognize the height-weight-speed but the player, he’s just OK. Georgia runs a pro-style defense and they didn’t see pass rush in him. I don’t think the NFL has seen pass rush in him. Then he tested exceptionally well at the combine so now people are back to kind of buying in.” One team removed him from consideration because he didn’t fit their defense. Arms were 34 inches, hands were 10 ¾ inches. From Charlotte.