Evan Weaver will tell you he was the best pick of the NFL draft, a consensus All-American who went to the Arizona Cardinals in the sixth round.
But an analysis by USA Today -- presumably an unbiased source -- suggests that Weaver’s former Cal teammate, safety Ashtyn Davis, could rate as one of the 13 biggest steals of the draft.
“It doesn't always take a first-round pick to secure a first-round talent in the NFL draft,” Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz wrote. “With competing philosophies, evaluations and needs crumbling any chance of widespread consensus among teams, the league's annual "player selection meeting" can often leave promising players waiting well into Days 2 and 3. And for teams with the right eye, there's an opportunity to find tremendous value beyond their highest selection.”
His list includes five players chosen in the second round, four from the third, one from the fifth, two from the sixth (although not Weaver) and one seventh-round selection.
Three Utah players are included on the USA Today list — cornerback Jaylon Johnson (second round to the Bears), safety Terrell Burgess (third round to the Rams) and defensive end Bradlee Anae (fifth round to the Cowboys).
Davis was chosen with the No. 68 pick in the third round by the New York Jets, who saw beyond the fact that the Santa Cruz native could not show off his full skillset in the lead up to the draft.
Davis missed the Bears’ Redbox Bowl game against Illinois and skipped most drills — including the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine camp — after undergoing surgery for an adductor injury.
It didn’t figure to matter much because Davis -- a former All-America high hurdler for the Bears -- planned to run the 40 and do other drills in front of scouts at Cal’s Pro Day. But that was canceled by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That forced NFL teams to evaluate Davis based on the rest of his college career, which actually seems like a reasonable way to analyze a player.
The Jets apparently liked what they saw. Davis said the Jets were among the few NFL teams with whom he did not visit on a Zoom meeting, but he did talk with them at the Combine:
Here’s how the USA Today views the Jets' selection of Davis:
Jets S Ashtyn Davis (Cal) — third round, No. 68 overall
If not for being sidelined for much of the pre-draft process after undergoing groin surgery in December, Davis might have received his due as one of this class' premier athletes. The former hurdler restricts much of the field for opposing quarterbacks with his outstanding range or makes them pay for testing him. With starter Marcus Maye still in the fold as he enters the final year of his contract, Davis can hone his recognition skills before potentially taking on a larger role as Jamal Adams' sidekick. Fifth-round cornerback Bryce Hall also could be a boon for the secondary.
Here's a look at the moment the Jets called to inform Davis they were picking him.