2017 NFL draft prospect countdown, No. 4: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
What you need to know: Even more impressive than his 2016 MAC Offensive Player of the Year win? Davis concluded his Western Michigan career as the all-time leading receiver in FBS history, with 5,278 yards. Davis topped 1,400 yards each of his final three seasons (1,408-1,429-1,500), and he opened his Broncos days with 941 yards as a true freshman. His 331 career receptions also placed him first in MAC history and fourth in FBS history.
Need more? Davis’s 52 career receiving touchdowns set a new MAC standard; only Rice’s Jarrett Dillard (60, 2005-08) found the end zone more through the air. The Western Michigan star had 27 different 100-yard games during his career, including a 272-yarder vs. Ball State and 154 vs. Michigan State.
Strengths: “Corey Davises don’t come along very often,” then-Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck told SI.com last June. “If they have one talent, then they really lack something else. Corey’s really the complete package.”
And that was before Davis went off for 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns in his (and Fleck’s) final season in Kalamazoo.
Davis could have entered the 2016 draft and done quite well for himself. He put his senior campaign to good use, though, and because of it will enter the NFL as an extremely polished rookie. Provided he is 100% healthy, there should be little preventing Davis from producing very early in his career.
Shy, perhaps, of being a run-blocking force, there is nothing a coordinator could ask of Davis (6' 3", 209 lbs.) that would be problematic. Davis lined up both outside and in the slot for the Broncos, and he excelled regardless. He possesses a well-versed understanding of the route tree, and the crispness with which he runs his routes keeps defenders guessing.
There also are several different gears available in Davis’s speed repertoire. He can shut it down in a hurry if he needs to break back toward the quarterback or if he spots a hole in a zone; he can burst past deep defenders on deep balls; and, arguably most impressively, he can explode after the catch across the middle of the field. Davis wastes little time getting upfield, and he covers significant ground with his long strides. If a defender is trailing by even a whisker when Davis makes a reception, Davis can open that gap exponentially within just three or four steps.
He’ll fight for the ball on contested catches—jump balls or over the middle. That’s an area Fleck said last summer that Davis could improve upon, and Davis said at the combine he feels like he has done so.
“One of the big things this year, and one of the big reasons I came back, was the contested balls, the 50-50 balls,” Davis said. “[Fleck has] helped me with that tremendously, especially this previous offseason. We were always in the weight room and always working on ways to improve that, and improve my strength.”
Weaknesses: Teams have had private meetings with Davis in recent weeks, but he was unable to work out at either the combine or Western Michigan’s pro day due to ankle surgery following the Broncos’ MAC title and Cotton Bowl appearance. (Davis still had six catches for 73 yards and a TD in that Cotton Bowl, a 24-16 loss to Wisconsin.)
Will he be ready in time for rookie mini-camp? Training camp? The regular season? He should be good to go by the time August and September rolls around, but the recovery process is already dragging a bit. Davis did head to Indianapolis last week for the league’s medical rechecks.
The on-field issue that popped up most often: drops. Davis had too many of them as a college star—NFL.com credited him with 16 from 2014–16, which works out to one per every 16.5 catches he had.
Strength is a challenge for about 98% of the receivers making the leap from college to pro ball, and Davis will be no different. He’ll see a lot more press coverage from NFL cornerbacks than he did at Western Michigan.
NFL player comp: A.J. Green