Ashtyn Davis is a special type of an athlete, the New York Jets third round pick a true playmaker with elite speed.
Coming into April’s NFL Draft, the holes on the Jets were well known. The team needed to address issues at offensive tackle, pass rush, wide receiver and cornerback as well as adding depth at running back. The selection of Davis raised more than a few eyebrows around the league, given that safety wasn’t a position of need. Why Joe Douglas would select a safety so high in the draft was puzzling.
But the Cal player is special. Each year at Cal, Davis grew by leaps and bounds, going from being a track star to a player that many believed had first round talent but still needed some fine-tuning.
And although the Jets have their safety position set with All-Pro Jamal Adams and a very special safety in Marcus Maye, the skillset Davis brings is unique.
He’s fast. But not just fast. He’s elite fast.
In high school, the recruiting services didn’t even rank him as a football player and Davis would walk on at Cal’s football team and also run track. In 2016, he was second in the Pac-12 in the 100M hurdles with a 14.07 time. As a junior, he won the Pac-12 outdoor 110M hurdles with a 13.50.
That isn’t just straightline speed. It is explosive speed. And it translates to the field.
At Cal, Davis quickly rose from being a walk-on to a scholarship football player. His athleticism and speed made him an asset on special teams as he grew into a role in the secondary, first as a cornerback and then as a safety. As a freshman, he earned three starts, seeing his role grow as a sophomore to six starts.
He was a de-facto starter for Cal as a junior and a season, finishing his college career with 33 starts. That is huge upside for a former walk-on.
His athleticism is what get him there, his pure speed making him a player on the defense.
Davis dropped in the NFL Draft due to an injury (he had made 47 consecutive appearances at that point). The injury cost him a shot to play in Cal’s bowl game, the Senior Bowl and run at the NFL Combine.
For the Jets, it was a blessing in disguise as Davis remained under the radar. His production at Cal (57 tackles, two interceptions, two fumbles forced, two fumbles recovered) was solid. But it is his upside that remains vital for the Jets.
His speed allows him to cover vast swaths of the field. When partnered potentially with a player like Adams, this is huge. Last year, Adams was devastating as a freelancer of sorts, being deployed as a safety but using his own athleticism to allow him to register a career high in sacks (6.5) along with constantly being in the opposing backfield.
With Davis’ speed behind him, Adams could be utilized even more as a wrecking ball. It is a concept that could really make him a hybrid safety/linebacker/defensive end, used in multiple ways and looks on a single play.
Adams was a force for the Jets last year. With Davis’ speed behind him, he could potentially be even more devastating.
Video cut from Cal Berkley Athletics.