The Green Bay Packers have a promising young tandem at inside linebacker with last year’s rookie duo of undrafted Krys Barnes and fifth-round pick Kamal Martin. While they had solid debut seasons, can either become a legit difference-maker? Can either be even on par with Blake Martinez? Regardless of the top of the depth chart, the Packers are a man down after releasing veteran Christian Kirksey.
Kentucky’s Jamin Davis is our No. 4-ranked prospect.
Like Maverick from “Top Gun,” Jamin Davis has a need for speed.
The Kentucky standout is one of the top linebacker prospects in this month’s NFL Draft due in part to his outrageous athleticism. He ranks 12th in the entire draft class, and second among linebackers, in Relative Athletic Score. With a 4.47 clocking in the 40-yard dash and a 42-inch vertical, Davis has cornerback-style testing numbers.
Davis’ need for speed goes beyond the stopwatch and playing field, though. He’s a big-time NASCAR fan and wouldn’t mind giving that sport a shot once his football career is over.
“I feel like if I had some training I would be able to do it one day,” Davis told Kentucky.com. “I know it’s pretty hard to get into, but if I had the right connections and whatnot, I would definitely go for it.”
Davis’ rise in the eyes of scouts was fast, too. He arrived in Lexington in 2017 tipping the scales at all of 190 pounds. He redshirted in 2017 and was a reserve in 2018 and 2019. He might have been a backup in 2020, too, but starter Chris Oats suffered a stroke.
Davis responded to the tragedy involving one of his closest friends by starting all 10 games and recording 102 tackles, making him one of four players in the SEC to average 10-plus tackles per game. He added three interceptions and four tackles for losses.
Paired with his eye-opening pro day, Davis has gone from backup to potential first-round pick in the football equivalent of the blink of an eye.
"Honestly, I’m guessing people are just starting to wake up a little bit," Davis said before his pro day. "I honestly couldn’t tell you all, couldn’t put my finger on it. I’m not doing anything special. ... I’m just being myself. I guess everything is just unfolding right before my eyes."
A native of Hawaii and the son of parents who served in the Army, Davis moved to Georgia when he was 1. When they divorced, Tanga Davis made sure to keep her kids active. Davis fell in love with football. He dreamed of being the next LaDainian Tomlinson but liked hitting people too much.
One of the rec league coaches in Georgia saw Davis’ talent and gave him some sage advice. “You can’t have a million-dollar dream without a minimum-wage work ethic.” Davis took that mantra to Kentucky and will bring it to the NFL, as well.
“From elementary school through middle school, even up to high school, it never left my mind,” he told the Washington Post. “It’s true: You’re going to get out of it whatever you put into it. It was just something that throughout high school I learned, especially being from a smaller area. You can’t have these dreams of playing in the SEC or playing in the NFL if you’re not doing the work to get to that level.”
It’s advice that translates off the field, too. Before the pandemic, he interned at a Kentucky law firm with hopes of becoming a corporate lawyer.
“I think most people realize that as good as he is and as great a young man he is, he’s still got the best football ahead of him. The sky is the limit for him,” coach Mark Stoops told Kentucky Sports Radio.
Echoed position coach Jon Sumrall: “Jamin’s not a finished product,” Sumrall told the Herald-Leader. “I think he’s just begun to scratch the surface for what he can become as a football player in regards to his football IQ and awareness and recognition. He’s improved a lot and I think he’s got a lot of growth left in him. … The sky’s the limit for what he can become.”
Measureables: 6-foot-3 1/2, 234 pounds, 4.47 40, DNP shuttle, 42 vertical, 21 bench-press reps.
Stats and accolades: Davis had 42 tackles as a two-year backup but moved into the starting lineup in 2020 and piled up 102 tackles, including 1.5 sacks and four tackles for losses, along with three interceptions, five passes defensed and one forced fumble. Despite the big season, he was not awarded any all-SEC recognition. While not the most physical defender in the draft, he missed only five tackles (4 percent), according to Sports Info Solutions. He gave up a 64 percent catch rate and 8.5 yards per target, according to SIS.
NFL Draft Bible says: Davis has great spatial awareness in zone coverage, locating routes behind and crowding throwing lanes with his length. Active feet allow him to be a capable man-coverage defender against underneath routes. Davis gets sideline-to-sideline when he turns on the jets, displaying sufficient range to defend laterally. He is a very patient run defender who does not play well downhill. Taking on blocks is not a strong suit as he does not show the ability to stack and shed. He is not a physical player and gets run over by ball-carriers in the hole. He has to become more physical defending the inside run and when taking on blockers. The more he can be kept clean, the more successful he will be.
About This Series
Packer Central is introducing you to the top prospects, both on and off the field, in this year’s NFL Draft. The series is starting with the top five at each position.