Linebacker Kwon Alexander helped take the New Orleans Saints defense to an elite level when he was acquired in a mid-season trade last year. Alexander's contributions didn't necessarily show up on a stat sheet. He had 27 tackles, broke up 4 passes, forced 4 fumbles, recovered 2 others, and registered 2 QB pressures in seven games with the team.
Alexander's presence greatly bolstered the athleticism of the entire unit. His sideline-to-sideline athleticism combined with terrific coverage ability was a perfect complement to the skills of All-Pro LB Demario Davis.
Alexander suffered a torn Achilles during a Christmas Day victory over the Vikings. The injury sidelined him for the Saints playoff run, but also cast doubt on his availability for the start of 2021. New Orleans released Alexander this offseason because of salary cap reasons, but has shown interest in bringing him back.
The Saints also lost free agent LB Alex Anzalone to Detroit, and veteran UFA Craig Robertson remains unsigned. New Orleans expects big improvements from LB Zack Baun, a 3rd round pick last year, along with Kaden Elliss and Chase Hansen.
Linebacker remains a position of need as the Saints head toward the draft, which begins on Thursday, April 29. The team hasn't had great luck through the draft at the linebacker spot over the last several years. However, there are several prospects that will be available late in the 1st round and through the second day with starting potential.
Today's draft profile spotlights one of those players. One that has rocketed up the draft boards in recent weeks.
JAMIN DAVIS, LINEBACKER (KENTUCKY)
- 6’4” 234-Lbs.
- Pro Day 40m = 4.41
- Pro Day Vertical Jump = 42"
- Pro Day Broad Jump = 134”
NFL.com Comparison (Lance Zierlein): Kiko Alonso (free agent)
Born in Hawaii, Davis attended Long County High School in Georgia. After being named as an honorable mention All-State selection as a senior, he elected to enroll at Kentucky. He’d redshirt his freshman season but played as a defensive reserve in 2018, intercepting a pass and recording 10 tackles.
Davis earned more playing time in 2019, appearing in all 13 games and starting one while gathering 32 tackles and an interception. He exploded into national prominence in 2020, shining for the Kentucky defense. Davis led the Wildcats in tackles (102, four for loss), had 3 interceptions, 1.5 sacks, and scored a defensive touchdown.
Relatively inexperienced as a defender, Davis was projected to be a late Day 2 or early Day 3 selection by the end of the collegiate season. He’s shot up the draft boards with a series of impressive postseason workouts. His 40 times, broad jump, and vertical leap that are among the best at his position.
On the field, Davis must show improvement in his ability to diagnose plays with added experience. He must get better with his upper body technique and pad levels when taking on blockers as a run defender to be more effective.
Davis is a bit stiff when dropping into pass coverage, also indicative of his lack of experience. It causes him to be a bit slow to react in zone coverage against more intricate offenses or get caught out of position against misdirection. That hesitation in his game doesn't allow him to take full advantage of his athletic talents.
Davis flows fluidly through traffic in pursuit of a play and has an explosive burst to the ball carrier. Despite the criticisms over his inexperience, he has impressive natural vision over the field. He was most consistently effective as a run defender at Kentucky, where he played downhill and sharply focused on a developing play. Davis showed smooth lateral movement along the line of scrimmage and has a terrific burst through a seam between opposing blockers.
Quarterbacks paid dearly for underestimating Davis in pass coverage. He has ideal length, elite leaping ability, and underrated anticipation in zones. His 5 career interceptions in college, along with several big plays, shows that he has good ball skills.
Jamin Davis has the size and speed to excel at any of the linebacker spots. His ability to sift through traffic and downhill style should make him an immediate factor against the run. He shows the aptitude and explosive athleticism to be a quality defender in coverage with patience and experience.
This late riser up draft boards has the potential to be one of the best linebackers in the 2021 draft class. They might have to spend the 28th overall choice to get him, but Jamin Davis could fill an immediate need for the New Orleans defense and blossom into a future star.