Rookie impact is a series previewing each Pittsburgh Steelers draftee and their potential impact for 2020 and beyond. To recap, we have already previewed the following rookies: Chase Claypool, Alex Highsmith, Anthony McFarland, Kevin Dotson and Antoine Brooks Jr. We conclude our series with Carlos Davis.
Player: Carlos Davis
Position: Defensive Line
Drafted: Round 7, Pick 198
With their final selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Nebraska defensive linemen Carlos Davis. Davis, who started in the interior in all four seasons during his time as a Cornhusker, was never quite able to achieve national prominence playing in a 4-3 defense.
With the departure of Javon Hargrave, Pittsburgh looks to replace the now departed production and interior dominance with a sort of "committee" of interior players. Davis figures to be in contention for a portion of those snaps. While the plan isn't crystal clear as of yet, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert offered an interesting perspective on the classic 3-4 nose tackle role in today's league:
"I mean, a traditional 3-4 nose tackle, again, I don't want to say it's dying, but it's less and less of base defense," said Kevin Colbert following the draft. "When you're in a defense 75 percent of the time, different sub packages, I don't know if anyone really has a base defense even though you do say you're a 3-4."
When it came to his evaluation for the pro level, scouts and draft analysts didn't hold back on Davis. Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network offered this to say on Davis prior to the 2020 NFL Draft:
"Davis' pass rush pallet is too stale to ignore," said Crabbs. "his general lack of fluidity and mobility on the interior will cause problems for a team looking to find value for anyone other than a pure interior plug. Without lateral range, Davis is a sitting duck on the interior and doesn't possess the necessary gravitational pull to warrant consideration as a starting nose tackle."
In the seventh-round of the draft, a player such as Davis is considered a project at best, a project the Steelers are willing to roll the dice on given his price tag and flashes of his abilities.
So where does Davis fit in Pittsburgh's defensive puzzle for 2020 and beyond?
Immediately, Davis will have to climb over the likes of Isaiah Buggs, Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley and Daniel McCullers to garner playing time, although Buggs is the favorite to land the majority of those snaps. Per every article in this series, the typical "he can find avenues of playing time through special teams" can be found here as well.
Realistically, Davis would have to open a lot of eyes prior to the start of the season to get serious playing time. Davis is raw, but that's not to be used against him. The Steelers like developing projects, and given the athletic base of Davis, he's off to a good start. Nobody expects Davis to significantly contribute in 2020, as he projects to be more of a student of a game this season.
For the future, it still remains to be seen. Rarely do seventh-round projects turn into regular starters in the NFL. Is Davis next in a long line of day three picks to be buried in a depth chart? The odds are certainly stacked against him, especially in-part to COVID-19 and the inability to get live reps with coaches at mini-camp.
For both immediate and future impact, Davis currently projects as simply another body in the trenches. That's no knock on him, and maybe even a dash of ignorance on my end. If Davis is presented the opportunity to showcase his skills and proves worthy, it's a win-win that sees media members such as myself look like clowns.
However, Davis is incredibly raw at this point in time, and players such as Buggs and Alualu will call first dibs on the replacing the snaps of Hargrave. With a solid foundation and development, Davis would then project as a rotational interior linemen.
It's up to Davis to shine on the field, and ready a clown nose for yours truly off the field.