In Rivera WFT Trusts With 'Athletic' Pick Jamin Davis

Although still developing, Kentucky's Jamin Davis might be the next project for Ron Rivera and the Washington Football Team
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Ron Rivera made the call. No doubt in his mind, this was his guy.

Some call him a reach, others call him unfinished. In the end, the production on the field will be doing most of the talking.

When the Washington Football Team selected linebacker Jamin Davis Thursday evening, it proved that Rivera has a type. The athletic frame with immense upside; that’s the player the WFT second-year head coach wanted.

It was the target from the start.

“As I was going through the process, he just kept sticking out,” Rivera told reporters following the selection.

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The Kentucky star seemed to be a hot name on the rise during the final week on the draft process to don the Burgundy and Yellow combo Sunday afternoons. He’s a thumper with great closing speed and a knack for finding his way in a pinch.

Who are GM Martin Mayhew and executive Marty Hurney to argue with Rivera — after all, the 59-year-old played the position as a star for the 1985 Chicago Bears. If this was the player with the most upside, then fans should be stoked at what is to come.

"He checks that (production) box and checks the box of having a great football character," Mayhew said. "He fits what we're trying to do, and he fits our culture."

Davis recorded 102 total tackles to close out his time with the Wildcats. When watching the take, No. 44 was everywhere. Running backs couldn’t move the rock and wide receivers were feeling the force of a 234-pound action figure coming straight for their chest.

After his 4.45 40-time at Kentucky's Pro Day, he was a solidified first-round pick. Now, it was about playing the board in WFT’s favor.

"He played in the SEC, so he's playing high and tight football," Rivera said. "He's playing against guys that will be playing on Sundays and he played well against those guys. That was one of those things that led to this decision." 

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As the clock rolled past No. 18, WFT had its pick of the litter. By most indications, Davis, Notre Dame hybrid defender Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw were the three front-runners for the pick. All three were on the clock as Jaelen Phillips's name was called by the Dolphins. 

By then, it was up to Rivera to make the final call. He went to the big board and took the "best player available" approach. Davis was the highest-rated player. 

"He understands our culture," Rivera said. "He has tremendous background, the kind of background that I look for. Very smart, intelligent young man. Plays the game at the right tempo." 

WFT was one of three teams considered to be in line for a quarterback trade up into the top 10. Only three signal-callers were selected before the first trade with Dallas and Philadelphia. 

New York moved back and Chicago moved up to select Ohio State's Justin Fields. Four picks later, Alabama's Mac Jones went to New England. There wasn't an offer for WFT to grab the next franchise star under center. 

Linebackers are the quarterback of the defense. Davis, who only started 11 games during his three seasons in Lexington, might take a full season to adjust to the professional speed. 

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Some view Davis as a cover defender on the outside. Others believe he's a better fit inside. The good news for WFT is they can try him at both. Should Davis struggle on the outside, they can move him in next season.

Current middle linebacker Jon Bostic is entering a contract season. If Rivera keeps playing the "BPA" style, perhaps a true "cover" linebacker might be the selection at No. 51.  They also could consider moving Landon Collins down to the "WILL" side. 

Davis is one of those players who needs to be a system fit. He'll head to D.C. with great teachers to help him adjust to NFL speed in no time. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio recorded over 900 stops at the linebacker spot for 11 seasons. Rivera played in over 130 games. 

During his time in Carolina with the Panthers, Rivera had a trio of talent that each added value. Luke Kuechly was a missile up the middle. Thomas Davis was a consistent tackle. Former Rivera draft pick Shaq Thompson excelled in coverage. 

Combine all three skills and Davis could be the finished product. After a 7-9 NFC East winning season, Rivera will trust the defense. Adding Davis potentially expands the gap as front-runners for the division.  

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