Keionta Davis is a defensive end out of Tennessee-Chattanooga Southern. Ever heard of him? No? Doesn't matter. Bill Belichick has. Davis had a chance to play college ball at some bigger schools, but stuck in his hometown and put up impressive numbers. He was an FCS All-American his junior and senior year, racking up 24 sacks over those two seasons. He was projected to be drafted as early as the third round this past April but a bulging disk in his neck really struck a nerve with most teams. (See what I did there??)
He would go undrafted and unsigned as a free agent. Until last Friday that is, when our boys in nautical blue, red, and new century silver opened up a spot on their roster for the talented young man. “We’ve done quite a bit of work on him,” Belichick said Monday. “I worked him out at Chattanooga myself in March. I mean, he’s a good player. I don’t think he’s any secret." High praise from the big boss. While Davis can't practice yet, his recovery is "on schedule." I trust that phrase about as often as I can spell it, and I'm a terrible speller. I'm pretty sure Dion Lewis was "on schedule" during camp last year and I didn't see him until week 11. The Pats did fly Davis to New England last week to meet with their doctors, and then signed him on Friday, so it must have gone well enough.
With the concussion to my BOY Deatrich Wise, the timing makes a ton of sense. You get a high upside player at our thinnest position that no one else wants to take a chance on. Davis seems very motivated to prove the 31 other teams wrong about his injury, and Bill clearly likes the kid since he put him through a private workout himself. I'm always a little weary about FCS players at positions like edge rusher. Catching a ball is catching a ball, so a kid with soft hands who catches everything at say, Marshall University, will catch everything at the pro level. Just ask Aaron Dobson. I kid, I kid, but you see my point. When a player makes his living feasting on undersized offensive tackles, I get worried how well that translates when he's forced to pick on someone his own size.
HOWEVA (Stephen A Smith voice), the Pats love to find edge rushers for their system that fit the golden "6-4, 4-6" rule. That is 6'4" or taller, who run the 40 yard dash at 4.6 or faster. They are few and far between, but just like a four leaf clover, whenever you find one, pick it.
For example, Derek Rivers is listed at 6'4" and ran a 4.61 40. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am. As with all things, there are plenty of exceptions on the Patriots roster. So when I was looking up Keionta's specs I was preparing myself to see someone who doesn't measure up, but it's not the case. The kid stands all of 6'4" and he ran a 4.71 40. Not exactly the golden ratio but it's pretty damn close. On top of that, he did 30 reps on the bench. Carl Lawson, 4th round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals, led all defensive lineman with 34 reps at the combine. Had Davis been there he would have finished 4th on that list. (tied with Derek Rivers who also had 30)
His strengths are everything you would expect. He has plus arm length and can use those Go-Go-Gadget limbs to create separation. He does the dirty work. He's an energizer bunny out there. Plays with quick hands. Unfortunately, his weaknesses are to be expected as well. Unable to crash down the line and catch downhill running backs. Unable to get hip turn to slip around the edge as an NFL rusher. Lacks sudden burst on inside rush. Struggles with long armed tackles, also known as "all of them" at the NFL level.
Either way, I think it's a great pick up. These scouting reports are bullshit anyway. We've heard Mel Kiper say it on a million YouTube fan videos. "Lacks mobility and ability to avoid the rush. Lacks a really strong arm. System-type player who can get exposed if forced to ad lib." No one has been that wrong since I said Chad Jackson was the next Michael Irvin. It happens. As it stands right now, my biggest concern is Davis doesn't have the skill to consistently get to the QB at this level, but that doesn't mean he couldn't put on some pounds and move to the inside. Hopefully the Pats can stash Davis until he's healthy, evaluate what they've got, and find themselves with a quality football player they picked up for the price of $free.99.