The Tennessee Titans have an obvious need to address on offense in this year’s NFL Draft: wide receiver.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota is in need of more dynamic weapons on the outside, as the franchise is searching for a true “No. 1” receiver. With their two first round picks (No. 5, No. 18), the Titans are in a prime position to upgrade the receiving corps early.
Western Michigan’s Corey Davis could be an option. Both ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and CBS Sports rank Davis as the No. 15 prospect in the entire draft. Kiper Jr. has him behind Clemson’s Mike Williams as the second best receiver, while CBS Sports has Davis ranked above Williams. Just like any prospect, there are pros and cons with drafting Davis.
Corey Davis “Pros”
You won’t find a single player with more career receiving yards than Davis. His 5,285 yards are the most in all of major college football history. The only year he didn’t post 1,000 yards on the season was his first, when he was named MAC Freshman of the year with 941 yards and six touchdowns.
The next three seasons saw back-to-back-to-back 1,400+ yards seasons for Davis. His 19 touchdowns in 2016 led the entire country as the Broncos posted an undefeated regular season, until losing in the Cotton Bowl to Wisconsin.
There’s no question Titans GM Jon Robinson loves to draft productive players. Last year, Robinson selected Tajae Sharpe in the fifth round after Sharpe led the NCAA in catches in 2015. All Davis did in college was catch 332 passes and score 52 touchdowns.
2) Perfect Size, Physicality
If the Titans want a “No. 1” receiver for Mariota to grow with, they’re probably looking to add a big, strong athlete who is aggressive catching the football. Davis fits the bill at 6-foot-3, 209 pounds. One of the best thing about Davis is his willingness to attack a 50/50 jump ball and out work defenders.
In the Cotton Bowl, Davis displayed his level of fight for the football in the end zone.
The Titans don’t necessarily have a physical freak at wide receiver. Rishard Matthews had a break out 2016 season, but isn’t known for overpowering defenders. Sharpe is young and is more of a route tactician, as is veteran Harry Douglas.
3) Polished Product
The wide receiver position is a tricky one to predict when transitioning from college to the NFL. The college game has become overwhelmed by horizontal, spread offenses without true pro-route concepts. It’s hard to know what a player was asked to do in his college offense and whether he would be capable picking up and succeeding in a pro offense.
Davis does not fall into this category. His experience as a four year starter gave him the opportunity to run every route in Western Michigan’s book. He excelled.
“Variable route speed creates indecision for defenders. Vertical routes are crisp and create tilt in off-corners and safeties that he is quick to take advantage of. Play speed features access to functional burst.” – Lance Zierlein of NFL.com.
Corey Davis “Cons”
1) Success vs unproven competition
Davis and Western Michigan enjoyed an undefeated conference championship season in 2016. Yet, that conference is the biggest question mark Davis has going into the draft. How will he be able to translate his dominance from the MAC to the NFL? With all due respect to Ball State, NFL defenses will look much different.
All those yards and touchdowns mean nothing if he can’t be near the same level of “alpha-male” in the League.
However, Robinson has shown by drafting Sharpe out of UMass, that he doesn’t care where you played as long as you CAN play. Drafting Davis would mean the Titans’ top three receivers would all be from non-power five conference schools: Western Michigan, UMass and Nevada (Matthews).
2) Untested Speed, Injury
We don’t know how fast Corey Davis actually is. He underwent a “minor” ankle surgery leading up to the NFL Combine and was held out from the workouts. Walter Football projects his 40-time at 4.52 seconds, which is above average but not blazing.
There’s no way to tell if Davis would be able to get separation in the NFL off speed alone. It’s difficult because of the level of competition he played against.
Davis and his agent say the ankle injury is nothing to worry about, but whenever a prospect goes under the knife before the draft there’s always some level of concern.
Those are really the only “cons” Davis presents. It’s near impossible to judge a player based off the conference they played college football. You could argue, the three best WRs to ever play the game all came from small schools: Jerry Rice (Miss. Valley State), Randy Moss (Marshall) and Terrell Owens (Chattanooga). Moss was the only one of the three taken in the first round. He was also passed up by the Titans/Oilers franchise who took WR Kevin Dyson (Utah) five spots ahead of where the Vikings took Moss.
Could history repeat itself? For the Titans’ sake, they hope to not pass on another Hall of Fame receiver.