Auburn has found a way to bounce back in a big way this season because of their ability on offense. Their defense has some talented players but the results are inconsistent and some of this is on the players as well as the scheme. The coaching change certainly did not help. One example is their cornerback Chris Davis Jr., who has shown ability in stretches, but seems to be tasked with doing so many different things on defense that he never seems confident in what he is doing or overly effective in various roles as a result. Nevertheless, he will forever be in the pantheon of great players because of the ‘kick six’ against Alabama which secured their SEC Championship and a trip to the National Championship.
Projecting to the NFL, Davis has skills that could allow him to be an effective defensive back, but he has a lot of developing to do, needs to be on a team with a stable coaching staff and a defined scheme that knows what it wants to do. At this point, Davis is looking to make a team as a returner and then show enough in terms of physical tools and potential to get a team to buy into him and develop him as a cornerback. Davis projects as a day three pick and he could end up going undrafted, but should have an opportunity to make a roster and work on his game.
Vitals & Build
Davis is listed at 5’11” 200lbs with a good build for the position. He has shown good long speed and quickness when he knows where he wants to go. His strength is decent but he needs to continue developing in his upper body. Much of Davis’s potential is in simply being more confident in his ability and putting himself in good position to use it.
Davis is a decent tackler that shows he can do the job well at times. The one thing he does well pretty consistently is wrapping opponents up to at least slow them down and allow teammates to rally and make the play. The times when he keeps his legs going through the tackle, he looks pretty good. There are some ugly examples of lunging and whiffing on plays, but seems to man up when he knows he is the one who has to make the play. When he does not need to make the play, he is far too content to allow teammates to do it for him.
Davis will flash the ability to do a nice job in run support, but it seems to depend on how critical his role is on a given play. In situations where he finds himself to be the lone corner on a side and has to hold the edge, he will do it. Davis will come up, hold the edge and has shown to be able to keep the opponent out of his body, disengage and make the play.
When he has help and he knows it, he tends to be less desperate to make the play, has more trouble getting off of blocks and the effort just is not the same. Davis will come and help out on plays already made, but for the most part, he becomes a second or third option as opposed to when he has to make a play or the team gets gouged. If Davis brought the same kind of desperation and will that he shows when he is in the spotlight as he does when there is a crowd, he could be a far more effective and consistent player in that area.
Auburn has Davis play in a number of different ways in man coverage. He has experience on both sides, in off man and up on the line with press. When it comes to off man coverage, Davis is far too preoccupied with getting beat and tends to be picked on by opposing receivers who just work underneath and nickel and dime their way down the field.
Despite the fact he is so preoccupied with staying on top of opponents and avoiding getting beat deep, he will get victimized by the deep ball. Part of the problem here is the amount of missed assignment and missed communications and it is unclear who is really at fault in some of these situations. Too often, there are issues where two defenders end up on a short receiver while a deep receiver goes uncovered and makes a big play and scores.
Every so often, Davis appears to get fed up with getting picked on and will come up and be more aggressive, close the cushion and challenge the pass. This seems to be an area where he is successful and has had some nice plays against high level competition, but this aggressiveness and confidence does not happen nearly enough.
Davis shows some ability when it comes to playing up on the line, willing to use his hands to get a jam. He has shown he is able to ease opponents out of bounds and out of the play. This might be an area where Davis is more comfortable, but he needs to get more experience and continue working on his technique here.
Davis does have some experience in zone and has shown flashes of being effective in this area. He is still developing his ability to face forward, see the quarterback while feeling where receivers are going and can end up being a step behind as well, giving opponents opportunities to make plays. Davis has a lot of examples where he is a step late and makes the play close, but if he can get a better break, those could be plays that he is able to stop.
Like with most everything Davis has done this year at Auburn, they just seemed to be throwing anything out there in hopes of at least confusing the offense to potentially have them make a mistake or allow the pass rush to get there.
Davis has shown the ability to get his hands on the ball and knock the ball away from receivers, but he has not caught an interception in his career for Auburn. Some of this is a matter of creating more opportunities so he can catch the football, but if he possesses ball skills, Davis has not shown them in live game action.
Davis has experience as a punt returner during his senior year. He was extremely productive in doing so with the ability to break big plays. The one huge concern with Davis in that capacity is how he carries the football. It is rarely secured and ends up being carried away from his body, leaving it open to be knocked out without a ton of effort. He did not have any fumbles this year, but it is an area that needs to be cleaned up as he goes to the NFL.
From an athletic standpoint, Davis might be best suited to play in man coverage, but the fact is he has not really shown enough in any one area where he has an obvious fit. He will make a roster on his ability to return punts and his athletic potential and be developed as a defensive back based on that. Right now, Davis looks like a player who may be a fifth or sixth corner depending on how many a team would want to carry and will have to justify his roster spot on special teams at least initially.
Davis might be similar to Trindon Holliday, now of the Denver Broncos. Holliday technically is listed as a receiver, but all he does is come in and return kicks for teams with the ability to make a big play. That is where Davis is right now and while they could not be any more different physically, Davis is a returner who is trying to become a viable position player. Unlike Holliday, Davis has the tools and potential to do it, but that is the situation he will be coming into when he enters the league.
Chris Davis is still an incredibly raw and unrefined cornerback despite three years as a starter. Despite only returning punts this year, he is electric in that part of his game and has shown the ability to flip the field and make big plays. The potential is there for him to learn to play as a corner but it is a little concerning just how raw he still seems to be. Davis projects as a day three prospect who could go undrafted if teams are not confident enough in his ability to develop as a defensive player as roster spots are valuable, but he should have an opportunity to make a roster and could have a nice career as a punt returner.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com