Appalachian State’s Akeem Davis-Gaither is one of the top senior linebackers in the 2020 NFL Draft, and his skill-set resembles Colts linebacker Darius Leonard.
The comparison might seem a bit lofty, but a look at Davis-Gaither’s film is reminiscent of the Colts star linebacker.
Davis-Gaither is a 6-foot-2, 215-pound redshirt senior that possesses an excellent combination of size and speed. He needs to add a little more weight to his frame, but he has a good length and broad shoulders with the ability to add healthy weight without sacrificing his speed.
He plays in a similar role to Leonard, often being utilized as a SAM linebacker with looks coming off the edge and at MIKE sprinkled in.
Davis-Gaither is an instinctive player in coverage and already displays translatable skills to the next level. He has good zone awareness and knows when to pass receivers off and pick them up entering and exiting his zone.
He generally covers the curl-hook and will peel off to the flats in zone coverage. He does a nice job keeping the action in front of him and Davis-Gaither’s short-area burst and athletic fluidity allow him to break quickly and finish when the ball comes his way.
Davis-Gaither is effective playing in zone coverage, but he also displays ability in man coverage. There are times where he gives a bit of separation turning and running vertical, but he can make up ground quickly and has the long-speed to stay in stride with tight ends at the next level.
There are times where Davis-Gaither will get a little overzealous and get too far up-field, creating rushing lanes in the C-gap when he sets the edge. He’s physical and comes downhill with good speed.
He isn’t afraid to come down and fill in run support and stays sound in his run fits. Davis-Gaither has a quick punch and can extend and shed to get off and make plays at the point-of-attack, although he will have trouble freeing himself at times.
Davis-Gaither knows how to use his length to effectively wrap up ball carriers in space, but he is prone to a miss from time-to-time.
Leonard entered the NFL from a smaller program than Davis-Gaither, but the two come from smaller schools and have similar skill set and role within their defense.
Davis-Gaither will need to adjust to the speed of the NFL game, but he has a versatile skill set and can contribute on all three downs at the next level.
He’ll likely be drafted sometime in the 2nd round in the 2020 NFL Draft, but Davis-Gaither could make a 1st round-caliber impact early in his career.