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2017 NFL Draft Profile: LB Jarrad Davis should be on the Steelers radar

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The Steelers would be wise to do their homework on “The Next Ray Lewis”.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

During his career at the University of Miami, Randy Shannon coached some of the NFL’s best inside linebackers, including Jon Beason, Jonathan Vilma and future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis. Shannon feels that Jarrad Davis, one of his former mentees at the University of Florida, has a similar professional outlook.

“[Davis is] competitive like Jon Vilma was,” said Shannon. “Athletically he has like Jon Beason-ness, the speed and the power and stuff like that and the knowledge like Ray [Lewis] was. He has the game, he knows what to do, he knows how to get the guys lined up, he knows how to protect certain guys on the defense with a call.”

The Pittsburgh Steelers, who could very well be searching for Lawrence Timmons’ successor, should not take this praise lightly. Davis is one of the top-rated inside linebackers in the 2017 class, and likely would’ve been a day two selection had he declared after his 98 tackle junior campaign in 2015. Let’s take a further look:

Strengths

I’m drawing a blank as I’m trying to find the adjective that adequately suits Davis’ physique. Rangy could work, but isn’t entirely accurate. He has the wingspan of an NBA small forward and the muscles of a professional wrestler. Like if Kevin Durant’s arms had a baby with Carl Weathers’ arms in Rocky III.

In other words, at six-foot-two, 240 pounds, Davis still has some room to pack on bulk, if necessary.

Davis has earned resounding acclaim for his aggressiveness and explosiveness, and scouts will probably fall deeper in love after his showing at the Combine. When healthy, he was among the best sideline-to-sideline defenders in the country over the past two seasons, and he accrued his impressive numbers while playing in the best conference in the country.

Davis isn’t quite as bulky as some of the other top linebacker prospects in this draft (which will limit his draft ceiling), but is still a very good tackler.

I don’t really know anything about his character, but walking away from NFL money to play an additional year in college always boosts your character in my book.

Weaknesses

Davis’ motor is evident, but he often relies too heavily on his aggressiveness to make plays. This is fine against Vanderbilt or Missouri, but will likely get you into trouble against Cincinnati or Baltimore.

Durability also appears to be an issue for Davis. A torn meniscus cost him the end of his season in 2014 (though he had been playing well up to that point), and he missed the final month of the 2016-17 season, including the SEC Championship Game and Florida’s bowl game.

For what it may be worth, I’ve seen a number of reports suggesting that Davis is best suited to play outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme in the NFL.

Overall

The Ray Lewis comparison is probably pushing it, but Davis does remind me somewhat of Ryan Shazier. Shazier has certainly had durability issues, but for the most part, he has been Pittsburgh’s best defender.

As it stands, Davis has the skills to be an immediate contributor and the potential to be a very good long-term starter opposite Shazier.