The Pittsburgh Steelers' second round pick of the 2016 NFL Draft was the cornerback/safety, Sean Davis. Davis played a great deal of cornerback for Maryland in his last season, but also saw time at the safety position.
The Steelers want Davis to play safety for the franchise to fill out their secondary at safety, with his raw athleticism being one of his biggest assets as a second day draft recruit. He ran a 4.46 40 yard dash time and led all cornerbacks in bench press repetitions and only one safety did more than him. That combined with his dual experience at safety and cornerback made him an interesting choice for Pittsburgh to boost its secondary.
We take a look at different parts of his college tape to review his best features and things he still needs to work on.
Brings the boom
Davis can be an explosive player and drive through opponents to deliver big hits. Though it's from a cornerback position, this play is an example of how he can quickly accelerate and deliver the big hit on receivers. But this attribute is not limited to just the passing game.
Davis has also displayed accountability against the run. Here, Davis manages to put his helmet right on the football to force a fumble which could be recovered. Davis often loads up to deliver big hits and has more than a few on his highlight reel, but that sometimes comes back to bite him.
Davis could use some technique work on hitting and wrapping to finish plays. While he does it on occasion, it is not nearly consistent enough for an NFL defensive back. He puts his head down, a cardinal sin in football, and that leads to him not being able to finish plays. This missed tackle on a receiver is an example, but it also happens in the run game.
This is a red zone tackle that Davis needed to make against Bowling Green. Between this play, the earlier missed tackle and other mistakes in the passing game, Davis had a poor performance overall against Bowling Green to the point that he made an apology to his teammates after the game as they prepared to face South Florida the next week. The good news is that Davis would end up delivering.
Plays in pass defense
Davis can run stride for stride with receivers down the sideline and make plays on the ball. His speed and explosiveness make it hard for anyone to blaze past him and force opponents to defeat him with sharper route running and jump ball situations.
Davis breaks on the ball well when coming out of his back pedal. This is a major factor for Pittsburgh needing a safety that can both play deep to be the safety valve of the defense while also being able to take away the quick throws, under routes and sharp routes run by the better offenses in the NFL.
This is another example of Davis being able to break on the ball, but he also contends a jump ball. Davis' 6'1" 201 lbs. frame make him a tough competitor for taller receivers and tight ends. His quick reactions and athletic abilities are his biggest asset coming into his rookie season, but Carnell Lake will have his hands full with smoothing out Davis' rough edges.
Mistakes in coverage
This is a play where Davis looked like he either misunderstood the scheme on this play or did not receive the aid of a safety playing behind him (most likely the latter when you notice the middle safety run with the post pattern. Davis seems to miss out on certain pass plays and was not a good cornerback for Maryland. Fortunately for Pittsburgh, most of his time will be at safety. We did a lot of searching to find more film of Davis playing from the safety position but most of what we found was from his time as a cornerback.
As shown, Davis can sometimes lose track of his assignment in coverage and give up big plays. Playing man-to-man coverage showed a lot of bad tape for Davis and that hurt his draft stock the most despite his athletic talents and the raw abilities he displayed. Davis must improve with hard work and dedication to learn in the NFL so that he can overcome his weaknesses.
Doesn't give up on plays
While Bowling Green was a bad game for Davis, the game was not a complete bust. He managed to be able to track down a speeding receiver 60 yards down the field and strip the ball to keep Maryland in the game. This kind of determination speaks volumes to the kind of player Davis can be; should he be able to improve, his raw athleticism and determination could turn into him being a reliable playmaker in a few years' time.
More raw than Artie Burns, still a lot of upside
Davis' coverage abilities are not as strong as that of the Steelers' first round pick, Artie Burns, but his raw athleticism and strong determination are two characteristics that both players share and could bring to Pittsburgh's secondary in the coming years.
Davis learned to speak multiple languages in college, something that could show his ability to learn quickly and adapt to an NFL playbook. Davis' profile is that he plays recklessly at times with throwing his body into opponents and displaying tenacity on every play. The downside of his tape did not seem to outweigh his positives enough for Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert to like him, so we will have to wait and see how high his ceiling can be under Steelers' defensive backs' coach, Carnell Lake.