Ashtyn Davis was picked in the 3rd round (#68 overall) in the 2020 NFL Draft. The pick raised some eyebrows as the Jets already had an All Pro safety in Jamal Adams and a serviceable counterpart at safety in Marcus Maye. The Jets could certainly use another quality safety prospect, but many felt the roster needed major overhauls in other higher priority areas. In a loaded Draft there were numerous other prospect that could have filled glaring holes left over from the Maccagnan era.
Yet when the Jets drafted Davis I understood why they did so. I too wanted the Jets to draft a safety at that point. Problem was the player I had hoped for was selected at pick #64, Jeremy Chinn. I was hoping Chinn (who I had rated much higher than slot #64) would last to our pick, or the Jets could somehow swing a deal to move up a few spots. It was not to be.
Let us take a look at Ashtyn Davis....
Davis is not without his merits as a player but seemed undervalued by colleges coming out of high school.He was brought up in Santa Cruz, California. He was named the Santa Cruz player of the year for 2013-14 as a DB, RB and kick returner. Here is his personal note to colleges on his recruiting page:
My name is Ashtyn Davis. I am a 17 year old senior from Santa Cruz High School. I am currently 6’2” and weigh 180 pounds. I have overall GPA of 3.53 and I received a total score of 1460 on the SAT. I received the Most Valuable Player award for the last two years of Varsity Football and was also selected to the All County Team for football. I have been to sectionals for the 110 hurdles, the 300 hurdles as well as the 4x100 relay team during the 2013 track season. I am highly motivated with regards to both academics and athletics. My goal is to play professional football after college. I want the opportunity to play at the college level as I learn and grow. Please let me know what I can do to insure that I get a chance to combine my talents with your guidance and instruction. I am looking forward to a future at a college with great academics as well as a disciplined sports program.
You can see Ashtyn really wanted to play college ball as a vehicle he could use to make it to the NFL. Yet after his junior year Ashtyn was a ZERO star recruit by the recruiting services with ZERO college offers or even visits by coaches. Since he has always been really fast he decided to use that skill to get people to notice him as a football player.
“I’d say my senior year of high school was the first year I took track seriously,” Davis said. “I had no football offers, and I wanted to get somewhere to continue playing football and I was slowly realizing that track might be the only way that was gonna get done, so that’s when I started to take it serious in my senior year of high school and was fortunate enough to make it to the state meet.”
Davis had won the 110-meter high hurdles championship for the Central Coast Section. He was now going to the state meet which was huge (the entire state of California). At the meet he finished fifth in both the 110-meter high hurdles and the 300-meter hurdles. While at the state meet his track coach introduced him to every college recruiter in attendance. He came away with partial scholarship offers to Cal Poly, UCSB, Cal and Washington.
UCSB didn’t have a football team, Washington was too expensive with out of state tuition, and Cal Poly is a lower division of football so he decided to go to Cal saying, “I decided I wanted to go to Cal and compete with the best people I could.”
Track was a natural for Davis as he became a 4-time All American and PAC 12 champion. He had the 3rd fastest time in school history at the 110-meter hurdles at 13.50 sec. After his first year at the school he found out the assistant athletic director at Cal went to his high school. He sent him an e-mail and he set him up to talk with people in the football program.
Davis said, “I gave them an all offense tape and I was given a defense jersey, and I guess the rest is history there...Basically they said, ‘We got some spots on defense we can fill.’ So I was like, ‘Yeah sure, I’ll do whatever.’ And here we are.”
So after Davis redshirted his first year as a football player he finally suited up for a game in his third year on campus. He played mostly special teams but appeared in 12 games while starting 3 at CB in 2015.
At the start of 2016 Cal brought in a new coaching staff including Gerald Alexander who was a 2nd round pick by the Detroit Lions in 2007 and played 5 years in the NFL. Davis found this to be a turning point in his football career as Alexander spent time with him to teach the finer points on playing the safety position.
“He taught me how to watch film, taught me scheme, taught me pretty much everything I know about safety and molded me into the player I am right now,” Davis said. “He got me to fall in love with the mental aspect a lot.” After the 2019 season Alexander was hired by the Miami Dolphins in January as their defensive backs coach.
Davis spent 5 years at Cal. He played in 45 games there but missed the bowl game in 2019 (and the NFL Combine) as he needed surgery on his groin muscle in November. He was said to be healthy enough to work out at his pro day, but the pandemic put a halt to that.
Ashtyn Davis positive traits-
Was considered a high character person and player at Cal
Has elite speed
Has good agility, has quickness to click & close in coverage
Has decent man coverage skills from the slot or over tight ends
Has shown decent hands as a DB, 7 career ints in limited opportunities
Has full field coverage abilities to play as a single high safety
A tough kid who is unafraid of contact, he likes to throw his body around
Shows great perseverance as a walk on to an NFL player
Has ability to shift to cornerback if needed for short period of time
Could develop into a ballhawk with work
He has special teams experience
Ashtyn Davis traits needing work-
Not real strong or powerful
Poor tackler, not a wrap tackler, drops head too often
Will over run plays, lose leverage on play
Play speed doesn’t match his timed speed
Does not read play quickly enough
Will let player get behind him as a single high safety
Loses contain as blitzer off the edge
Does not read route combinations well, late to adjust
Poor instincts due to lack of time at position
He doesn’t flip hips with ease, some tightness
Will get stuck on blocks as a box safety
Old for a rookie, he will be 24 in October
Lets see how Ashtyn looks in game action...
These first few clips are from the Oregon game which was his best game of the year. This first clip he is in off coverage on a slot receiver. This is not something that Davis did often and may be the reason that Justin Herbert tried to stick the pass in.
This was a horrible decision by Herbert as the receiver is never open on the play. Davis easily undercuts the throw to make a gift interception and then a nice 31 yard return. Davis is playing outside leverage on the receiver which forced him inside and right into the strength of the coverage.
From a higher view you can see the entire play unfold in front of you. Herbert is reading the single high safety look that is off to the right of the offensive formation. This is why he thinks he can sneak the ball into the tight window since the safety is so far away from the receiver. He is hoping the outside receivers will hold the safety in place to the right side of the field, but that is not what happens.
You can see when the video stops for a second Herbert has his arm cocked, but the receiver is covered like a blanket. It doesn’t help that he completely stares down his receiver which brings a host of defenders to the center of the field. This was Herbert’s first INT of the year after 174 attempts without one. Davis plays this coverage just about perfectly which ends in a huge INT for his team.
Later in the same game Davis is playing as a single high safety (the position he plays the majority of the time) as again Herbert’s eyes bring him right to the play. This is nearly a 40 yard throw which gives Davis ample time to move into great position.
This is a nice play as Davis doesn’t hit the receiver near the head or completely destroy the player as that could bring a flag. This was one of about five dropped passes by Oregon receivers on the day. Davis’s hit, however, did not cause the incompletion.
This was a long pass with Herbert again staring down his receiver. It shows an area Davis where can improve his anticipation. If Davis reads this play quicker he will move towards the play quicker. In doing so he would have an excellent chance of stepping in front of the receiver for the interception. He should be thinking turnovers not just hits. He can improve reading the play in front of him.
This next play from the same game is a nice tackle, but the technique is subtle. It is done correctly this time, but sometimes Davis loses proper leverage which could be disastrous when playing as the last line of defense. You will see Davis come down in run support as he is the last player to that side of the field.
Davis comes down in good position with short choppy steps which keeps him balanced with the ability to move quickly to either side should the runner have room to make a move. Best of all he stays outside the right shoulder of the runner when he approaches which will prevent the runner from breaking into the clear to the right. By doing so he forced the runner to his left which is right into the teeth of the defense. Even if Davis somehow misses the tackle his friends are right there to clean up the mess. Nice job.
This next clip is another example of Davis being slow to react to the play. He has to read the play quicker, read the eyes of the QB who has been staring down his receivers all day, and get into a position to make a play. He should not let the receiver get behind him. He is the last line of defense. Make a read quicker, and get into position.
This is an incomplete pass, but Davis needs to see the QB looking to his right and the receiver beating the corner to the end zone. I realize there are two receivers out on the play but the safety’s job is to read the eyes of the QB and get into position to make a play.
He has to see then react quicker. As it is he could not have helped either CB the way he played this. He was a spectator. If he gets into position then the QB reverses field and throws to the other receiver there is nothing he could do. At least take away one of the two receivers. The way he played it he took away none.
We saw Davis come down to make a play from the back end on a running play. He used proper technique along with good leverage. This is what happens when he doesn’t play with proper leverage or technique.
In this situation it is imperative he push the runner back inside, but for some reason he moves back to his right and not to his left. Davis is a fast player, but he has to realize that the runner (Salvon Ahmed) is super fast also. He has to maintain proper leverage at all times when playing single high. I realize that Davis is still fairly new to these defensive concepts, but he needs to learn quickly as these mistakes can lose games. He also needs to break down into proper tackling position so he has more balance.
Same game just a little later Davis again fails to read the play properly. Recognizing the play quickly then making the correct move is crucial to any deep safety. This is your job. It is why you are back there. If I was Joe Douglas I would see if I could get Ed Reed to come in as a coach even for a short period of time as an instructor during training camp. Reed was one of the best play readers at the safety position ever.
I gave you this view especially so you can see Davis move even before the ball was thrown. Yet he moves from the side to the position directly behind the receiver. This way he has to go through the receiver to make a play. He made it to the play early so if he stayed on a diagonal towards the play he could have undercut the throw, making the interception. Ed Reed was great at this. Look for the turnover before the tackle. Instead Davis got himself in trouble so he interfered with the receiver. He could also be called for hitting a defenseless receiver in the head area which also is a foul.
This next play Davis makes a mistake by not keeping good leverage on the play as an edge defender. I have seen him do this multiple times so it is something he needs to work on.
In this defense once he drops down to the end of the line he has edge contain responsibilities. This is a 3rd and 1 play with a running QB behind center. The defensive line is crashing down to take away all the gaps in a short yardage situation. Davis makes a mistake by following the RB on a zone read play. That is not his responsibility. In every defense, every player has a job to do. Davis must learn what his responsibilities are and do them, not someone else’s job. I know Davis doesn’t drop down close to the line often, but he needs to work within the limits of the defense. If he had the play would have been stopped for no gain, and Mississippi would have been punting.
Tackling technique is also an area that Davis needs some instruction. He must learn the proper technique to tackle if he is to be the last line of defense. He does not wrap tackle which is a huge peeve of mine. If you don’t wrap you will miss tackles.
Here you can clearly see as Davis drops his head (you can’t hit what you can’t see) then merely sticks a shoulder into the QB. That QB is not Derrick Henry. It’s Matt Corral, a freshman QB who is 6’ 1” 206 lbs. He should be an easy tackle if done properly. The player I wanted the Jets to draft (Jeremy Chinn) is a superior wrap tackler who allows zero yards after contact. You go down.
A safety has to know where the weak spots in the defense are located whether it be a running play or a passing play. On this last play you have an offense with a two man route tree with one of the receivers single covered while the other is almost quadruple teamed.
Davis finally realizes this situation, but he is too late to prevent the TD. The processing of information must be quicker for Davis. He has to almost feel the play. He currently has poor instincts for the position. With the outside corner on an island he must play off the outside shoulder of the receiver or he has no chance. Davis has to realize this and be available to cover the seam if (or when) the receiver breaks that way.
When the Jets drafted Davis I think I knew exactly why they did so. With Jamal Adams a terror on offenses when he is free to move around the box it would behoove the Jets to find a quality single high compliment to Adams.
I think that later in the Draft when Jacob Eason was taken just before the Jets picked they immediately took the last QB with the similar skill set in James Morgan. Similarly, I think the Jets might have been hoping that Jeremy Chinn (a superior player IMO) would be available at #68, but when he went at #64 they drafted the only other player with a similar skill set in Davis.
Davis has some holes in his game, but you figured he would have those with his lack of experience at the position. He currently plays much slower than his actual speed due to the fact he is thinking what to do instead of reacting then doing. He lacks strength and he is a little smaller than ideal size, but he is a smart kid with great speed and a can do attitude.
Davis will invariably start out on special teams then work in nickel or dime situations with limited duties. As he grows in knowledge along with experience he should begin to see more action as the year goes on. The goal here is to make him into a viable safety by year two considering the possibility of the Jets losing one or both of their safeties in the near future.
I wasn’t thrilled with the selection of Davis, but I am not disheartened either because I understand why he was selected. Yet there were some very good players that I would have preferred a little more.
That is what I think.
What do you think?