Over the next few weeks, we’re going to take an in-depth look at each of the Jets’ offseason acquisitions, continuing today with wide receiver Corey Davis.
The 26-year old is listed at 6’3” and 209 pounds and was the fifth overall pick out of Western Michigan in 2017. In four years with the Titans, he has 207 catches for 2,851 yards and 11 touchdowns, along with 15 more catches for 166 yards and three touchdowns in six postseason games.
Davis was just a two-star recruit in high school but eventually ended up becoming the NCAA’s all-time leader in receiving yards for FBS Division I. He played four years at Western Michigan, racking up 5,285 yards and 52 touchdowns.
After recording 941 yards and six touchdowns on 67 catches to earn MAC freshman of the year honors in 2013, Davis improved his total number of receptions and yards in each of the next three seasons, finishing his career with a 97-catch campaign that saw him lead the nation with 19 touchdown catches.
In that senior season, Davis was a first-team all-American, the MAC offensive player of the year and the winner of the Paul Warfield trophy. He was 8th in the nation in receptions and 7th in receiving yards with exactly 1,500.
Davis was a projected first round pick, but his pre-draft preparation was disrupted by an ankle surgery. Nevertheless, the Titans opted to select him with the fifth overall pick.
In his rookie year, Davis was slowed by a hamstring injury and missed five games. He ended the year with 375 yards on 34 catches but did not score a touchdown. However, he scored twice against New England in the playoffs.
In his second season, Davis broke out with a career-high 65 catches for 891 yards and four scores. However, his production fell off in 2019 after the Titans started to make Derrick Henry the main focus of their offense and rookie AJ Brown came in and took over as the number one receiver. Davis ended the year with a disappointing 43 catches for 601 yards and two touchdowns and the Titans opted not to exercise his fifth-year option.
In 2020, Davis posted career highs in receiving yards (984), touchdowns (five) and yards per catch (15.1) despite the fact that he was still a second option behind Brown with Henry rushing for over 2,000 yards.
He entered the 2020 season with just two hundred-yard games in his career so far but posted five in 2020, setting a career high with 11 catches and 182 yards against the Browns in December. However, he was shut out in the wild card game.
The Jets signed Davis to a three-year deal worth up to $37.5 million and will be hoping his 2020 season is a sign that he’s still not reached his peak.
Now let’s take a look at what Davis brings to the table, divided into categories.
Since Davis was injured in the lead-up to the 2017 draft, we don’t have any workout numbers for him, but he was widely expected to run in the 4.45-to-4.50 range had he been healthy and displays good in-game speed on the field.
He has good size and a big catch radius at 6’3” and demonstrates good strength and physicality on film.
Davis has primarily played on the outside but will motion down into the slot from time to time. His numbers from the slot only represent about a quarter of his total production but he has had six of his 11 regular season touchdowns when lined up inside.
He’s carried the ball as a rusher six times in his career for 55 yards. All of these came in 2018, including a couple of jet sweeps. His longest gain was a 39-yarder on a reverse. He rushed for 13 yards and three carries and completed two passes in college.
Davis has the speed to get downfield, both on go routes and deep over routes. While he has got behind the defense for a few big plays on conventional go routes, he tends to have more success on double-moves and out-and-up type routes.
Remarkably, in 2019, Davis didn’t have a single catch more than 20 yards downfield, despite being targeted 14 times on such throws. Obviously some of that is attributable to poor quarterback play, though.
He did bounce back in 2020 to catch several downfield throws, including one deep ball that went for a career-long 75-yard touchdown.
Davis has a big catch radius and the ability to bring in a lot of catches outside his frame. He bails out his quarterback a lot by going up to get high throws, diving to scoop up low throws or hanging on to the ball in traffic. His film contains plenty of highlight reel catches, of which this is perhaps the best.
Most of the time, Davis catches the ball naturally, but he can be prone to some bad drops, which are probably attributable to bad focus.
Despite these drops, which can stick in the mind of some fans, his actual drop rates have been low and he hasn’t had more than four drops in any season. His catch rate in 2020 was the best of his career at just over 70 percent.
He did fumble three times in his first three seasons, though, losing one. 2020 was his first season without a fumble.
One other thing Davis is especially adept at is getting his feet inbounds on sideline catches.
Davis has a reputation as a decent route runner, but his film is actually particularly impressive in this area. While he has the advantage of being both big and fast, which can create natural separation, Davis also possesses the ability to shake a defender in close coverage.
He brings everything you’d want to see from a receiver in terms of his route running, using his hands, good footwork and deception to generate separation.
Davis runs a full route tree and has success on a variety of different type of routes as he breaks down effectively and makes sharp cuts. He’s also adept at creating big plays on double moves.
Matt LaFleur, Davis’ offensive coordinator in 2018, praised Davis for his route running, which he said was effective due to him paying attention to the finer details.
Yards after the catch
Davis’ numbers for yardage after the catch and tackle-breaking are solid but unspectacular. However, he does have the ability to break or run away from tackles and is an option to generate production on short passes.
He shows his ability to fight off a tackle and elude a defender in the open field on this play.
Davis has also shown some power when fighting for additional yardage and the ability to throw some aggressive stiff arms.
With 52 touchdown catches at Western Michigan, Davis was expected to be a good red zone threat at the NFL level, although he’s only had 14 touchdowns in regular season and postseason action during his first four seasons.
10 of those 14 touchdowns came from inside the red zone but he perhaps didn’t get as many red zone opportunities as he could have due to the number of options the Titans have. For example, in 2020, he was targeted just seven times in the red zone and had five catches including four touchdowns.
Davis can be a good threat in the red zone with his ability to go up over a defender to make a catch but also with his ability to create short area separation.
Davis graded out poorly as a rookie but has since forged a reputation as an excellent blocker, both in the running game and on receiver screens and also down the field. In fact, he’s so good, it has arguably hurt his chance to add some more statistical production by always using him as a blocker on such plays rather than throwing it to him. He was thrown just one pass behind the line of scrimmage in 2020 having had some good production on such plays in the past.
He gives a great effort as a blocker, whether blocking down on a linebacker or motioning to the edge of the line to set the edge - sometimes even on a defensive end. He’ll also hustle to get out in front of a big play and make a downfield block.
Despite these efforts, Davis has never been called for a holding penalty in the NFL, although he did get called twice for an illegal block in the back.
Davis has a size advantage over most defensive players he’ll face and he exploits that when running routes, blocking, contesting catches and carrying the ball.
He is capable of making contested catches, with his numbers among the league leaders for completion percentage in that category.
Davis has never been called for an offensive pass interference penalty, although he did get called for one face mask penalty.
The Jets wouldn’t expect Davis to play much on special teams, if at all. His only special teams contribution so far in his career has been this onside kick recovery to ice a win last season.
He did score three times on kick returns during his senior year at high school.
Davis displays outstanding instincts in terms of his ability to get open against man and zone coverage. He is excellent at reading the defense and also reading and setting up his opponent.
However, there have been times where he has made mental errors. He has had four pre-snap penalties in his career and has appeared to run the wrong route on a couple of occasions.
He also shows good instincts in the open field, both as a runner and when looking for someone to block.
Davis is a quiet guy who is regarded as a great teammate. He shows maturity and a desire to improve, pushing himself hard in practice and during the offseason.
In high school, Davis struggled with his grades, but he managed to work hard to get into college. He scored 31 on the Wonderlic test at the 2017 combine.
One concern could be that Davis could be seen to have disappeared in some big games. He’s played in six postseason games and had zero catches in two of those and only one catch for three yards - although it was a touchdown - in another. That could be attributable to playcalling, though.
Davis played 50 straight games in college but has seen his professional career disrupted by some minor issues.
This started when he had to have minor ankle surgery to repair some torn ligaments before his rookie season. This caused him to miss the pre-draft preparation and the Titans’ rookie camp.
In 2017, Davis missed five games due to a hamstring injury and then he missed one more game in 2019 due to a hip injury. He missed two games last season due to being placed on Covid-19 reserve.
Davis should be a good fit in Mike LaFleur’s system, although it’s interesting to note that his one year with LaFleur’s brother as his offensive coordinator was statistically the worst of his career.
The Jets will be hoping that Davis can step up and become a number one receiver, although it’s equally possible than Denzel Mims could make a jump in year two and emerge as the number one target.
Davis is a former teammate of current Jet Sharif Finch.
While he was outshone by Brown in Tennessee, the Jets will be hopeful that Davis’ statistical production could have been better if he got more opportunities. He bounced back nicely from a rocky 2019 campaign to fall just short of his first thousand-yard season in 2020, even though he missed two games.
Davis is a welcome addition to a Jets receiving group which needed an injection of athleticism and talent. He has a good all-round skill-set and should bring plenty to the Jets’ passing game in 2021 and beyond.