The Washington Football Team bolstered its already strong defense by selecting Kentucky's Jamin Davis 19th overall. Here are five things to know about the team's first-round pick:
1. Davis grew up in a military family.
Like head coach Ron Rivera, Davis is a part of a military family. His family moved from Honolulu to Georgia when he was only about a year old, and his first "taste of the game" came on Fort Stewart military base, according to The Washington Post.
"I'm very partial to guys like that because I played with a lot of guys who have that family background," Rivera said. "He's a solid young man who's very bright and very intelligent."
Davis learned about hard work from a young age, and one particular saying from one of his youth coaches stuck with him: "you can't have a million dollar dream with a minimum wage work ethic."
Davis has leaned on that philosophy to go from an NFL unknown to a first-round pick, and Washington's brass believe he was the right player and person to add to the roster.
"We're getting a solid fit to what we're trying to create in terms of the culture," Rivera said. "We talk about having a sustainable, winning culture, and he's the type of guy that you want to plug in."
2. Davis is one of the most athletic defensive prospects in the draft.
Davis blew NFL scouts away during his Pro Day by recording a 4.47-second 40-yard dash, 40-inch vertical jump, 11-foot broad jump and 21 bench press reps of 225 pounds -- all at 6-foot-3 and 234 pounds. Considering those measurables, it was not a surprise that Pro Football Focus ranked him as the most-athletic linebacker in this class.
"He has all of the physical attributes that you want," general manager Martin Mayhew said.
And not only does Davis have speed, but he is also able to put that speed to good use. Rivera highlighted how he always plays fast, which is something Rivera continued to emphasize during his first year in Washington in 2020. When the offensive gets to the line of scrimmage, Rivera said, Davis is ready to go.
Rivera wants tone-setters on defenses, and Davis fits that mold.
3. Davis immediately stood out on tape to Washington's executives.
Mayhew said Davis' name first came up in early draft meetings. At that time, Mayhew had not done a whole lot of research into the player who went from a reserve to one of the most productive linebackers in the country with 102 total tackles (4.0 for a loss), three interceptions, two pass breakups, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a touchdown.
But once Mayhew put on the game film, it was impossible to ignore No. 44 in blue and white.
"His range, he's got some knock back to him, he plays very smart," Mayhew said.
"He sticks out on tape," Rivera added, "so just the fact that he's a good football player really gets your attention."
And once Mayhew and Rivera explored beyond Davis' highlights, they liked him even more. He loves football, Mayhew said, loves the process and "loves that grind."
"That's the kind of player that we really want to build with here," Mayhew said.
4. Davis can play everywhere and do everything at the second level.
If you know Rivera at all, you know he covets positional flexibility. And of the linebacker prospects, Washington viewed Davis as the most versatile.
"That's important to me because I believe a guy that can play all your LB positions can learn quickly, will understand quickly and will help others around him," Rivera said of Davis.
Need him to stop the run? He earned a 87.5 run defense grade from PFF. What about a stout tackler? His 84.7 tackle grade says it all. His coverage grade was the lowest of the three at 72.2, but he has the athleticism, spacial awareness and work ethic to quickly improve in this area.
Then factor in playing behind one of the NFL's best defensive lines, and Davis should be set up for immediate success in Year 1.
5. He was Washington's top-rated defensive player on its draft board.
Linebacker was one of Washington's biggest needs, and according to Rivera, Davis was the top-rated defensive player on their draft board. "He checks a whole bunch of boxes for us," Mayhew added.
National draft experts were in agreement that Davis was one of the best defenders available. ESPN NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Davis as the 19th-best prospect in his final rankings, while NFL.com/NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah slotted him 23rd. Jeremiah even went as far as comparing Davis to Darius Leonard, who won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and was a first-team All-Pro in 2018.
Washington has now drafted the top defender on its draft board the past two seasons, first selecting reigning defensive rookie of the year Chase Young and then snagging Davis on Thursday night. That's quite the start to Rivera's tenure in the nation's capital and should make for one of the most talented units in the league in 2021.