Jarrad Davis was selected by the Detroit Lions as the No. 21 overall selection in the NFL Draft.
After choosing to return for his senior season to boost his NFL Draft stock, the Florida linebacker was undermined halfway through the campaign by a significant ankle injury.
He would miss 4 of the final 5 games, with a limited return to action in the SEC Championship Game against Alabama.
But he only saw his draft stock soar since the end of the season.
Between making a positive impression in interviews at the NFL Scouting Combine and matching that with strong testing numbers during the Gators’ pro day, Davis positioned himself as a near first-round lock for Thursday and saw that come to fruition.
Here’s a closer look at the prospect:
5. Jarrad Davis turns heads at pro day
Davis didn’t go through any physical tests during his time at the NFL Scouting Combine as he was still working that ankle back to full strength, but he certainly seized his moment at pro day.
Davis said afterward that he hit 38.5 inches on the vertical jump, 10 feet, 9 inches on the broad jump and ran the 40-yard dash in a personal-best 4.56 seconds.
While it was different venues, different days, etc., Davis’ vertical jump and broad jump marks were better than any linebacker achieved at the combine and his 40 time would have been second-best compared to that list.
4. Davis by the numbers
Despite missing those 4 games, Davis still finished second on the Gators with 60 total tackles this past season, while tallying 6 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 4 pass break-ups and 5 quarterback hurries.
Davis finished his junior season with 98 tackles along with 11 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and 7 quarterback hurries.
When healthy, he was the driving force for a Florida defense that finished the season ranked 5th nationally in fewest yards allowed (293 per game).
3. Area of improvement
One area Davis worked to improve in his final season was in coverage, and his efforts paid significant dividends for Florida in its 13-6 win at Vanderbilt in October.
In addition to a game-high 15 tackles, Davis also tallied 3 pass break-ups in the defensive-driven victory. The final of those came late in the fourth quarter when he tipped a pass from Vanderbilt quarterback Wade Freebeck down the seam, allowing safety Nick Washington to secure a game-sealing interception.
2. What they’re saying about Jarrad Davis
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said, “Davis is my No. 1 inside linebacker, a day one contributor with athleticism and A-plus intangibles.” In a dual mock draft with ESPN colleague Todd McShay, Kiper had Davis pegged to the New York Giants with the No. 23 overall pick.
McShay, meanwhile, raved about Davis’ intangibles during a recent conference call with reporters.
“I think from a talent standpoint, Jarrad Davis is a first-round player. From an intangibles standpoint, he’s top 5 in the class,” McShay said. “I mean, he’s a player that loves the game. You can see the passion and just energy he has for the game when you study him on tape.”
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King added to the hype parade, predicting Davis to go 25th overall while writing, “Davis is gaining loads of steam in the last few days, and it’s pretty solid he’ll be a first-rounder now.”
1. “Heart and Soul” of Florida defense
Florida coach Jim McElwain referred to Davis as the “heart and soul” of Florida’s defense and the team in general in 2016.
The senior linebacker instilled confidence in both his coaches and teammates that he had everything under control from the middle linebacker position, coordinating the defense and using his impressive football instincts to make disruptive plays.
There was no better example of Davis’ combination of tangible and intangible value to the Gators than their 24-10 win over rival Georgia in late October.
Davis had sustained a significant ankle injury a couple weeks earlier against Missouri, and coming off Florida’s bye week he decided to push through the pain as a true game-time decision against the Bulldogs.
He would finish with a team-high 7 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss in what would really be the last time all season he was able to leave his mark on a game. He reinjured the ankle the following week at Arkansas and would be clearly limited in later trying to push through it in the SEC title game.
But that gutsy effort against Georgia was perhaps Davis’ defining performance, as McElwain and his teammates would say afterward that they were truly surprised he was able to play as he did that day.