Where is the Wunderkind? An Update on Corey Davis

Last December I made that case that Corey Davis is the Wide Receiver Wunderkind for reasons that you can read about in that article. Given that level of admiration, you can imagine how concerned I was when he went missing earlier this season. Not literally, but his production took a dip, which made me wonder if it was all too much too soon. Now, after a string of solid performances, I’m bringing Corey Davis back into the spotlight to see how his career is coming along and how he compares to other highly drafted receivers from outside the major conferences.

The Turbulent 2015

To be honest, after the first month of the season I was worried about Davis. Yes, he had a great game in the season opener against Michigan State, but struggled against Georgia Southern, Ohio State and Central Michigan. How does that happen? Visually, his season looks somewhat like this:

corey davis season 11-11-15

Recently, he’s strung together four straight 100 yard performances and looked much more like the Davis we’ve seen over the last three years. What gives? According to this October 7 article via MLive.com, he suffered an injury in the opener:

Junior receiver Corey Davis, who has been a little banged up since the season opener is “fine” according to Fleck, who added that the bye week gave the Broncos who have minor bumps and bruises a chance to rest up.

So, basically, he was a stud in the opener, but got hurt. Then, he was the focal point of opposing defenses while trying to play hurt, which combined to dramatically decerease his production and allow teammate Daniel Braverman to go nuts. Now, he’s back healthy and is doing what he should be.

The Small Conference Comparables

Although he still has a year of eligibility left, I think Corey Davis could enter the draft after this season. If that’s the case, I want to understand how his career compares to the most highly-drafted small-conference receivers in recent memory. Given his listed size of 6-3, 205 pounds, I also wanted to make sure this group is physically similar, so I pulled together a group that is in the 195-215 pound range and of similar height.

WRF AgeOverallCareer Y/GCareer TD/G
Corey Davis21.0101.00.9
Breshad Perriman21.32657.50.4
Roddy White23.22769.20.6
Jerome Simpson21.94660.41.0
Davante Adams21.053116.51.5

The comparables were all drafted in the first two rounds. Davis is, relatively, the youngest of the bunch1 but has the second best career yards per game. Meanwhile, his touchdowns-per-game are in the middle of the cohort. Based on just the raw production, I think it’s fair to say he belongs in this echelon.

The Career Arc

Beyond just the raw stats, here is what their career trajectories look like when overlaid against the historical trend line established by what elite2 NFL receivers were doing in college, as expressed by market share of team yardage. Sorry the picture is a little crowded, but if you take a moment to follow each player’s trajectory, it will come into focus.

Corey Davis trajectory

In the age 19 vertical, Davis is the best. In the age 20 vertical, Davis is the best. In the age 21 vertical, Davis is the best. Basically, Davis’ track record as a workhorse receiver outshines the comparable group every step of the way.

I like this comparison group, not only because they are size-appropriate and draft-aspirational for Davis, but they also represent a curious range of outcomes: Davante Adams and Breshad Perriman are unknowns, while Jerome Simpson was a bust and Roddy White had a great career. Maybe you’re rolling your eyes at me comparing Davis to White, but I would counter that by pointing out that Davis was shouldering a load at age 20 than it took Roddy until age 23 to do, so that has to count for something, right?

While his athleticism is still unknown, I think based on age, size, raw production, and market share production, it’s hard to argue that Corey Davis doesn’t, at least, deserve consideration as a top 64 overall receiver prospect.

Fun Fact!

Last week Corey Davis crossed the 900 receiving yard threshold for the 2015 season, which gives him three seasons of at least 900 yards for his career. I got to wondering how many other college receivers had accomplished that feat. Thanks to the Sports Reference Play Index, I learned that, since the 2000 season, only 25 players have three 900 yard seasons to their name.

Taking things one step further, I looked into how old the players were when the attained their trifecta. Here are the truncated results:

WR900 yard seasonsf age
Eric Page320.3
Reggie Williams320.6
Corey Davis321
Derek Hagan321.3
Tyron Carrier321.3
Antonio Brown321.5
Jamison Crowder321.5
Braylon Edwards321.9
Darius Watts322
Tommy Shuler322.1
Ryne Robinson322.2
Davone Bess322.3
Greg Jennings322.3

For what it’s worth, two of those guys (Williams and Edwards) went on to be first-round picks. Elsewhere, Jennings, Robinson, Crowder and Hagan were all selected in the first four rounds. And say hi to Antonio Brown too.

Full disclosure: I have no idea whether this means anything, but I think it’s an interesting data point and a pretty remarkable feat.

In closing, I think that Corey Davis’ resurrected 2015 season, size, and career production put him squarely on the radar to be a top 100 pick. It will be fascinating to see how he closes the season in two key MAC West games against Northern Illinois and Toledo. To get a sense for his game, check out the video below via DraftBreakdown and watch him this Wednesday night on ESPN2.

Jon Moore is a contributor at RotoViz and a cohost of Rotoviz Radio – A Fantasy Football Podcast. Continue this conversation with him on Google+Facebook or Twitter.

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  1. about two weeks younger, than Davante Adams, although the decimals round to the same number  (back)
  2. Players with at least one 150-poinr (roughly top 12) fantasy season to their name.  (back)
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