2017 NFL Draft Reaction: Robert Davis Goes to the Washington Redskins
Robert Davis was drafted with the 209th overall pick in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL draft by the Washington Redskins. The Redskins lost DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, but Davis still enters a crowded depth chart, with Washington previously making some big offseason moves. If he can manage to see the field, he gives Washington another red-zone threat.
The Redskins brought in Terrelle Pryor and Brian Quick in the offseason to join Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson as the primary receivers competing for touches. Ryan Grant, Maurice Harris, Matt Hazel, and Kendal Thompson all return from last season. Washington also signed three undrafted receivers, Zach Pascal, James Quick, and Levern Jacobs, bringing the total number of WRs on their roster (including Davis) to 12. Needless to say, not all of them will be on the team when the season begins.
Before getting into the Redskins’ team outlook in greater depth, let’s take a closer look at the first rookie WR they added this year.
Robert Davis, Georgia State University, 6-3, 219
Final Age: 21.7 Vert: 41 Cone: 6.82
Raw and Market Share Production
According to Kevin Cole’s regression tree analysis of combine drills for WRs, Davis falls into the most positive node in terms of success rate – 48 percent of WRs with a similar profile notched a top-24 PPR season in their first three NFL seasons. . . . Davis’s stellar athletic performance at the combine placed him at the top of the 2017 WR class in terms of Freak Score, a RotoViz metric using height, weight, and speed to predict future touchdown-scoring potential at the NFL level.
Davis combines this elite athleticism with solid (though not great) collegiate production. Although he never reached 1,000 receiving yards in a season, we must put that in the context of the offense and conference he played in. His 968 yards was the best in the Sun Belt Conference in 2016. Let’s use the Box Score Scout to look at his production comps:
Obviously, this is not the sort of comparable list you want to see. And this is before we note that the Box Score Scout app does not seem to have the team data for Davis’ freshman and sophomore seasons, meaning it inflates his career market share of yards slightly. But there are some mitigating circumstances.
Georgia State is not a big school.1 This would naturally lead you to believe that if Davis were truly that good, he should have been far more dominant against weaker defenses and with weaker receivers competing for touches. However, there is another way to spin his less-than-stellar production, which I suggest is the more accurate way: Davis didn’t produce great numbers because his offense was just plain terrible.
Davis’ freshman year was Georgia State’s first year in the FBS. They did not win a single game. They improved in Davis’ sophomore year, however. In 2014 they beat Abilene Christian (an FCS school) by a single point. They did not win another game that year.
Georgia State’s starting quarterback in 2016 has a career AYA of only 6.3, and a career completion percentage of just over 55 percent. And no other WR on the team had more than 362 receiving yards.2 Davis was the only downfield threat available, which opposing defenses knew. But even if they hadn’t known, Davis’ QB was unable to get him the ball accurately and consistently.
We can see this to some extent by noting that Davis’ lack of elite production is due mainly to a lack of efficiency, as he was targeted 122 times, giving him just 7.9 yards per target, despite the fact that over 25 percent of his targets traveled at least 20 yards downfield. Only two players who failed to reach 1,000 yards were targeted more than Davis, and neither were targeted as deep downfield as he was.3 This further suggests that the poor play of Davis’ QB had much to do with his underperformance. 4
Regarding the charge that he faced poor opposition, Davis’ schedule was actually slightly more difficult than many of the other WRs in this class who were ranked near him and in some cases far ahead of him:
Even if you don’t buy my explanation for Davis’ lack of elite production,5 his athleticism is undeniable. Adam Levitan recently looked at the athletic measurables for the NFL’s current elite WRs.6 Going back to 2010, most elite NFL WRs have met certain size and athleticism thresholds.
Levitan suggests that the ideal receiver prospect would be at least six feet tall and weigh at least 205 pounds with a sub-4.5 forty, a vertical of at least 35 inches, and a broad jump of at least 120 inches. Obviously there are elite WRs who don’t meet all these criteria, but in general, this is what the elite WRs look like. He identifies Chris Godwin as the only 2017 WR prospect to meet all these criteria, but this is only because his prospect list wasn’t long enough. Godwin is actually one of six 2017 WR prospects to meet all criteria:
|Player||Height||Weight||Broad Jump||Vertical Jump||40-Yard Dash|
*Pro-day time with +0.03 adjustment.
Davis easily exceeds all of these thresholds, some by more than any other prospect in the class. His broad jump was best among WRs at the 2017 combine, and his vertical leap was second best by a WR in 2017. Although we’d like to see better production, his athletic profile is that of an elite NFL WR. Jordan Hoover has already shown how a draft-agnostic comp list that includes athletic measurables favors Davis:
And just for good measure, check out how Davis compares to another RotoViz favorite who didn’t make it onto this list (because he wasn’t an FBS prospect):
As we’ve seen above, the WR depth chart in Washington is beyond crowded. Many of the depth pieces from 2016 will probably be gone before the season begins, but even so, Davis is no lock to make the team. That said, Jay Gruden and the Washington coaching staff reportedly like what they saw out of Davis at Georgia State, so there is a reason to be hopeful. He’ll still have an uphill battle before he’ll be able to have an impact.
Crowder is locked into the slot role, and Pryor is basically a lock to start on the outside. Brian Quick and Doctson will battle to start opposite Pryor. It is difficult to see Davis moving ahead of any of these receivers. At best he’ll likely compete with Grant for the fifth spot on the depth chart.
One possible avenue for Davis to get (valuable) work is in the red-zone. Davis tops the current class in Freak Score, a physical measurement that’s predictive of touchdown-scoring ability. And his elite size and explosiveness give him a 98th-percentile catch radius, which could make him a dangerous receiver around the end zone. Jordan Reed has battled concussions throughout his career, and none of Pryor, Quick, or Doctson have yet proven themselves to be effective red-zone targets. If Davis can leverage his athleticism into meaningful work near the goal line, he could have a high-upside role in Washington.
Barring an injury, it would be unreasonable to expect Davis to see the field much in the upcoming season. But we should still keep an eye on this depth chart, as a player with Davis’ athletic gifts could present some intriguing upside if given the opportunity.
- The Phenom Index – Jon Moore combines age and market share of receiving yards into a single number. Historical success rates are provided, and scores for the 2017 draft class can be compared to those from previous years.
- Jim Kloet provides context, graphing WR college market shares by age.
- Josh Hermsmeyer calculated dominator ratings for all of this year’s prospects. Dominator rating is the average of a player’s market share of receiving yards and market share of receiving touchdowns. In terms of predicting NFL success, any number over 0.50 projects as an NFL superstar or Top 10 overall pick value. Scores from 0.45-0.50 are excellent (roughly Top 15 pick value), 0.40-0.45 very good (Top 20 pick), 0.35-0.40 (late first, early second), 0.30-0.35 (second round to third round), below 0.30 (middle round pick).
See for Yourself . . .
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- They have only had a football team since 2010. (back)
- The team’s next best receiver was its starting running back, who managed 547 receiving yards. (back)
- Gabe Marks compiled just 894 yards on 131 targets, and KeVonn Mabon managed only 972 yards on 124 targets. Neither were targeted deep more than 20 percent of the time. (back)
- Basically what I’m trying to say is that Davis is college football’s Allen Robinson. Don’t read too much into that comp. (back)
- and truly I welcome a critical attitude here–I was by far the highest on Davis in our pre-draft rankings and I probably ought to tone it down, especially post-draft. (back)
- He defined elite WRs as those who have had a top-ten PPR-points-per-game season. (back)