How can any one player be THE steal of a draft class at his position?
There are tons of players who outperform their average draft position in the real NFL Draft and dynasty fantasy football rookie drafts every year.
Just recently we have seen wide receivers like Jamison Crowder, Ty Montgomery (now a running back), Stefon Diggs, Malcolm Mitchell, and even Tajae Sharpe return great value on initial draft investment. Those guys are all great, but they were all names we had heard before they made it to the NFL Combine in their respective rookie years.
No, when I talk about a player who could be the steal in a draft class I’m talking about someone who could be taken in the fourth or fifth round of many rookie drafts. It’s someone who has gone unnoticed for far too long for really no good reason beyond just playing in a “weaker” conference in college football. When I talk about the steal in a draft class I am talking about someone who will be an absolute class act, on and off the field who will make his NFL and fantasy football owners proud.
Far too often when we talk about these players, we forget they’re actual people. We forget a huge part of what makes them a steal goes beyond just where we can select them in a rookie draft. These players are people with stories who can be a joy to own in our fake football leagues, knowing they are quality, respectful individuals, who also happen to be incredibly good at football and a blast to watch.
And this year, there very well may be multiple wide receivers who offer great value in rookie drafts. However, in my opinion, THE steal at wide receiver who somehow slipped below nearly everyone’s radar until the NFL Combine is Robert Davis from Georgia State.
I could tell you myself all about how Robert Davis is a 6’3”, 219-pound wide receiver who did this or that over his four years at Georgia State to help you frame who I think he is. I could tell you all about his stats and why I believe Robert will find success in the NFL. And I’ll get to that, but first, I have a better idea. Why don’t we hear from someone who personally knows Robert?
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Nick Arbuckle, Robert Davis’ former quarterback in 2014 and 2015 at Georgia State. Here’s what I learned.
Travis May (TM): Many people have never heard of Robert (Davis). If you had to pick one reason why you know he will be successful at the next (NFL) level, what would that be?
Nick Arbuckle (NA): Work Ethic/Character. He has never forgotten he was a “no-star recruit” in high school with only one scholarship offer for football. He and I would race to see who could be the first to the cafeteria in the morning, and first into the facility. It went as far as arriving to the cafeteria for breakfast at 5:30am, even though breakfast check wasn’t until 7am, because we both just wanted to beat each other. We would be the last to leave, making sure we did extra work every day and night.
He is also a tremendous character guy and one of my best friends on the team. Like me, he never did drugs, drank alcohol or went out to parties. He was 100% about football, and did whatever was necessary to make himself better.
The sky is the limit for his potential, and there is no doubt he will do everything in his power to reach that potential.
TM: The other day you mentioned his football IQ. Can you remember an example where that showed up big time in a specific game when it mattered most?
NA: In the Texas State game in 2015. It was the game that sparked our four-game win streak to make our program’s first bowl game. All week in practice we were studying Texas State’s CBs, the techniques they were playing in every type of coverage, and exactly how I wanted him to adjust his routes and stems to get open against each possible look.
When the game came, Robert caught a 50-yard post route on the first play, followed shortly by a 30 or 40-yard touchdown. On both plays he did exactly what we had been going over all week and executed perfectly.
Throughout the game they tried several different looks, including some they never showed on film, but Robert did a phenomenal job of communicating with me on the sideline. He was able to make adjustments from one drive to the next in order to get open on all of his routes. He ended that game with over 170 yards receiving despite the fact he didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter (due to our lead).
TM: That’s perfect. That’s exactly the kind of preparation and ability to adjust that you want to see. How would you describe Robert’s presence and influence in the locker room?
NA: In the locker room, Robert was always a favorite of the team. Everyone loved him because he was very positive, but also quiet and humble whenever he did well. He wanted to see everyone succeed and was the biggest fan of everyone else. His junior year, we had five different players lead the team in receiving in at least one game during the season. That couldn’t have made him happier. Robert knew he didn’t have to catch every pass. If he was getting targeted by the coverage, he knew that someone else was going to have a big day. No doubt our WR corps had the closest bond of any other position group on the team. Robert was a big reason for that.
TM: That’s fantastic. Last question for you: as a teammate and friend, what is one thing you’ll always remember from your time with Robert at Georgia State?
NA: The one thing I will always remember is not just one specific moment, but all of the time we spent training together. Our group of four guys (me, Robert, Penny Hart, and Keith Rucker) spent so many hours together every day. We ate together almost every meal. We trained together on the field before and after practice. We spent long nights in the film room breaking everything down. It was all of those countless hours spent with Robert that I will always remember. Every touchdown was so special every time because we knew we had already scored dozens of times on the practice field and in the film room before we ever made it happen in the game.
TM: Nick, those answers are all fantastic. Thanks again for your time.
That’s just a little sneak peek into who Robert Davis is as a person. He clearly has the desire to make himself better. He has a chip on his shoulder because no one gave him any credit or recognition coming into college. That’s still the case now with NFL analysts. But does Robert have what it takes to succeed in the NFL? You tell me.
Robert Davis annihilated the NFL Combine this year – that much is undeniable.
- He ran a 4.44-second 40-yard dash. The only wide receivers 6’3” or taller who ran faster than him were at least 11 pounds lighter than he was.
- His gravity-defying 41-inch vertical jump was good for second among all wide receivers at the combine. Only Speedy Noil of Texas A&M, who had 20 less pounds to lift off the ground, had a better vertical jump than Robert.
- Davis’ 11’4” in the broad jump was the best among wide receivers. His short shuttle was about average. And his 3-cone drill was slightly above average.
If you look closely at Robert’s combine you would be hard-pressed to find a better performance in the last three years for any wide receiver.
It’s clear when you look at the numbers, Robert did improve in production per game every year, but he wasn’t a monster producer like everyone’s 2017 draft darling, Corey Davis.
Nick already partially spoke to that in the interview earlier. Robert didn’t need to be the only producer for Georgia State in order to be happy. But in order to fully understand why his college production wasn’t off the charts given his athletic potential we have to understand the offense at Georgia State.
For the majority of Robert’s time there, Georgia State ran a wide spread offense. Their “heavy” run package was often-times 11 personnel (3WR, 1 TE, 1 RB). When Georgia State was throwing they seldom ever had a true in-line tight end in the formation staying in to block at all – that meant the number of receivers or running backs running routes was often at least four, if not five different players, just about all of the time. Nick and the other quarterbacks who played in Robert’s Georgia State tenure had plenty of targets to choose from. In fact, because of this, and how the offense was run, no wide receiver caught more than 72 passes in a single season for Georgia State from 2013-2016.
Robert’s early success, sheer size and athleticism also led to defenses keying in on him. If the defense somehow had an extra defensive back to spare they were often shaded to his side of the field. When they weren’t, terrible things happened for the defense.
A lot can be learned from looking at any wide receiver’s tape, but Robert Davis’ immediately catches your attention. He consistently wins contested catches, stacks over the top of defensive backs when he has them beaten, tracks the ball well, adjusts in tight space, and uses his body incredibly well to bully smaller defensive backs to create just enough separation even on the short and intermediate routes.
He wasn’t asked to run a diverse route tree from the few games that I watched, but that’s true of many wide receivers entering the NFL.
One huge thing NFL coaches and scouts will definitely love is Robert’s ability and tendency to catch the ball with his hands. Many wide receivers in college are too passive and try to cradle the ball with their bodies. Robert will do this at times, but more often than not he’ll snatch the ball at the high point or reach out and grab it.
Don’t just take my word for it. I always advise people to do a little of their own research. Check out the games against Wisconsin and Texas State from 2016, and the Oregon and Texas State (referenced in the interview) games from 2015.
Also, I’ll leave you with this highlight video of Robert because it’s too fun.
I could go on, but the fun has to stop at some point. As always, if you have questions or comments feel free to reach out to me on the Twitter (@FF_TravisM) or just leave a note here in the comment section. Good luck to you in your rookie drafts and make sure you grab the player I believe will be THE steal of the 2017 wide receiver class.