Mystery man. Those are the two words one NFL GM used this weekend when I brought up the name of Ashtyn Davis. Actually, this is what the GM said: “He’s the mystery man of the draft.” I’m writing about Davis because he’s the perfect case of the kind of intriguing player teams won’t know as well as they should on draft weekend because of the new rules. Here’s why:
Davis, more of a track prospect than football coming out of Santa Cruz (Calif.) High in 2015, walked on the track team at Cal, then tried out for the football team in the spring of his freshman year. He made it. That led to a long and winding road to football prominence as a smart, physical, 6-1, 202-pound safety with excellent speed. Mel Kiper rates him the third-best safety in this draft. But his 2019 season was marred by a year-long groin injury that ended with surgery to repair a torn adductor muscle near his groin last Dec. 18. Davis was invited to the combine and wanted to run the 40 (he didn’t have a recent 40 time for the NFL scouts, so this was a puzzle piece missing in his profile), but he wasn’t quite ready. He’d have to wait—so he thought—for Cal’s Pro Day three weeks after the combine. Of course that was scratched because of the NFL’s response to COVID-19.
He was able to impress teams mentally at the combine. “I was trying to make a team fall in love with me,” Davis said. The Seahawks turned the film off after three plays, when Davis—who studied teams so much before the combine he knew some of their defensive terminology—knew the terms “hammer” and “nail” in Pete Carroll’s scheme. Carroll laughingly asked Davis: “Ever thought about coaching?” Teams notice how good he was at punching balls out of receivers’ arms. Why? Because he studied NFL career forced-fumble leader Peanut Tillman’s punch. He had eight personal meetings set up at the Cal Pro Day. None happened. So far, he’s had six FaceTime sessions. But he won’t get to work out for any team, and no one knows a reliable 40 time on him. That’ll affect his draft stock. I asked one GM over the weekend where Davis might be picked. “Thirty-five? Seventy-five? I’m guessing,” he said.
“I’m antsy,” Davis said. “But this is obviously a tough time in the country. I get it, totally. I just wish I could train for the 40 and run the 40, and now I haven’t been able to do either. But whatever happens, I know I am going to give first-round talent to whoever picks me.”