NFL Draft Profile: Appalachian State LB Akeem Davis-Gaither

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The Los Angeles Rams are undergoing a defensive scheme and regime change. With that being said, former Pro Bowl starting inside linebacker Cory Littleton has departed via free agency. That leaves the Rams set to start Micah Kiser, a former fifth-round pick and one of their young crop of inexperienced talent. While the Rams have talent and potential at the position, one could make the argument that they will need to look in the NFL Draft early on for a replacement to Littleton.

That replacement could very well be Akeem Davis-Gaither out of Appalachian State.

College Bio

A two-star recruit out of high school. Davis-Gaither played in 26 games while starting 27 of them. His freshman year he only appeared in two games and redshirted. His redshirt-freshman year he took part in all 13 games, followed by another full season in his redshirt-sophomore season. His redshirt-junior year he started all 13 games and led the team in tackles. He was named a second-team All-Sun Belt selection. His final year is when he took his collegiate career to the next level and became an All-American selection.

Measurables

Height: 6’1
Weight: 224

Strengths

Davis-Gaither is a very talented and versatile linebacker that can play in any sort of scheme. He possesses the athletic ability to start for any team in some facet, he has the speed to cover sideline-to-sideline and he has the football IQ to operate almost anywhere on the football field. Davis-Gaither has a unique pass-rushing ability off the edge where he can bend and maneuver his way past an offensive tackle. He has a knack for batting down passes at the line of scrimmage as well as his ability to contort his body to fit under blocks. He possesses the necessary range and long-speed desired for the position in the modern-day. Motor runs very hot, he’s constantly fighting and slithering his way around the field to make a big play. He’s got loose hips and should have no problem in coverage moving forward as demonstrated by his film. Improved every year in college.

Weaknesses

Davis-Gaither’s one huge weakness is his build. He’s not set up to be an ordinary 3-4 inside linebacker with under 230 pounds of weight and that is shown due to his struggles with block shedding. He prefers to maneuver around blocks instead of powering through them which of course isn’t easy with his bulk. Due to his lack of length teams may prefer him as a positionless chess piece.

Three Plays on Tape

Development

Davis-Gaither is such a fun player and he truly should be a problem for any offense he faces in the NFL. The problem, however, also lies with the aforementioned lack of bulk on his body. It’s not as easy as adding 10-to-15 pounds either since you might take away some of Davis-Gaither’s key athletic traits in doing so. You don’t want to suppress the type of play-making ability he currently has. Which means he might follow suit as a Deone Bucannon or Mark Barron type of player that is the best fit as a chess piece for the defense. I wouldn’t quite call him positionless but teams might want to rotate him in at safety, linebacker, edge or just use him as the designated big nickel. The only true weakness on film is block-shedding for Davis-Gaither which means if he develops in that area and maybe bulks up a bit without losing his athleticism he could be a potential Pro Bowl talent.

Draft Grade: 2nd round

Bottom Line

Davis-Gaither is ready to contribute day one for any team. While I may be higher on him as a true linebacker than many will, I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to thing ADG would fit better as a chess piece than in one spot at all times. You don’t want to go conservative and hold back his true potential. What he allows you to do is really limitless because of his range, ball skills, pass-rushing, run defense, gap penetration and football IQ. The issue is entirely his bulk and block shedding which would hold back the potential of playing as an inside backer in a 3-4 base scheme. For the Rams, I still don’t think you can rule out Davis-Gaither. One thing the Rams are truly lacking since they lost Littleton is pass coverage in the linebacker room and ADG will 100 percent be able to help with that immediately. Is he worth a selection at 52-overall? Absolutely. You need to have a true plan for ADG though, you cannot just use him in one area. Even if you start him at inside backer you have to understand you could be overpowered in the run game since he’s not the true 3-4 linebacker build to withstand power running up the middle. Of course, with Micah Kiser, that might not be a huge issue.

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