Steelers 2020 Rookie Scouting Report: Carlos Davis | Steel City Underground

Steel City Underground

Interior defensive lineman Carlos Davis of the Nebraska Cornhuskers was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL in 2020
USA Today Sports

In the coming weeks, I will be summarizing the film notes from my personal pre-draft prospect scouting reports and take an in-depth look at the Steelers' 2020 rookie class (including undrafted free agents). What are their strengths and weaknesses? Where do they fit in with the Steelers? Be sure to check out each scouting report over the next few weeks to find out my thoughts on the newest members of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Next up, Carlos Davis.

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Player Information

  • Name: Carlos Davis
  • Date of Birth (Age): August 22, 1996 (23)
  • HometownBlue Springs, Missouri
  • College: Nebraska
  • Class: Redshirt Senior
  • Position: Nose Tackle
  • College Number: 96
  • Height: 6'2"
  • Weight313 lbs
  • Hands: 9 5/8"
  • Arms32"
  • Wingspan: 76 1/2"
  • 40 Yard Dash: 4.82 seconds
  • Bench Press: 27 reps
  • Vertical Jump: ---
  • Broad Jump: ---
  • 3 Cone Drill: ---
  • 20 Yard Shuttle: 4.52 seconds

Stats

2019 Stats: 11 games, 32 total tackles (17 solo), 4.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 3 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery
Career Stats: 48 games, 125 total tackles (59 solo), 16 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 8 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries

Background

Carlos Davis is a redshirt senior who started 11 out of 12 games in 2019 (missed one game due to injury) and started 39 total games during his time at Nebraska. Davis was a versatile defender for Nebraska, making starts as a 3-, 2i-, 1-, and 0-technique defensive tackle and as a 4- and 5-technique defensive end.

As a redshirt freshman, Davis was named Honorable-Mention BTN All-Freshman Team and as a redshirt junior, he was named Honorable-Mention All-Big Ten. While at Nebraska, Davis was an eight-time letterwinner (four letters in both football and track & field) alongside his twin brother Khalil, making them the first eight-time letterwinners at Nebraska in over 50 years and just the 8th and 9th to accomplish the feat in school history.

It is worth noting that Davis tallied 5 passes defended in 2018, which was the most by a Nebraska defensive lineman since Ndamukong Suh had 10 in 2009.

In addition to his experience on the football field, Davis was also a two-time All-American in track & field for discus, being named Honorable-Mention in 2018 and Second-Team in 2019.

Injuries

Davis missed one game in 2019 due to an ankle injury.

Body Type & Athletic Ability

Davis has adequate height and good weight with a thick, solidly built frame and a stout lower body but has poor arm length and hand size for an interior defensive lineman.

He possesses elite straight-line speed but has marginal overall athletic ability. His quickness is adequate with marginal agility and footwork that prevents him from efficiently changing directions laterally.

Davis has very good upper body strength and power with a solid anchor, but lower body stiffness in his knees causes poor balance against powerful offensive linemen.

Strengths

  • Good pre- and post-snap mental processing to quickly recognize run- and pass-blocking schemes
  • Solid against the run when asked to occupy blockers up front
  • Displays a solid understanding of where the run is designed to go and what the opposing blocker’s role is
  • Solid gap integrity; knows where he needs to be and drops his anchor to hold his ground at the point of attack
  • Very good use of hands against the run help help him compensate for his poor arm length; delivers quick, powerful punches with inside leverage against offensive linemen to get under their pads and take control of the block
  • Good leg drive once he wins the leverage battle to drive offensive linemen into the backfield
  • Fights to keep his eyes in the backfield against the run to identify where the running back is going
  • Solid strength at the point of attack due to his solid anchor and low pad level at the snap
  • His upper body strength allows him take on blocks along the interior and simultaneously bring down any ball carrier with just one arm that gets too close to the phone booth that he is working in
  • When he cleanly gets his body on a ballcarrier, he is sure to secure the tackle and bring the player down
  • Displays elite competitive toughness with consistently high effort level, physical toughness, and aggression
  • Plays with very good mental toughness
  • Possesses a very good motor in pursuit, hustling from snap to whistle and displays his elite straight-line speed when chasing down plays from way behind
  • When defending against the pass, he can convert his speed into power to bull rush offensive linemen and collapse the pocket
  • When rushing the passer, he utilizes good leg drive to work through offensive linemen
  • Has very active hands against the pass, consistently throwing his hands up when the ball is released to disrupt passing lanes and attempt to knock passes down

Weaknesses

  • Marginal get-off at the snap with adequate up-field burst, seemingly slowed down by varied snap cadences
  • Possesses adequate short area explosiveness that limits his ability to penetrate gaps; will lose any explosive momentum when facing heavy contact
  • His excellent weight room strength and explosion doesn't translate into consistent on-the-field functional strength
  • Slow to disengage from blocks due to his lack of length and becoming to focused on the one-on-one battle
  • Lateral agility is marginal; struggles to defend against cross-facing reach blocks typically seen from Zone blocking schemes where he can be sealed backside by offensive linemen with superior lateral agility and footwork
  • Will get out-leveraged against down blocks in Gap blocking schemes due to lower body rigidity and knee stiffness causing him to lose his balance
  • Marginal fluidity when working down the line in pursuit of ballcarriers
  • Poor arm length shows up when trying to lockout offensive linemen; bigger, longer offensive linemen with inside hand placement/leverage can take over if Davis doesn't win right out of the gate
  • Contact from an offensive lineman can throw him off his trajectory and a lack of reach and lateral agility prevent him from getting a good angle for the would-be tackle
  • Poor pass-rusher who doesn’t bend well and lacks a pass-rush plan beyond bull-rushing offensive linemen into the quarterback's lap; wants to win with power regardless of alignment
  • When slid out beyond a 3-technique alignment in the pass game, he will get swallowed up by bigger, longer offensive linemen (particularly offensive tackles) due to his poor arm length
  • Lacks any developed pass rushing counter moves when stunted at the line of scrimmage; most of his success rushing the passer comes on second-, third-, and sometimes fourth-effort moves from coverage holding up behind him
  • Marginal ability to close on the quarterback due to marginal athletic ability and burst; best chance as a rusher is that the quarterback gets flushed right to him due to pressure coming to him from elsewhere
  • Agility in traffic is adequate as he struggles to cleanly navigate traffic without slowing down

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Fit with the Steelers & Projection

During the offseason, the Steelers biggest departure was without question Javon Hargrave, who traveled across the state to join the Eagles on a new lucrative deal. There was no denying the elite talent that Hargrave was for the Steelers' defensive line, but in an age where nose tackles see the field less and less, the Steelers had to sadly allow Hargrave to test the market and allow him the freedom to truly maximize his value.

Heading into the 2020 season, the Steelers' defensive line is still fantastic and deep, with Cam Heyward coming off of yet another All-Pro and Pro Bowl season and Stephon Tuitt returning from an injury during a season where he began to truly emerge as a standout defender.

The addition of Chris Wormley alongside returning linemen Tyson Alualu, Isaiah Buggs, and Daniel McCullers gives the Steelers plenty of options when trying to fill the massive shoes left behind by J-Wobble. So where does Carlos Davis fit into the mix?

Davis is a developmental two-down nose/defensive tackle prospect with backup upside along the interior. Davis is at his best when aligned as a 0-, 1-, 2i-, 2-, or 3-technique defender where he can operate in confined spaces and attempt to free up lanes for off-ball defenders in the run game.

He displays very quick, strong hands against the run and wins his one-on-one matchups by utilizing his size, hand placement, and leverage to take control of the blocks he faces. He plays with elite competitive toughness and a high-effort motor on each play with elite speed to chase plays down.

Davis' poor pass-rushing abilities, underdeveloped pass-rushing toolbox, and marginal athletic abilities in terms of lateral agility and footwork decrease his value on clear passing downs and will be a sizable hurdle for him early on in his career.

While at Nebraska, Davis was moved all along the defensive line depending on the package, down and distance, etc. but in Pittsburgh, his role will likely be very similar to what we have seen from McCullers to this point: a true interior defensive lineman who spends most of his time between the B-gaps.

The Steelers still make use of the nose tackle position, whether it is having a true nose tackle in the game like McCullers or simply shifting someone like Heyward or Alualu down to play inside depending on what package is in the game.

If Davis is going to play his way into a roster spot in 2020, he is going to need to stand out as a run defender that can be incorporated into the Steelers' primary defensive line rotation on early downs. Because of his lack of length and lateral agility, there is a chance that Davis might never become a factor as a pass rusher, but that really isn't why you take a player like him to add to your roster.

In the 7th round of any draft, you are looking for players that have a few discernible traits that you hope to be able to build upon and get the most out of on the field. For Davis, those traits are his elite speed for a player of his size, his relentless motor, and his ability to hold his own against the run as a two-down interior defensive lineman.

While I think that he has a clear uphill battle to make the roster in 2020, a practice squad spot would be a great opportunity for him to try to develop his pass rushing skills while ironing out some of his lower body deficiencies as a run defender.

If he can diversify his pass-rushing toolbox beyond the predictable bullrush, Davis will greatly improve his chances of contributing to the Steelers' defensive line rotation at some point early on in his career.

Davis isn't Hargrave, but very few players in the NFL today are. That doesn't mean that he can't carve out a role for himself in Pittsburgh if given time to develop and I think he can do just that.

Especially because it's not every day that you see a 6'2", 313-pound man run a 4.82 second 40-yard dash.





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