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2020 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Appalachian State LB Akeem Davis-Gaither

From now until the 2020 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

#24 Akeem Davis-Gaither / LB Appalachian State – 6014 224

The Good

  • Good athleticism to be a three down linebacker
  • Solid in Zone coverage and diagnoses screens well
  • Speed and timing would make him an asset on blitz
  • Good mental processing to diagnose runs and read the mesh point
  • Gets downhill quickly and has very good agility to avoid blockers
  • Good motor to chase sideline to sideline

The Bad

  • Very limited Man coverage experience
  • Doesn’t create well as a straight pass rusher
  • Will bite on play action fake opening holes behind him
  • Needs to improve use of hands to get off blocks
  • Attempts to sidestep blockers will take him out of position

Bio

  • Career – 201 tackles, 94 solo, 24 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 1 INT, 15 PD, 1 FF
  • 2019 – 101 tackles, 49 solo, 14.5 TFL, 5 sacks, 1 INT, 8 PD, 1 Blocked FG
  • 2019 – Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year
  • 56 games, 27 starts
  • Team Captain for 5 games
  • 23 QB pressures in 2019 per PFF
  • In high school he earned four letters in football, earned three in track and field, two in basketball and one in baseball
  • Father is an assistant coach (wide receivers) at Western Michigan

Tape Breakdown

Appalachian State had an impressive year in 2019 and one of the leaders on their defense was linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither.  He is relatively undersized but was able to fill a lot of roles on the Mountaineers defense.

Against the pass, his role changed based on the opponent and the situation.  In coverage, he would line up over the slot, at the apex or head up over the tight end.  His coverage duties were for the most part limited to Zone coverage in the flat curl area. He looks comfortable, plays with his eyes on the QB and has good mobility in space. He showed a good ability to diagnose screens and he has a solid ability to plant and accelerate to the ball and is a solid tackler in space.

His Man coverage skills were limited to the short area and couple instances carrying the TE up the seam. As a pass rusher he was used on the edge and occasionally up the middle. He has good timing on his blitz with good acceleration and displayed the ability to win on the edge on a few instances. Good agility and awareness to get his hands up if he can’t get to the QB and can also be used as a spy on the QB.

At North Carolina, he’s lined up as the WILL on the left of the defense. He’ll drop into the middle reads the QB and makes the interception.

 

At South Carolina, he’s on the edge to the left and will show agility to sidestep the RT, gets tripped up and gets back up to leap at the QB and get the sack.

 

Vs UAB, he is on the hash at the top of the screen. He takes a step to the fake before backpedaling into position. With eyes on the QB he reads the QB to undercut the route and break up the pass.

 

Against the run, he shows a good ability to diagnose run vs pass, reads the mesh well and shows good acceleration to the ball.  Looks good working downhill to attack the gaps and ball carrier with good agility to work through traffic to the ball.  He was solid on the outside setting the edge and shows very good agility to slip under and around blocks to knife into the backfield to make stops near the line of scrimmage. He takes very good angles chasing downfield to the far side of the field and a good motor to pursue and flow to the ball. Good tackling skills to wrap and bring down ball carriers.

Vs Georgia Southern, he’s the OLB on the right side of the defense and will read the option, slide with it and make the tackle.

 

At South Carolina, with the WR motion he’ll creep up to the LOS. He reads the run, ducks under the pulling OL and gets the TFL.

 

Vs Louisiana, he’s on the right edge. He’ll slide from the backside, read the mesh and accelerate inside for the tackle.

 

He spacing in Zone coverage left him with few opportunities to make a play on the ball prior to the catch. Play action got him to bite leaving open areas behind him in the red zone. His Man coverage skills will be tested at the next level as he rarely played with his back to the QB. Rushing off the edge was often ineffective unless he got a lane to the QB. Sidestepping blocks vs the run can take him out of position opening up holes. Need to improve use of hands to get off of blocks

At South Carolina, he’s out over the slot. The tight end is in good position for the block and Davis-Gaither can’t get off of it.

 

Davis-Gaither is a good communicator, diagnoses well and can stay on the field for all three downs.  He’s better playing an attacking role, reading the play and getting downhill.  His Zone coverage needs some fine tuning but he should be solid. Man coverage will need to be determined but athletically he should be able to handle it. His athleticism will also work in sub packages to cover, blitz or spy on the QB.

He is somewhat undersized and based on his play he would fit best as a WILL linebacker in a 4-3 front to allow him to chase sideline to sideline and make plays and he’ll be a contributor on special teams right away.

Projection:  Early day 3

Games Watched:  2019 – At North Carolina, Vs Georgia Southern, At South Carolina, Vs Louisiana, Vs Alabama-Birmingham

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