The NFL Draft is a week away and the Dallas Cowboys will have several holes to fill. Safety, cornerback, and defensive line help are the top of the priority list, especially in the early rounds. However, a position that isn't getting enough attention is linebacker. Jaylon Smith is coming off of a productive season even though his play took a slight step back. Leighton Vander Esch is coming back from a neck injury that cut his 2019 season short. Sean Lee, while still playing at a pretty high level, is getting long in the tooth entering his 11th season. With that being said, Appalachian State Linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither is a name the Cowboys should take a look at for depth purposes.
He would only appear in two games as a freshman in 2015 before redshirting. In 2016, in a reserved role, Davis-Gaither racked up 16 tackles and 1.5 sacks. In 2017 he would make three starts and doubled his production to 33 tackles. His junior season is when he put his name on the map with 105 tackles (10 tackles for loss), 1.5 sacks, and seven passes defended while garnering second-team All-Sun Belt honors. As a senior, Davis-Gaither cemented his name as an intriguing prospect on the next level with his best collegiate season registering 104 tackles (14.5 tackles for loss), five sacks, eight passes defended, and an interception. For his efforts, he would be named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year for 2019.
Watch “The BEST Linebacker You SHOULD KNOW About 😈 || App State LB Akeem Davis-Gaither 2019 Highlights ᴴᴰ” on YouTube
Davis-Gaither may be undersized at 6'1 224 pounds but he has a knack for getting off of blocks and making plays. Very good at batting passes down, keeping pursuit angles and can blitz coming off the edge. Also, he showed he could add value on special teams covering kicks in college as well.
For all the draftniks just finding out about Akeem Davis-Gaither, welcome to the party.
In testament to his versatility, Davis-Gaither's Sun Belt Conference stat rankings over the past two seasons combined:
– 3rd in total tackles (209)
– 2nd in TFL (24.5)
– T-5th in PBU (15) pic.twitter.com/nD0Yrkwvj7
“No matter his size, Davis-Gaither is a playmaker with a talent for slipping blocks and ending up near the football. Teams who hope to roll him into a hybrid role may find he's a better pass rusher than cover man. He is comfortable and effective when playing downhill, but issues with inconsistent angles to the ball and missed tackles pop up when forced to play in space. Some teams will be uncomfortable with his size. However, he plays with instincts and toughness. He should find a home as a backup 4-3 weakside linebacker and productive member of special teams units.”
Once a 5'10 175-pound safety prospect coming out of high school, Davis-Gaither has become one of the most underrated linebackers entering the NFL Draft. The Cowboys could add value and depth at the linebacker position with Davis-Gaither in the third or fourth round.