The Cincinnati Bengals kicked off day three of the NFL Draft with a bang. After plucking linebacker Logan Wilson a little more than 12 hours ago in the third round, they went back to their weakest defensive position and made Akeem Davis-Gaither their next draft pick.
This is the second year in a row that the Bengals double-dipped at linebacker after drafting one in the third round. The hope now is that with Wilson and Davis-Gaither in the fold, they won’t have to address the position at all in 2021.
What Davis-Gaither brings to the Bengals
While he didn’t test at the combine, Davis-Gaither is one of the better athletes in this year’s class of linebackers. He flies around the field and has silky smooth hips to change direction with ease. He has the ankle flexion to bend around the edge as a blitzer and to dip under blocks in the second level.
In coverage, Davis-Gaither has the ability to stay with underneath routes and has the feet and hips to carry seam routes as an overhang defender. He displays great instincts when breaking on routes and throws, which he can contribute his 18 career pass deflections to.
Davis-Gaither actually had more snaps as an edge defender for App State last year, and he was a very productive pass-rusher in that role. The Bengals were looking for a linebacker that can be played on and off of the line of scrimmage and be an unidentifiable box player. Davis-Gaither can be exactly that, but don’t expect him to be as productive off the edge at his size of 6-1 and 224 pounds. He can still be a great blitzer, though.
Why the Bengals picked Davis-Gaither
Athleticism of any kind was still needed at linebacker, even with Wilson in the fold. Davis-Gaither now gives the Bengals three young linebackers who can move sideline-to-sideline, including last year’s third-round pick Germaine Pratt. Davis-Gaither and Wilson might be better fits in subpackages than Pratt is as well.
Wilson was at the Senior Bowl like Davis-Gaither, but Davis-Gaither was personally coached by the Bengals’ staff, and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo greatly valued that time in this process.
Bengals DC Lou Anarumo credits Senior Bowl getting the chance to know LB Logan Wilson and Akeem Davis-Gaither.— Lindsay Patterson (@LndsPatterson) April 25, 2020
As a redshirt senior, Davis-Gaither developed into “an extra coach on the field” as said by his college coaches per Dane Brugler’s draft guide. The Bengals will greatly value that leadership in a position group that will need it once veteran Josh Bynes moves on after this year.
The Bengals’ defense is evolving, and Davis-Gaither is a perfect chess piece to add in the middle of it.