For Lawson, it was his injury history and the concerns that projected onto his pro game. Billings, on the other hand, fell because of his lack of pass rush potential as more of a run stuffer in a deep defensive tackle class.
While neither of these players have performed as well as some hoped, both have been easily worth the investment the Bengals made in them. If the same outcome were to happen with Akeem Davis-Gaither, that would also be a success.
Davis-Gaither was available for the Bengals to draft at the beginning of day three primarily because of injury concerns, but there’s so much more to one of the Bengals’ most talented rookies of 2020.
Let’s take a quick look at five facts about one of the newest members of the Bengals.
1. Another Senior Bowl linebacker
The Bengals, despite passing on some notable Senior Bowl prospects in the second round, proved they valued their time spent with the top upperclassmen in the country. Logan Wilson was drafted before Davis-Gaither, but you can make the case that the Bengals got the two best linebackers from the game. Bolstering one of the team’s least-talented position groups like that is a huge boost. Only one of them will likely play significant snaps this season, but both project interesting starting potential in the long-term.
2. Football in the blood
NFL teams love players who come from football backgrounds, and this case is no different. Davis-Gaither’s father, Keith Gaither, is the wide receivers coach for Army and has been all over the country as an assistant coach, so there are clearly those out there that like his coaching ability. Being raised by someone with a coaching or playing background is something other coaches value, and Davis-Gaither’s leadership qualities can probably be attributed to his upbringing.
3. Ended college career on top
We will get to how Davis-Gaither started his college career out later. How he ended it all was pretty impressive. Davis-Gaither won the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year Award during his last year at Appalachian State. He racked up 104 tackles and eight pass breakups. This shows his versatility well as an active run defender and competent pass defender. He brings an experience in pass coverage that the Bengals defense is sorely lacking.
4. He did that while playing on a bad foot
That 2019 season we just discussed? Yeah, Davis-Gaither did all of that while dealing with a stress fracture in his foot. While there are some injury concerns raised with him that some speculate lead to his drop, this is a nice sign that he was able to play at the level he did while being injured. The stress fracture in his foot happened in the third game of 2019 and he played through it the rest of the year and at the Senior Bowl. His knees were the bigger concern raised at the NFL Combine, but if they can get that level of play while he deals with minor injuries, that is very promising.
5. Former special teams star
Now let’s finish with some background of Davis-Gaither’s underclassmen days. Early on in his App State career, Davis-Gaither was a special teams ace; he even won the team’s Special Teams Player of the Year Award. So even if Wilson is the guy that ascends into the starting lineup, special teams will be a place for Davis-Gaither to strut his stuff and keep his playing skills ready for when he is called upon to step in.