The Cincinnati Bengals selected Akeem Davis-Gaither with the 107th pick in this year’s draft. Davis-Gaither is one of the most versatile athletes in this draft class, and the Bengals have a weapon to use at their disposal.
Last season, and for most Bengals’ seasons in recent memory, the linebacker corps has been the Achilles heel of their defense. In 2019, the Bengals took a gamble by resigning Preston Brown and drafted Germaine Pratt to develop into a starting caliber middle linebacker. Preston Brown was cut heading into week 11 while Pratt earned the starting nod and played well in the back half of the season.
The Bengals clearly saw a weakness in the middle of their defense and they attacked it extensively during the 2020 draft. To start the third round, the Bengals selected Logan Wilson out of Wyoming. They finished the draft by picking a low risk, high reward player in Markus Bailey from Purdue. The best value pick from their 2020 draft, however, came at the beginning of the fourth round when Cincinnati drafted Akeem Davis-Gaither.
Akeem Davis-Gaither will become the Swiss army knife Lou Anarumo so desperately needs. Watch any game at Appalachian State and you will see Davis-Gaither at pretty much any spot on the field. From safety to linebacker to edge, Davis-Gaither provides the speed and versatility that the Bengals defense has been lacking for years.
How the Bengals will use Akeem Davis-Gaither
In 2019, it was evident that Cincinnati was missing two massive factors: speed and tackling ability. When you play in the AFC North those are two must-have qualities. Davis-Gaither brings those two necessities and more to the field
Lou Anarumo loves to use decoys in his new 3-4 system (see Geno Atkins and Andrew Billings dropping into coverage). Shawn Williams dropped-down from safety to linebacker for over 500 snaps, but he struggled to produce what the Bengals needed in terms of both coverage and run defense. Davis-Gaither will be able to come in on those sub-package situations to play that outside backer to cover the running back or tight end.
He is also incredibly talented off the edge. App State would ask him to blitz quite often, and he produced at a high rate. Davis-Gaither has an incredible ability to stop, drop his hips, and bend his entire body under a defender to make the play.
In the AFC North, the Bengals have to face talents like Lamar Jackson, Nick Chubb, Mark Andrews, and Mark Ingram. Davis-Gaither offers the ability to spy Lamar Jackson. His sideline to sideline speed and ability to shed blocks is crucial to contain Jackson and minimize the damage. Chubb and Ingram are evasive and excellent in space. Davis-Gaither’s sure-fire tackling will come in handy to stop the long gains the Bengals have struggled with in the past. Finally, he offers coverage ability on tight ends and other big-bodied receivers coming across the middle that have beaten up the linebacker corp over the past few seasons.
In his first few seasons, expect Davis-Gaither to contribute heavily to special teams. While at Appalachian State, he secured a win against North Carolina by blocking a game-tying field goal. During his interview with the Cincinnati press, Davis-Gaither expressed his love for special teams. “I love special teams. My sophomore year, I was Special Teams Player of the Year, so I give my all to special teams, just like if it was on defense.” Darrin Simmons has to be jumping for joy with this selection.
As the Bengals move more to a 3-4 front, expect to see Davis-Gaither all over the field. From linebacker to edge and potentially even safety, Akeem Davis-Gaither fits the new NFL “hybrid” player mold to a T.