The Cincinnati Bengals’ fourth-round pick, linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither, is destined to outperform his draft position.
Not many people expected former Appalachian State linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither to slip past the third round of the 2020 NFL draft. However, the ultra-athletic 22-year-old quietly fell down the draft board, right into the lap of the Cincinnati Bengals on day three.
Cincinnati’s front office, who has struggled with drafting linebackers in recent history, happily scooped up Davis-Gaither to give them their second promising prospect at the position. In doing so, they selected a player who is destined to outperform the draft billing of a fourth-rounder.
A typical fourth-round draft pick certainly has expectations, but they aren’t nearly as lofty as those selected on the first two days of the draft. In general, most prospects falling in this range of the draft are expected to help on special teams, provide depth, and have the ability to potentially develop into a starter down the road.
Davis-Gaither, on the other hand, already has much higher expectations. According to Action Network, the 6’1, 224-pound standout has the 9th best odds(+2500) to win rookie defensive player of the year.
The other 8 players ahead of him? Each was drafted no later than round two. So why is a fourth-rounder seeing his name placed among first and second-round draft picks?
Versatility. Davis-Gaither fits the mold of a modern NFL linebacker perfectly. His speed and range allow him to stay on the field all three downs, where he can utilize those tools to cover running backs and tight ends out of the backfield.
You can’t forget about his ability to rush the passer either. He notched 5 sacks during his final year in college. While his immediate role is uncertain, all of these attributes will be cause to ensure he sees playing time early and often.
There have been rumblings of injury concern but the Bengals clearly felt comfortable enough to pull the trigger and select him. If he can remain healthy, he has the skillset to make the other 31 franchises regret passing up on him three times and exceed expectations of a player drafted on day three.