Bengals rookies: Akeem Davis-Gaither will have a Carl Lawson-esque rookie year
The Bengals went right back to the linebacker position in the draft by selecting Akeem Davis-Gaither from Appalachian State with the first pick of the fourth round. Expected by many to go in the third round, this pick was praised by many as a steal. For a Bengals team that has struggled so much at the position, coming away with not one but two third-round talents at linebacker felt like a dream come true.
However, with Pratt, Bynes, and Wilson ahead of him, Davis-Gaither probably won’t be a starter as a rookie. That doesn’t mean he can’t make a big impact, though. Much like former Bengals’ fourth-round pick Carl Lawson, the small-school linebacker prospect can make a name for himself as a situational defensive weapon.
As a rookie, Lawson put up the best numbers of his career. Despite only being on the field for 42% of the Bengals’ defensive snaps in his rookie year, the former Auburn edge rusher had an impressive 8.5 sacks. He was only a fourth-round rookie, but he made the most of his situational opportunities and thrived in limited snaps.
Davis-Gaither can follow this model in 2020. During his two years as a starter at Appalachian State, he had 24 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. The 22-year old linebacker may not see the field much, but he can cause damage in the running and passing game when deployed.
The fourth-round pick’s athleticism makes him lightning in a bottle for the Bengals’ staff, and they should get creative in how they weaponize him against opposing offenses. His speed can make him a useful tool rushing the passer, dropping into coverage, or attacking running backs.
If Davis-Gaither impresses as a situational defender in 2020, he should be in line for more snaps in 2021. Eventually, the Bengals’ 2020 linebacker class could rule the position room.