Half of the NFL is talking to former Tech tight end Davis

Georgia Tech tight end Tyler Davis (9) scores a touchdown against North Carolina. Photo by John Amis

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Georgia Tech tight end Tyler Davis (9) scores a touchdown against North Carolina. Photo by John Amis

The coach gave Tyler Davis a scenario – third-and-6, against a 4-3 defense in an “over” alignment with the secondary in a “quarters” coverage. What play would Davis run in that situation?

In any other year, leading up to any other draft, the former Georgia Tech tight end would likely have been posed this question by a visiting coach or scout in a meeting room at Tech’s football offices. Or perhaps he would be in a similar room at that coach’s team headquarters. In this case, he was in the living room of his family’s home in Bellmore, N.Y., talking with the coach via FaceTime.

Sitting at a table, Davis diagrammed the defense on a piece of paper and scribbled out the play that he would call for the Yellow Jackets offense to counter that alignment. Then, holding up the paper to his phone’s camera, Davis explained his play choice and the responsibilities of each offensive player.

“It’s as close to being on a white board in person as we can get,” Davis said. “It’s been good, though.”

With the coronavirus pandemic rearranging virtually every aspect of sport, including the NFL’s pre-draft process, Davis appears to be more than handling himself. On the basis of his play at Tech and Connecticut, a strong pro-day workout at Tech and undoubtedly glowing recommendations from coach Geoff Collins and his staff, Davis said he has sat for interviews with about half of the NFL’s teams prior to next week’s draft.

It’s conceivable that Davis could be selected late in the seven-round draft, which would make him Tech’s first draftee since 2017 (kicker Harrison Butker) and the first Yellow Jackets tight end drafted since 1992 (Tom Covington). Particularly because he was unable to submit to a pre-draft physical, though, he may slip out of the draft and be signed as an undrafted free agent. Either way, interest in Davis is legitimate.

“So we’re optimistic right now,” Davis told the AJC. “It’s next week, so I’m excited just to see how it’ll all unfold.”

Teams that Davis said he has communicated with: Falcons, Carolina, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Los Angeles Chargers, Miami, Minnesota, New England, New Orleans, New York Giants, New York Jets and San Francisco. He is likely the strongest draft candidate among Tech’s handful of NFL prospects, also including defensive back Christian Campbell, receiver/running back Nathan Cottrell and offensive lineman Jared Southers.

Pre-draft interest is no guarantee of being drafted, as teams can be extremely thorough in assembling draft boards. It may be especially so this year as teams are not traveling to visit players or bringing in prospects to their offices. But the volume of interest would seem promising.

Not having a physical could be a factor. Davis was not invited to the NFL draft combine, where players undergo physicals, and the shutdown of pre-draft travel precluded him from being able to make visits to NFL teams, where he also could have taken a physical. While Davis does not have any known physical issues, teams are often leery about spending draft picks on players that they haven’t examined medically.

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Since returning home from Tech following its March 11 pro day, the process-oriented Davis has settled into a comfortable routine. He gets up at 6:30 a.m., lifts weights in the basement and then goes to a nearby field for drills, conditioning and catching passes from a quarterback from his high school who is now playing at the Division II level (Davis said that “we’re trying to stay away from each other as much as we can”).

A 6:30 wakeup is actually sleeping in for Davis. At Tech, where the Jackets practiced in the morning, he got up at 4:45.

“This is a vacation for me,” he said.

In the afternoon, he watches various NFL offenses and tight ends (Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, San Francisco’s George Kittle and Minnesota’s Kyle Rudolph are favorites). He’s also taking calls from NFL scouts, tight-end coaches and front-office personnel, all eager to learn more about his personality, motivation and understanding of the game.

Sometimes, Bayley – the Davis family’s energetic boxer – makes her presence known during the interviews.

“She’s running around the house like crazy,” Davis said.

While Davis’ receiving numbers in his sole season at Tech – 17 receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown – weren’t much as Tech transitioned offenses and struggled in the passing game, he was an effective blocker in the run game and in pass protection. He was positioned across the field and contributed on special teams.

“One of the things that always comes up (in interviews with NFL teams) is they’ve seen the tape and they’ve seen how hard I play,” Davis said.

Davis also has the right size – 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds – and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds at Tech’s pro day, faster than all but one of the 17 tight ends who ran at the NFL draft combine. After his pro-day workout, three teams were led to set up follow-up visits with him.

It’s a certainty that Tech coaches have raved to scouts about Davis’ leadership, toughness and work ethic. Collins routinely praised Davis for the way he helped establish the team culture despite having arrived only last January as a grad transfer from Connecticut.

All that’s left for Davis to do is continue with his routine and wait for the draft, which starts next Thursday. There is a circle being closed at the Davis home. The basement where he lifted weights as he began his playing career is the same place where he’s keeping toned (on an updated weight rack) as the draft approaches. His home, too, is where he first began watching the NFL as a boy, amazed by the game he saw on television.

“From an early age, I fell in love with this game, and it’s so cool that I’m literally a week away from it,” he said. “It really is a dream come true.”