The New York Giants have been looking for a long-term answer at free safety for a decade. Ever since Kenny Phillips noticed knee swelling on the plane flight back from playing the Dallas Cowboys in week 2 of 2009, the position has been unsettled at best.
It isn’t that the Giants haven’t tried to fill the hole at safety, either. They signed Antrel Rolle in free agency but injuries forced him to play elsewhere on the defense. Stevie Brown‘s time with the Giants ended with a torn ACL after a phenomenal 8-interception season. Will Hill was excellent, but he smoked his way out of the League. Andrew Adams was a steady, dependable presence but was released in favor of Curtis Riley (who was just bad). Antoine Bethea is clearly past his prime and doesn’t have the range to be a safety anymore. The Giants need to find a long-term answer for the last line of their defense.
Cal safety Ashtyn Davis — a former walk-on and track star — is smart, athletic, disciplined, and versatile. He is also flying under the radar as he recovers from a minor groin injury which required season-ending surgery. Could he be the answer the Giants have been looking for?
Prospect: Ashtyn Davis, S, Cal
Games Watched: vs. North Carolina (2018), vs. USC (2018), vs. Washington (2019), vs. Ole Miss (2019)
Red Flags: groin (2019)
Games Played (starts): 48 (33 starts)
Tackles For a loss: 2
Forced Fumbles: 2
Passes Defensed: 12
Games Played (starts): 11 (11 starts)
Tackles For a loss: 1
Forced Fumbles: 1
Interceptions (passes defensed): 2 (4 passes defensed)
Best: Versatility, discipline, closing burst, football IQ, tackling
Worst: hip fluidity
Projection: A starting safety or top nickel player in a blitz-heavy defense.
Cal safety Ashtyn Davis is a versatile safety prospect with a good blend of size and athleticism for the position. Davis lined up in a variety of alignments and coverage schemes for Cal’s defense, including both man and zone coverage schemes, as a deep safety, a box player, and as a slot defender. Davis has a very good football IQ and is frequently communicating before the snap. Likewise, he was frequently used to disguise coverages and blitzes, rotating from his disguise to the true coverage just before the snap. Davis shows good range and awareness in zone coverage, picking up and passing off receivers well while reading the quarterback’s eyes. As a free safety he does a good job of keeping the play in front of him and almost always takes efficient angles to the ball.
He also shows some ability to cover tight ends and runningbacks down the field in man coverage.
Davis is quick to diagnose the offensive play, reading run or pass well and wastes no time in coming downhill to defend the run. He is a very disciplined run defender, always respecting his gap assignments and rarely freelancing. While that limits his production, there are multiple instances of Davis forcing plays back to his teammates and preventing explosive plays from the offense. He is also a sound tackler, routinely wrapping up and driving through the ball carrier to limit yards after contact instead of attempting the big hit with a shoulder check.
Davis has good size overall but has short arms, which show up in his pass coverage, particularly when making plays on the ball. They limit his ability to play through receivers and could lead to some pass interference calls at the NFL level. He also shows some tightness in the hips when forced to unlock, flip, and run with offensive players. Davis is also a track star at the collegiate level, but that hint of hip tightness can lead to him being outrun in certain situations.
Overall Grade: 6.4 - Possesses the traits to be a dependable starter within his first couple seasons. Should be an important contributor for any team that drafts him. [Grading Scale]
Ashtyn Davis projects to be either a starting safety or an important role player as a “big nickel” at the NFL level. Davis is a smart, disciplined, and sound safety who has experience in a variety of roles and coverage schemes at the collegiate level.
Davis is at his best in zone coverage, where he is able to use his eyes, awareness, and football IQ to read the offense. He is capable of playing centerfield as a free safety in a Cover 1 defense, as well as playing Davis in a deep half (Cover 2) or deep third (Cover 3). He is frequently used close to the line of scrimmage as a box player and slot defender, but doesn’t show the hip fluidity to routinely match up with athletic offensive players in man coverage.
Davis has a very good football IQ and was routinely used to help disguise Cal’s coverages. He does a very good job of disguising his intentions during the pre-snap phase and timing his rotation to just before the ball is snapped. He is also able to effectively use his quick trigger and athleticism as a blitzer near the line of scrimmage.
Davis is a disciplined run defender who will look to stop the ball carrier without risking a big play. He is quick to diagnose run plays and wastes no time on indecision before triggering downhill. Davis is also a good tackler for a college defensive back, consistently wrapping up and driving through ball carriers rather than trying to blow them up for a highlight reel hit.