A quiet and humble leader, Ashtyn Davis began his career at Cal as a hurdler on the track and field team before walking onto the Bears’ football team in 2015. While players like linebacker Evan Weaver often stole both the spotlight and the stat sheet for the Bears, their former teammate Davis quietly directed the secondary, helping transform the Cal defensive backs into one of the best units in the country. Flashing his ability at both safety and returner, Davis flourished in his final two seasons, earning All-Pac-12 honors in each of them. Now, he is penciled in to be the first former Cal player off the board, and will likely be the quickest of the bunch to become a full-time starter.
Davis has the build of a prototypical NFL free safety, standing at 6’1’’ and weighing in at just over 200 pounds. Paired with his blazing speed, he has the exact type of range that teams are looking for in a league that is becoming increasingly pass-heavy. Davis can patrol as a deep center fielder in single-high sets or in more traditional cover-2 or cover-3 looks, as he possesses the closing speed that defensive coaches crave. Just because he’s fast, though, doesn’t mean he can’t deliver a hit stick when the chance is given.
In the midst of rehabbing from a groin injury and minor surgery, Davis only competed in the bench press at the NFL combine with the intent of doing running drills at Cal’s Pro Day. That event, along with virtually everything else in sports, however, was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The cancellation may have been a blow to Davis’ draft stock — he was expected to be among the fastest defensive backs in this year’s class with a legitimate chance of running a sub-4.4 40-yard dash, but now, all scouts have to go off of when judging his speed is his in-game film and previous track and field results.
For now, one of the main knocks on Davis is his injury history. Although there has been nothing too extreme, the frequency of minor injury issues may cause some concern for teams, especially given the inability to watch him workout during the pandemic. Apart from that, some scouts downplay his effectiveness in the box or in run support, but neither of those would be his primary role in an ideal scheme.
As a walk-on, Davis got a late start in the Cal football program before being named a full-time starter in his final two seasons with the team. That can be seen as a blessing or a curse, though, as Davis may just be brushing the surface of his potential, albeit at the age of 23. Regardless of whether or not he gets a chance to compete for a starting role as a rookie, Davis has the chance to make an immediate impact as a kick returner, something he did often for the Bears.
Partly due to his lack of combine drills (and a lot due to the pandemic as a whole), Davis’ draft projections are all over the place. Since the beginning of April alone, the mystery man has been projected in high-profile mock drafts to go anywhere from the late-first round to dropping all the way to round four. Pro Football Focus, in a recent mock, had Davis going to the Miami Dolphins at pick 26 overall, reuniting with his college defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander. Most mock drafts, though, have Davis falling to the third round around the 75th-to-90th pick.
Because of how valued his physical traits and intangibles are to NFL teams, Cal fans should bet on Davis being taken earlier than many think — somewhere in either the second round or early third round is quite likely. After all, these unique circumstances have made projecting draft positions even more difficult than it normally is. Davis is easily the most pro-ready out of the other former Bear prospects, and it’s only a matter of time before he will get the chance to battle some of the NFL’s best quarterbacks every Sunday.