Washington filled an immediate need by using the 19th pick on Kentucky’s Jamin Davis, who could be the next standout linebacker drafted by Ron Rivera.
Davis wasn't even a starter going into his junior season and impressed Washington's brass by making 102 tackles in 10 games. Now, he follows in the footsteps of Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson, a couple of Rivera's first-round picks during his time with Carolina.
“He’s a very smart, intelligent, young man — plays the game at the right tempo," Rivera said Thursday night. “He has position flex: He can play all of our linebacking positions. He’s got that kind of athletic ability. He’s what you look for in a football player."
Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio each played linebacker before going into coaching. That's a dream situation for Davis, who has plenty of potential and will be counted on to contribute right away despite limited playing time in college.
“Being able to learn from guys like that should help my game grow a lot and just be ready to take this thing to the next level,” Davis said.
Davis opted out of Kentucky's bowl game and made a somewhat surprising decision to turn pro. He called it surreal but not weird to make such a quick ascent up the depth chart and draft boards to become a first-round pick.
“I always just stayed the course and trusted the process,” Davis said. "Now that everything’s happened the way it is, I’m just ready to show the world who I am.”
He did that on film last season with three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown against Tennessee.
“The production really stood out in the run game and in the pass game,” general manager Martin Mayhew said. “This guy was around the ball. This guy was active. He was showing up around the ball and making plays.”
With a void at linebacker after starter Kevin Pierre-Louis, Washington opted for Davis over Notre Dame's Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who fell out of the first round. Davis' ability to play all three linebacker positions factored into that decision.
“He sticks out on tape,” Rivera. "Just the fact he’s a good football player really gets your attention."
Washington resisted the temptation to trade up for one of the top five quarterbacks. It cost Chicago a 2022 first-round pick to move up several spots for Ohio State's Justin Fields, a price Washington wasn't willing to pay.
“Who would you be willing to give up certain things for?” was a question asked in Washington's draft room Thursday night. Turned out to be no one.
“There were really only a couple guys that we felt were worthy of us giving up a lot,” Rivera said.
Washington could circle back to a quarterback on Friday night, with a pick in the second round and two in the third. But with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, Rivera favorite Kyle Allen and playoff surprise Taylor Heinicke already on the roster, there's less urgency.
“We’ve got some excellent quarterbacks on our roster right now,” Mayhew said. “We’ve got some talented quaterbacks here already, but there are some on the board, as well.”
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