Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Weight: 209 lbs.
2016: 96 REC, 1,500 YDS, 15.5 AVG, 19 TD
2015: 89 REC, 1,429 YDS, 16.1 AVG, 12 TD
2014: 78 REC, 1,408 YDS, 18.1 AVG, 15 TD
2013: 67 REC, 941 YDS, 14.0 AVG, 6 TD
With 5,278 yards receiving, Corey Davis is the most prolific wideout in NCAA Division I/FBS history. He's also second all-time with 52 touchdown catches and fourth with 331 receptions. Yet, Davis accomplished all of that while playing at Western Michigan, which is sure to create some skepticism.
The level of competition Davis faced in college isn't likely to bother the Eagles, who have enjoyed a great deal of success with small-school prospects over the past couple decades. Franchise quarterback Carson Wentz looks like a star in the making, just one year removed from North Dakota State. Brian Westbrook still holds the NCAA record for all-purpose yards, 15 years after the running back's name was called in the draft. Though he arrived in a trade and played only parts of two seasons for the Eagles, Terrell Owens may be the best example of all, coming from Chattanooga to become a Hall of Fame-caliber receiver in the NFL.
Just because some athletes have made the leap doesn't mean Davis can. Still, there's more than enough evidence that the size of the school and conference or level a prospect comes from isn't necessarily relevant.
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Davis dominated the competition in the Mid-American Conference from the moment he arrived, somehow only earning Offensive Player of the Year honors last season. Then again, film against visibly overmatched opponents can be misleading – just go back and watch Marcus Smith at Louisville, running around AAC offensive linemen like they weren't even there. Sure, Davis left defenders spinning with crisp routes and made the occasional contested catch, but dropping 150 yards and 3 touchdowns on Ball State every year doesn't prove much.
Here's what we know for sure. Davis possesses prototypical size and strength at the position. While there are no official times, he appears to have average speed for his size, at worst. The first-team All-American isn't afraid to go over the middle, and can either make a defender miss or break a tackle. Davis was the focal point of Western Michigan's offense, lining up all over the place, including outside the numbers and in the slot. He's a polished route-runner for college, and given the high volume of targets, doesn't drop many passes.
None of that should change in the NFL. Davis has the build, athleticism and versatility to play professionally, and – by all accounts – the work ethic to excel, too. There is little not to like.
Davis did have "minor" offseason surgery on his ankle, which is why we don't have any numbers from his pro day or NFL Scouting Combine. He wasn't able to participate. The Eagles had Davis into the NovaCare Complex for an official pre-draft visit, where they were no doubt able to check up on his recovery. Since he didn't miss any games as a result, it's probably no big deal.
Perhaps of greater concern is the fact that Davis didn't exactly leap off the tape when the Broncos were facing superior opponents. For example, in nine meetings with Big Ten opponents, the 22-year-old averaged 5.8 receptions and 77.9 yards per game with five total touchdowns. It's not like Davis wasn't a presence, and those teams no doubt were better equipped to focus on containing him. Still, the numbers suggest we're not talking about an unstoppable force here.
Of course, Owens wasn't dominant from a statistical sense at Chattanooga, not even against the competition at the program's level. It's a huge part of the reason for the stigma against the mid-majors and FCS schools – there's a lot more projecting involved.
The fact that Davis has the potential to be the first wide receiver taken in the 2017 NFL Draft says something. Mike Williams won a national championship at Clemson, and John Ross came from Washington to run the fastest 40-yard dash in the history of the NFL Scouting Combine. And here's Davis out of little, overlooked Western Michigan, quietly setting an NCAA record and rising up boards.
If guys like Owens, Westbrook and Wentz have taught us anything, maybe we should actually look at Davis more favorably rather than less for being in the conversation. Chances are, he'll continue to over-achieve as a pro as well.