The departure of DeAndre Carter meant the Chargers were likely to select a returner with one of their selections in the 2023 draft. This speculation came to fruition when Tom Telesco selected Quentin Johnston’s TCU teammate, fellow wide receiver Derius Davis.
Davis projects to be more of a gadget-player on the offensive side of the ball. His straight-line speed is elite, exploding out his ten-yard split and managing a 4.36 40 yard dash. Where it gets a little confusing is how slow he tested in his agility drills, with a 4.38 shuttle and 7.23 three-cone, earning him a “poor” composite agility grade per RAS.
However, there is certainly a role for his straight-line speed in an offense. Davis actually clocked the second-highest speed measured across the 2022 CFB season at 22.7 MPH.
2022 Top 10 Fastest CFB Players— Reel Analytics (@RAanalytics) December 29, 2022
Monaray Baldwin 22.8 mph
Derius Davis 22.7 mph
Keaton Mitchell 22.6 mph
Noah Wittingham 22.6 mph
Quinshon Judkins 22.5 mph
Jahmyr Gibbs 22.3 mph
Deuce Vaughn 21.9 mph
Mike Wright 21.9 mph
Bijan Robinson 21.6 mph
Damon Bankston 21.6 mph#ReelSpeed pic.twitter.com/9f8XXHRKFL
While his agility grades look concerning on paper, Davis looks to have great game speed, regularly identifying holes in kick coverages and utilizing his quick acceleration to exploit them.
Derius Davis is the best punt returner in this draft and a viable deep threat. Runs like he has a jet pack attached to his back.— Steve Helwick (@s_helwick) April 29, 2023
Chargers got some serious speed. (And another TCU receiver alongside Quentin Johnston!) pic.twitter.com/UWyPHSsiUM
When browsing some of his highlights, you have to wonder how held back Davis was by quarterback Max Duggan. Duggan doesn’t have the effortless arm strength Justin Herbert possesses. In the National Championship, TCU used Johnston as a decoy to free up Davis, but Duggan’s severely underthrown pass prevented Davis from walking this one into the end zone. You can see Davis being a player than benefits from the attention Allen, Williams, and Johnston will receive and who Moore will try to free-up in the deep parts of the field. Jalen Guyton and Tyron Johnson’s production in 2020 immediately comes to mind as how Herbert can unleash the most of a role-playing speed threat such as Davis.
Derius Davis had him lost pic.twitter.com/vBcrWhsSff— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) January 10, 2023
While Quentin Johnston is criticized for disappearing in the Championship Game, Derius was the only TCU player to record more than two catches, finishing the day with a five catch, 101 yard line and adding another 138 yards in kick returns. As noted above, this line would only have improved with better quarterback play.
Arjun Menon provided some interesting statistics covering how Davis ranked in the 95th percentile in yards after catch per reception, dating back to 2018. It should come with context though, as many of his yards after catch seem to come from short passes schemed to let Davis outrun the defense, as opposed to creating misses.
Derius Davis: 82nd percentile in forced missed tackles among WRs, 95th percentile in YAC/reception among WRs going back to 2018. Chargers finally getting guys that can do stuff after the catch (ironically double dipping from the same school to do so)— Arjun Menon (@arjunmenon100) April 29, 2023
If you look at Derius Davis and hope that he can be a similar player as Tyreek Hill, you’ll likely be disappointed. Davis doesn’t have the deceleration and change of direction to shake defenders out of their cleats. He does boast rare straight line speed and acceleration that Kellen Moore can scheme opportunities for, and decent enough hands and deep ball ability to let Herbert fire his howitzer a couple times a game.
The biggest role and impact he assumes for the Chargers is a shot at being their best kick returner in recent memory. He looks to have similar vision and patience as Andre Roberts, but with a jet-fuel injection when he sees a hole. Staley and Moore likely will benefit from a surplus of the “invisible yards” a great returner can provide to an offense.
Welcome to the Los Angeles Chargers, Derius Davis!