2020 NFL Draft: 5 Potential Cleveland Browns sleeper picks
2. Akeem Davis-Gaither, OLB, Appalachian State
The Appalachian State Mountaineers have had quite a run since officially joining FBS play in 2014 via the Sun Belt Conference. After posting winning records in their first two seasons, the university from Boone, North Carolina began their reign of the Sun Belt, winning the conference each year since 2016. One of the staples of the Mountaineers is a fierce defense led by outside linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither.
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The Thomasville, NC product earned Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year in his senior season to add to being named First-Team All-Sun Belt honors and Fourth-Team All-American by Phil Steele. Davis-Gaither finishes his impressive career with 258 tackles (28 for loss), 8 sacks, 17 pass breakups, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 blocked field goal. In two seasons as a full-time starter, he posted back-to-back seasons of 100-plus tackles and 10-plis tackles for loss. Davis-Gaither was a part of only the 5th class in NCAA history to win 5 bowl games and 4 conference championship.
The only downside the draft stock of Akeem Davis-Gaither is his relatively small stature. Measuring 6-2 and only 215 pounds, he will have to add weight in the offseason to be an every-down linebacker in the NFL. Where his size fails him, Davis-Gaither’s athleticism and instincts serve him well.
At a minimum, he should be a force on special teams, if not competing for regular game-time on defense as a rookie. A good showing at the Reese’s Senior Bowl against solid competition could see Davis-Gaither rocket up the draft board.