3. Akeem Davis-Gaither, OLB, Appalachian State
Appalachian State Mountaineers outside linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither has been a favorite of mine for quite a while. In fact, three months ago I included him in my 5 Potential Cleveland Browns Sleeper Picks article.
There’s honestly so much about this kid to love, so I’ll start with the very little downside he has. Measuring 6-foot-2 and only 215 pounds, his relatively small stature means it will be a necessity for him to put in a decent amount of time in the weight room.
While his size hasn’t affected his playmaking ability at the college level, Davis-Gaither was Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 and was also named First-Team All-Sun Belt honors and Fourth-Team All-American by Phil Steele. Davis-Gaither finished his time at Appalachian State with 258 tackles (28 for loss), 8 sacks, 17 pass breakups, one interception, two forced fumbles, and one blocked field goal.
Davis-Gaither helped Appalachian State break into FBS play like a wrecking ball, winning the Sun Belt Conference in every season he played (discounting 2015 were he appeared in only two games and was awarded a redshirt for the year). In three of those four seasons the Thomasville, NC native was either a first or second-team All-Sun Belt selection. This includes being Defensive Player of the Year in both his final two years.
Akeem Davis-Gaither is an everything player. He’s the type of gem NFL general managers salivate over in the dog days of scouting. He’ll be an instant impact on special teams, his blocked field goal sealed a 34-31 win over North Carolina in 2019. Most importantly, he’ll add much-needed depth to a weakened linebacker core. Available in the fourth round on nearly every draft board, Davis-Gaither would be a steal for the Browns front office.