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Breaking Down TE Zach Davidson

A closer look at the Vikings 5th round TE selection

The Vikings selected TE Zach Davidson out of Central Missouri with the 168th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Davidson was ranked 258th overall on The Athletic’s consensus big board, as the 13th ranked tight end.

Traits

Davidson has excellent athletic traits for a tight-end, but could use to add some weight and strength to his relatively lanky frame.

College Grades and Stats

As a D-II tight end from Central Missouri, there’s not a lot on Zach Davidson. No PFF profile, not even listed in College Football Reference.

Davidson became the premier tight-end in D-II football at Central Missouri in 2019, earning first-team All-American D-II honors, but didn’t play in 2020 due to Covid-19 cancellations. As a junior in 2019, he ranked seventh in D2 by averaging 22.4 yards per reception and tied for seventh with 15 touchdowns among his 40 receptions (894 yards) in 13 games (12 starts).

Davidson is also a capable punter, and could serve as a backup in that capacity if needed.

Scouting Reports

Gangly and ungainly, Davidson is an enigma as a one-year wonder with mega production seemingly coming from nowhere. He’s a towering figure with slender body composition, offering a desired combination of speed and athleticism to work all three levels of the field with a natural advantage in the catch-radius department. While he has the tools to become a better route runner, he is in the developmental stage currently. The biggest concern is his lack of lower-body mass and lack of functional strength to offer up at least decent wall-off potential as an H-tight end or big slot. His potential as a pass catcher and his roster value as a backup punter could play into his chance of making the back-end of a roster or a practice squad. - Lance Zierlein

Zach Davidson aligned at tight end for Central Missouri. He has also aligned detached and even in the backfield as an H-back. He is a good proactive athlete, as evidenced in his agility and RAC ability with the ball in his hands. He is a little raw as a route-runner and could improve in the nuances of the position. He struggles as a run blocker and could afford to add more mass to his frame. However, he has good long speed and an outstanding catch radius. He also has second positional value as a punter.

Hands: He has good hands for the position. He also extends in contested catch situations. He has an outstanding catch radius, which makes him a nightmare matchup against smaller defenders.

Route Running: This is an area that needs improvement. He has run past most defenders with pure speed. However, to take his game to the next level, he will need to improve as a route-runner.

Versatility: He is athletic enough to align in multiple places. He can align detached and run routes from that position. He has also aligned as an H-back in the backfield where he has blocked, ran routes, and even taken handoffs.

Competitive Toughness: He needs to improve his competitive toughness overall. This is demonstrated in his ability as a run blocker. He does show the willingness to compete in contested catch situations, however.

Ball Skills: He demonstrates good ball skills. He tracks it well when it’s in the air. He has also shown the ability to come down with tough, contested catches.

Blocking Skills: This is an area that really needs improvement. He is light at the point of attack and could afford to be stronger and tougher. Adding mass to his frame will help in this regard.

Football IQ: He demonstrates adequate football IQ. He could improve his consistency at sitting in zones over the middle and finding holes. At times he will run into coverage without adjusting his route.

Run After Catch: He has good RAC ability. He has good long speed which helps him run away from defenders. He is a threat to take it the distance if he has space to run.

Pass Protection: Pass protection is an area where he needs to improve. Adding mass to his frame and getting stronger will help in this regard. He does show a willingness to stick his face in there, which means he could improve in this aspect with pro coaching.

Big-Play Ability: He has outstanding big-play ability. He is a threat to score whenever he has the ball. He has good long speed and is a threat to outrun defenders. - Drae Harris, The Draft Network

Positives: Outstanding small school tight end prospect with the ability to play at the next level. Fluid releasing off the line of scrimmage, tracks the pass in the air, and displays focus as well as concentration. Times his receptions, gets vertical in a crowd, and extends to snatch the ball from the air.

Displays good route discipline and eye/hand coordination and makes the difficult catch in contorted positions. Possesses soft hands and works to pick up yardage after the catch. Stays square as a blocker, gets leverage at the point of attack, and blocks with strength.

Negatives: Lacks a second gear and doesn’t stretch the seam. Has a thin build and must physically fill out.

Analysis: Davidson was a terrific small school tight end who is reliable as both a pass catcher and a blocker. He lacks elite athleticism but comes with the size, growth potential, and upside to develop into a second tight end in the NFL.

Davidson’s size and athletic profile make him an intriguing tight end prospect in this 2021 NFL Draft class. Due to his relative inexperience at the position, he will likely be viewed as a developmental prospect. However, his impressive productivity in college should mean that he makes an early impression on an NFL team in training camp. Although he is considered a tight end prospect, he still works on his punting technique, representing value. - Tony Pauline, Pro Football Network

In order to transcend the level of competition, especially on the Division II level, serious NFL prospects have to consistently dominate the competition level. That is something that was littered throughout Central Missouri tight end Zach Davidson’s film, to the tune of 894 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns on just 40 receptions (22.4 YARDS PER CATCH!). To couple with his production, Davidson boasts a next level frame that still has a ton of room for future physical development. Davidson uses his god given length to his full advantage, out-leveraing defensive backs working down the seam and in winning in contested catch situations. Despite limited impact on the offensive side of the football going back to Webb City High School, Davidson has developed into one of the more intriguing seam busters regardless of level. He has really nice movement skills, easily winning vertically when working against man coverage. Davidson uses his long strides to eat up turf and accelerate past less athletic second and third level defenders. As a move piece-redzone weapon, there is some clear projection with Davidson as he continues to fill out his frame. To add in an additional layer, Davidson is also an accomplished punter for the Mules that could offer some roster flexibility in a pinch. He is currently much more wide receiver than traditional tight end, boasting a very thin lower half that lacks power to work with his efficiency as a run blocker. Davidson has a high cut frame that can affect his ability to maintain low pads that adds to his difficulties working in the run game. He does show adequate effort to compete, especially reaching the front side on outside zones and sweeps but currently is undermanned to consistently win at the point of attack. Without a final season in 2020, Davidson will be resting on the merits of “upside”. In the correct situation, Davidson offers some outstanding upside as a developmental move piece, giving him a shot Late on Day Three or as a priority free agent. - NFL Draft Bible

College Film

Highlights

Bottom Line

Davidson is a classic traits-based project at tight-end. He’ll need to add some size and bulk, which his nearly 6’7” frame can surely accommodate, and develop his technique across the board. He shows some natural ability, and if he is able to develop, could become a legit receiving and red-zone threat at tight-end, and hopefully a good blocker too.

In the meantime, he’ll need to show he can play well on special teams if he is to earn a roster spot.

Poll

Will Zach Davidson earn a roster spot after the final cut?

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    Yes
    (498 votes)
  • 37%
    No
    (297 votes)
795 votes total Vote Now