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Raiders Draft 2023: Wide receiver Derius Davis

An electric return specialist Las Vegas needs to bolster special teams

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Texas Christian at Georgia
TCU wide receiver Derius Davis (11) may be small, but he’s got elite speed and is a ready made electric return specialist. The Las Vegas Raiders are in dire need of explosion on special teams.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

If the Las Vegas Raiders are sincere about their want to add more explosive players to the roster, then TCU wide receiver Derius Davis deserves some serious consideration.

The diminutive wide receiver may be sleight of frame, but what he offers as a field stretcher and electrifying return specialist is something the Silver & Black don’t have in the building currently.

This isn’t meant as a slight to veteran wide out/returner man DeAndre Carter, who the Raiders added via free agency. But with his 4.36 sprinter speed, shiftiness, and nose for the end zone, Davis is jolt-type NFL Draft prospect that adds a different dimension to a special teams unit starving for it.

Tale of the Tape: Derius Davis

  • School: TCU
  • Position: Wide receiver
  • Height: 5-foot-8
  • Weight: 165
  • 2022 Stats: 42 catches, 531 yards, 5 touchdowns; 28 kick returns, 572 yards; 18 punt returns, 268 yards, 2 touchdowns
  • Career Stats: 112 catches, 1,513 yards, 9 touchdowns; 52 kick returns, 1,145 yards, 1 touchdown; 44 punt returns, 658 yards, 5 touchdowns
NCAA Football: Kansas at Texas Christian
Derius Davis has the speed and vision to torch defenders at the pro level. TCU did a solid job of finding ways to get Davis the ball and if an NFL team does the same, they’ve got a weapon on their hands.
Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

Did I mention Davis is fast? TCU did well to harness and take full advantage of his speed by getting the ball in his hands as frequently as possible. Because in the open field, there weren’t many defenders who could catch up and take down Davis. He’s shown the ability to make plays in open space and in traffic, using his lack of size to get lost in the shuffle.

His route tree isn’t as well defined is it could’ve been during his collegiate career. Leaving the potential to add more to Davis’ plate on the offensive side instead of a gadget-type role. Davis’ size and shiftiness also merits strong considerations for slot duties on offense instead of on the perimeter or boundary.

Davis also has the requisite bravery to not only handle, but excel in punt return duties. As gunners and coverage units are bearing down on him, Davis tracks the ball well, gets it into his hands, and quickly makes a decision. His vision and speed give him the upper hand a lot of times as he’ll weave through and around the sea of humanity. His five career returns for touchdown speak to that as does his robust 15.0 average per return.

Davis’ area of opportunities always come back to his size. At 5-8 and 166 pounds, he can get bullied at the line of scrimmage by physical defensive backs and in the NFL, he’ll matchup with corner backs who are just as quick and fast but much more powerful in press coverage. Davis also has short arms and there will be questions on how he handles getting hit by NFL defenders. He also needs to refine his ability to sink, stop his routes, and get open against zone coverages. Davis knows his quickness and speed make him a nightmare man-to-man matchup, but he’ll meet strong zone defenses in the pros.

Because of that, projection-wise, the consensus slates Davis to go in the sixth or seventh rounds. His speed and production isn’t likely to have him go undrafted, but being used primarily as a gadget player likely isn’t going to have him go higher Day 3 of the draft, either. He’s was limited to screens and short passes at TCU — along with the occasional lob/pop pass — and needs refinement as a receiver.

But as a return specialist, there are few better than him in this draft class. The Raiders haven’t had an impact punt return who routinely makes house calls since Johnnie Lee Higgins’ outstanding 2008 campaign (three punt return touchdowns with a long of 93 yards).