Tyeler Davison wasn’t known as Tyeler Davison during his time at Fresno State.
His teammates called him “Rhino.” And after watching some of his game tape from last season, the moniker is fitting. Davison was a consistent, disruptive force in the middle of the Bulldogs defensive line, which is exactly what you expect from a guy with a nickname like that.
There might be some dispute in New Orleans over the proper owner of the nickname since Akiem Hicks has been dubbed “Rhino” by defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, but even if Davison has to simply go by “Tyeler” moving forward, the Saints will be happy to take the qualities that led to their fifth-round pick earning the nickname in college.
Davison was almost too much for the Mountain West Conference to deal with last season. One of the knocks in many predraft scouting profiles was that he would be unable to play in a three-man front, which could be a problem for a New Orleans defense that operates out of a 3-4 base defense. The good news is that this doesn’t appear to be true.
In almost comical fashion, on one of the early plays reviewed for this article, Davison, who was lined up as nose tackle, answered that call by grabbing onto a Boise State center, tossing him to the side and going in pursuit of the quarterback. Any doubts were alleviated.
This was a consistent theme. Davison routinely generated pressure on the quarterback in the four games reviewed for this study, and even when he didn’t, he had no issues manning his responsibilities while lined up at nose tackle. In this spot, he’s asked to line up directly over the center and be responsible for the gaps on either side of him.
What this means is that it’s his job to eat up the center and one of the guards. He had no issues doing his job. Whether he can do this in the NFL remains to be seen, but his game film does not lend credence to the idea that he is incapable of serving in this capacity.
Davison also appears to have traits that could serve him well in a four-man front. Generating inside pressure was an issue the Saints struggled with last season. If Davison’s traits translate to the NFL, he could factor into solving this issue.
Thanks in part to a background in wrestling, the 6-foot-2, 316-pounder has very good hands, understands leverage and possesses a solid mix of pass-rushing moves that he varies throughout games. Paired with a quick first step, he often caused problems for the offensive line. While one might have liked to see more productivity over the various games viewed, one of the things holding him back was that he was routinely double- and triple-teamed.
And there were plenty of instances when he split those double teams to get after the quarterback. One of his most appealing traits is that he is disruptive even when he isn’t producing counting stats, which helps create opportunities for others.
Davison also is a strong run defender. He can take on and shed blocks to bring down runners. That should be another trait appealing to a team that far too often struggled to contain running backs.
Starting out, Davison might be a rotational player. He has a lot of plus traits but could need some time to put it all together. While there are times he locates the football well, there were a few instances when he appeared to have his eyes down and missed out on the opportunity to make a play. This showed up a few times against option plays when he was late to diagnose and attempted to recover.
While he’s quick and had a good three-cone time at the combine, there also were some moments when he appeared to struggle when changing direction, though it wasn’t consistent enough to be a major concern.
The bottom line is that the Saints picked up a lot of talent and positive traits in Davison. He might not show up and be a three-down player out of the gate, but he should be able to help in some capacity. He also could benefit from some coaching and could need some time to adjust to the talent and speed of the NFL game.
But if he develops — and builds on the talent he already possesses — Davison could become a very good NFL player.
One-minute scouting report: DT Tyeler Davison
So far, so good
Quick draw: Davison has a very quick initial burst that often caused problems for offensive linemen.
Eat ’em up: Playing nose tackle, Davison showed a proficiency for eating up multiple blockers, which opens things up for teammates.
Those hands: Davison knows how to use his hands to get off blocks and get to the quarterback.
Vision: There were some moments when Davison lost track of the ball, which left him exposed in the running game.
Fight: While it isn’t necessarily a problem, there were times when Davison tried to slip through blocks instead of running guys over.
Step it up: Will he need time to translate to the NFL after playing weak competition in college?