The 49ers went defensive line in the 2022 NFL Draft, selecting raw defensive tackle Kalia Davis in the sixth round. Niner Noise gives a quick scouting report.
Every year, the San Francisco 49ers have drafted under Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, they’ve spent a late-round pick on an interior defensive presence, hoping to get a stout nose tackle.
It’s panned out spectacularly with D.J. Jones but sometimes hasn’t panned out at all. Now they go back at it again with Kalia Davis, a defensive tackle from UCF with whom, according to Niners Nation, they hosted on an official draft visit.
Kalia Davis’s strengths 49ers will like
Davis is listed at 6-foot-1 and a shade above 300 pounds, the same type of build Jones had. NFL.com’s scouting report by Lance Zierlein noted his explosive ability and quick get-off, while Bleacher Report’s scouting report highlighted his quickness and agility, as well as his athletic potential.
Both reports come to the same conclusion: This is a player with a lot of potential packed away in his body because of his uncanny athleticism.
As a former linebacker, Davis has solid instincts and nimbleness perhaps less accustomed for a player who would be within the trenches. Without overdoing the comparison too much, seeing his talents come together looks much like Jones’s own quick-burst ability to completely destroy a play because he was just too fast.
Kalia Davis’s weaknesses 49ers must correct
The first major weakness, through no fault of his own, is experience. Davis redshirted his freshman year, opted out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19, and then tore his ACL in the 2021 season.
For a team that has put a premium on availability, Davis’ injury history is not great, nor is his lack of experience. His production is also lacking, relatively speaking.
And for all the benefits of his potentially explosive athleticism, his relatively smaller frame allows him to get bullied at the line at times. Adding that to his lack of polish when attempting any moves or trying to control the line, you see why despite this athleticism, he was projected to go sometime mid-to-late Day 3.
There is an outline of a quality NFL nose tackle, but that’s not the player the Niners drafted. A lot of work will be necessary for him to get the skill necessary to utilize his athletic gifts.
How it impacts 49ers depth chart
The 49ers frequently overstock on defensive linemen, choosing to deal with the excess rather than the lack of depth.
Davis will slot in to compete for a roster spot along with Kevin Givens, Maurice Hurst, and other depth options on the roster. There is a hole on the defensive line following Jones’ departure, one San Francisco hopes Javon Kinlaw will be able to fill.
But that position, nose tackle, is the one to expect Davis to be in the mix for, even though it’ll be unlikely he sees much playing time during the regular season. This is not like the 49ers’ selection of EDGE Drake Jackson, who will likely get meaningful snaps this season.
Davis is an upside play in the sixth round, a unique defensive tackle who has the athletic ability to be a disruptor in a different way for San Francisco. It’s a belief in the 49ers coaching staff, especially esteemed defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, that prompted this selection.
In the late rounds, this is the type of player to select: someone whom your coaching staff can work with and potentially make into a valuable contributor.