The 49ers made many selections on Day 3 of the 2022 NFL Draft. The one who has the best chance to make the roster this fall is defensive tackle Kalia Davis.
The San Francisco 49ers had more picks on day three of the 2022 NFL Draft than days one and two combined. Day-three picks usually are often boom-or-bust guys, hidden gems who either disappear unnoticed or turn into quality players. Sometimes you draft a tight end like George Kittle on day three, other times you draft… well, you draft someone whose name you can’t recall, which proves the point.
Out of the Niners’ 2022 day-three picks, the name who has the best chance to be known is Kalia Davis, a defensive tackle out of the University of Central Florida whom the Niners drafted in the sixth round.
Davis, measuring 6-foot-1 and 302 pounds, was a former linebacker before moving to the defensive line his second season playing at UCF. Although he bulked up to switch positions, he can still move with the quickness of a linebacker when needed.
In his first season as a D-lineman, Davis recorded three sacks and eight tackles for loss, both of which are more than another Davis — Jordan Davis, seen as one of the best defensive tackles in this draft — recorded last season.
49ers got a sleeper in Kalia Davis
Dane Brugler of The Athletic had Kalia Davis ranked as his 10th best D-line prospect in his 2022 NFL Draft Guide, for what it’s worth.
Brugler gave Davis a fourth- or a fifth-round grade, and San Francisco was able to take him in the sixth. Davis is certainly a raw prospect, which is likely behind his fall to the sixth in the draft. Because of his position switch during his college career, he is inexperienced in his current position.
Davis has only played one full season at defensive tackle, which was his first season at the position in 2019. In 2020, he opted out of the season because of Covid-19, and then in 2021, he tore his ACL, which may give Niners fans flashbacks to the Trent Baalke era.
Nevertheless, Davis is dripping with raw potential, and the 49ers are the perfect team to help him develop it.
49ers can maximize Kalia Davis’ pure potential
There may not be a better defensive line coaching staff than that of the Niners, led by defensive line coach Kris Kocurek.
Kocurek and his staff have consistently coached San Francisco’s D-line to produce well beyond what anyone would have thought possible. Year after year, the 49ers have taken D-line players who have failed to produce on other teams, coached them up and led them to career highs, and then sent them off to other teams where they fail to produce as much as they did in San Francisco.
Perhaps no player better exemplifies this than defensive end Kerry Hyder, who led the Niners in sacks in 2020, then played the 2021 season with the Seattle Seahawks where he was significantly worse, before returning to San Francisco this offseason. The 49ers’ D-line coaching staff is perfect for coaching up a raw, athletic, high-potential prospect like Davis.
In addition to Davis’ raw potential, and the Niners coaching staff, the final reason Davis is a safe bet to make the roster is that San Francisco has a huge need at his position, defensive tackle. Currently, the 49ers only have three A-gap defensive tackles on the roster: Javon Kinlaw, Hassan Ridgeway, and Chris Slayton.
Kinlaw, a 2020 first-round pick and supposed heir to now-Indianapolis Colts lineman DeForest Buckner, has yet to play a full season due to a lingering knee injury. The player who helped make up for Kinlaw’s absence, D.J. Jones, filled in spectacularly last season and before but is now with the Denver Broncos.
General manager John Lynch has already said Davis is “a guy we see a lot of D.J. Jones in.”
It’s clear the Niners see Davis as a player who can develop into a key piece of their defensive line, and someday, hopefully, produce on a similar level to Jones. With Kinlaw’s injury history and murky future coming off of knee surgery, Davis may be given a significant opportunity with San Francisco.
Although, he will need to recover from his own knee injury first.
Regardless, defensive tackle is a position the 49ers need depth at, so Davis has a clear path to playing time when he is healthy. Because of his promise at the position, the Niners’ D-line coaching staff’s proven history of getting the best out of their players, and the lack of depth ahead of him at defensive tackle, Davis has the best chance out of San Francisco’s day-three picks to make the 53-man roster and produce in the years to come.