OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Soon after the NFL draft ended, all of the buzz surrounding the Baltimore Ravens was about wide receiver Breshad Perriman and tight end Maxx Williams.
Both were labeled immediate playmakers, and both were listed as candidates for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Now, 10 days before the season opener, the only Ravens rookie who has a shot at starting in Week 1 is defensive tackle Carl Davis.
With Perriman sidelined and Williams banged up, Davis has gone from an overlooked third-round pick to Baltimore's top rookie this summer. He's expected to play the entire game in Thursday's preseason finale, and he could line up with the starting defense at the Denver Broncos on Sept. 13 if Timmy Jernigan hasn't healed from a right knee injury.
For someone who felt snubbed in this year's draft, this emergence has been vindication after falling to the No. 90 overall selection.
"I still feel a certain way about where I fell, but right now, I look at it as an opportunity," Davis said. "What an opportunity just to be able to prove myself. I’m not saying it’s me, but some people, if they get picked first round, they might get complacent. It’s kind of a chip on my shoulder to keep on going.”
His athleticism, football IQ and strong performance at the Senior Bowl made him a potential pick at the end of the first round. But his lack of pass rush and questions about his motor caused him to slip.
The Ravens saw Davis as a great value pick, and they believed he could make an immediate impact if he could get stronger. The first thing coach John Harbaugh told Davis was that he needed to get his forearms bigger so he could hold his own up front.
"In Iowa, they do a great job of developing players -- so he was about as far along as you can be as a college player in a lot of ways -- but he’s still young and physically young even for a big man," Harbaugh said. "[He is] just understanding the game [from a] young [perspective]. [Defensive line coach] Clarence [Brooks] has done a great job with him, and he has, really, put himself into position where he’s ready to compete at this level and play very well.”
Through three preseason games, Davis is the Ravens' top-rated defensive player, according to Pro Football Focus. He's also gotten plenty of work with the first-team defense because Jernigan was sidelined for the preseason opener with a foot injury and left the third preseason game early with a knee injury. Davis often plays nose tackle, and Brandon Williams shifts to Jernigan's defensive tackle spot.
Davis has a chance of becoming the latest defensive lineman developed by the Ravens, joining Haloti Ngata, Arthur Jones, Williams and Jernigan.
"I already knew about great defensive front since the Baltimore Ravens have been here," Davis said. "It's kind of tough to keep setting the bar high and be another guy to play along those names."