2020 Raiders Draft Prospect Profile
Name: Akeem Davis-Gaither
School: Appalachian State University
Weight: 215 pounds
Few linebackers in the draft possess a more natural flow and nuance like Gaither. To put it another way, regardless of the play, Gaither does not waver in his approach. However, he will adjust smaller aspects of the overarching play. Furthermore, he displays equal aptitude in blanketing the slot, backs in the flats and tight ends down the seam. With a smooth backpedal, he control the receiver by mirror. Within those five yards, Gaither attempts to redirect.
In a word, effortless. Gaither gets up to full burst within three steps. When stopping the run, he takes an angle that many linebackers can’t. For instance, on sweeps and stretch plays, Gaither meets the ballcarrier a step before he takes the corner, a hair before the blockers arrive. This explosion carries to pass coverage and blitzing.
Due to his ability to cover and close, Gaither swarm tackles. Yet, despite weighing only 215 pounds, he shows excellent stopping power. Using a quick grasp and drive, Gaither secures the end of the play.
As mentioned, Gaither may not be the biggest linebacker. Yet, he will put his body into traffic, surf through the clutter to secure the stop. Showing no fear of large linemen locking on, Gaither adjusts his attack angles, that benefit his approach.
For the better part of a decade or more, the Raiders repeatedly failed to draft a coverage linebacker. Granted, some of the drafting decisions of previous administrations loomed large. Yet, for argument’s sake, focus on this current group. Teams salivate at the fact of seeing a Raiders linebacker dropping into coverage. Regardless of drop level, teams do not fear them. They know the slant, or tight end will continuously feast on that group. If the Raiders are smart, they’d clean out the linebacker group, sign a veteran and surround him with draftable talent.
Why Gaither? While he doesn’t fit Guenther’s penchant for bigger linebackers, he solves one of the defense’s most pressing needs. Gaither should not leave the field during a drive. He tackles well enough, with sufficient stopping power to affect the run. Yet, his value increases in the passing game. Gaither brings an uncanny feel for venturing away from the line of scrimmage. The Chiefs love throwing flats. The Raiders can’t defend them. Austin Ekeler looks like a six year headache in Los Angeles. The Raiders do not employ an answer. Gaither will meet the ball carrier for either a minimal gain or loss. More importantly, his speed could completely shut that route off completely, forcing the quarterback to hold the ball longer, making a sack possible.