LAS VEGAS — When Jordan Davis realized it was Eagles general manager Howie Roseman calling his phone on Thursday night, he couldn’t help but feel excitement for his mom.
The team Shay Allen rooted for her entire life was trading up to take her son in the first round of NFL draft.
“I’m extremely stoked for her,” Davis told The Inquirer. “I know she’s going to enjoy it just as much as I do. I’m excited to see her excel and flourish in the new city.”
The Eagles coveted Davis, a massive 6-foot-6, 341-pound defensive tackle out of the University of Georgia, enough to trade up two spots in the first round to secure him before the Baltimore Ravens had a chance to take him 14th overall. They gave up one fourth-rounder (124th overall) and two fifth-rounders (Nos. 162 and 166) to do so.
The decision to add Davis to a rebuilding defensive front was underscored by a couple of subtle connections the Charlotte, N.C., native has with the team. Beyond his mom’s rooting interest, Davis also has a relationship with Eagles defensive line coach Tracy Rocker dating back to high school.
Rocker, then the D-line coach at Georgia, recruited Davis in 2016 before moving on to the University of Tennessee the following year. Even though Rocker never coached him, Davis said their personal relationship should help him transition into the NFL.
“It’s kind of like the stars aligned,” Davis said. “Tracy Rocker, he recruited me at Georgia and I know him personally, so that D-line transition is going to be very easy. At the end of the day, wherever I went, I knew my mom was going to be proud of me, but she’s going to be super proud of me going to the Eagles.”
Davis walked up to the draft stage, situated outside Caesars Forum in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, and did a small dance before greeting NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Did the experience of walking on the stage, shaking Goodell’s hand, and putting on his new team’s hat go as planned?
“I kind of rehearsed it in my room,” Davis said. “The walk was a little bit longer, you know, I only got but so far to walk in a hotel room, but I kind of planned it. I didn’t want to trip, the only thing that was going through my mind was, ‘Don’t trip on stage.’
“All the boxes were checked. The only thing is I didn’t expect all the media stuff.”
As one of the 21 prospects in attendance for the draft’s opening night, Davis’s media obligations for the day began a few hours before the draft with a red-carpet event located on the water of the Bellagio fountains.
As he began his walk onto the giant fixture placed on top of the water, Davis kissed the championship ring he earned last January when the Bulldogs beat Alabama behind a vaunted defense that Davis anchored.
He didn’t play a significant amount of snaps on a loaded Georgia defensive line, but he was still relatively productive as a disruptive interior force that was difficult to move in the run game. He finished his college career with 90 tackles, including 11.5 tackles for losses and seven sacks.
Although he wasn’t frequently on the field for obvious pass-rushing situations, the movement skills confirmed by his impressive athletic testing suggest he could eventually become an effective pass rusher. Davis ran a 4.78-second 40-yard dash, and his 123-inch broad jump was 99th percentile, according to mockdraftable.com.
The Eagles are betting his unique blend of size and athleticism will translate into quarterback pressures at the next level.
“He did what they asked him to do in their defense,” Eagles vice president of player personnel Andy Weidl said after the first round Thursday night. “He fit the bill. He made them strong in the middle of their defense, but you saw the lateral quickness, you saw the range. You saw the ability to get down the line of scrimmage and run down running backs and hawk down quarterbacks. We think he has it in his body, the explosion in his body.”
Davis will eventually need to affect third downs to justify the early selection, but the Eagles still have viable interior rushers for next year if he needs time. Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave, who both congratulated Davis on social media, figure to rotate with Davis when the team uses four down linemen, and Davis can play nose tackle when the Eagles are in odd fronts.
Davis could be viewed as the heir apparent to Cox’s spot after this season. The 31-year-old is on a one-year deal after the Eagles briefly released him in a salary-cap maneuver earlier this offseason.
For now, though, Davis said he’s looking forward to learning from the six-time Pro Bowler.
“He’s one of those guys you want to emulate and be like,” Davis said. “To be able to work alongside him and just learn everything as a rookie, I’m really excited.
“Rookie duties, I’m ready to carry helmets, shoulder pads — all that.”