a person who achieves great success when relatively young.
Corey Davis is the wide receiver wunderkind. To say that he has achieved great success at a relatively young age would be an understatement. No, Corey Davis has done things in his first two years at Western Michigan that few, if any, Football Bowl Series (FBS) receivers have accomplished in the last decade. With at least one more year until he can declare for the NFL Draft, it’s time to welcome Corey Davis to the conversation of best receivers in recent college football history.
If you’re late to the party, I established last spring that age-adjusted production matters in predicting future success of wide receiver prospects. So, when we talk about Corey Davis, who played the 2014 season at age 19, there’s a lot to be said for what he has accomplished in his time in Kalamazoo. Let’s take a look at three of the unbelievable feats of Corey Davis’ young career.
Corey Davis has dominated his team’s receiving yards
Based on my research, one of the most important on-field stats for a receiver is the percentage of receiving yards they account for relative to their passing offense. For the talented Mr. Davis, in both his age 18 and age 19 season, he has gone over 35 percent market share of Western Michigan’s receiving yards. For reference, only 26 FBS receivers since 2005 have accomplished that feat before their age-20 season. Corey Davis has done it twice, joining fellow Phenom, Marquess Wilson, as the only players to do so in that time frame. Check out the table below for a complete list of players to go over 35 percent market share of yards before their age 20 season. Note that a few FCS (“division 1AA” or lower) players are on this list and a few select players from before 2005.
|TRGNAME||SCHOOL||Year||SEAS Age||msYDS||RC Yds|
|SIDNEY RICE||South Carolina||2005||19.33||48.9||1143|
|ALBERT WILSON||Georgia State||2011||19.47||47.5||772|
|MICHAEL JENKINS||Ohio State||2001||19.54||42.5||836|
|COREY DAVIS||Western Michigan||2014||19.97||43.4||1408|
|COREY DAVIS||Western Michigan||2013||18.97||39.7||941|
|DANTE RIDGEWAY||Ball State||2003||19.7||39.4||1075|
|TY HILTON||Florida International||2008||19.13||38.7||1013|
|JASON HILL||Washington State||2004||19.86||38.0||1007|
|JACK TOMLINSON||Ball State||2010||18.8||37.0||484|
|DEVIER POSEY||Ohio State||2009||19.8||36.8||828|
|MARQUESS WILSON||Washington State||2011||19.29||35.9||1388|
|DAESEAN HAMILTON||Penn State||2014||19.81||35.8||848|
|PIERRE GARÇON||Mt. Union||2005||19.40||35.6||1196|
|DEANDRE BROWN||Southern Mississippi||2008||19.22||35.4||1117|
|HAKEEM NICKS||North Carolina||2007||19.96||35.3||958|
|MARQUESS WILSON||Washington State||2010||18.29||35.1||1006|
|BIG MIKE WILLIAMS||USC||2003||19.99||35.0||1314|
A quick look through this list would reveal a number of quality NFL receivers like Larry Fitzgerald, Julio Jones, Pierre Garçon, Keenan Allen, Hakeem Nicks and TY Hilton. Of the guys who never amounted to anything in the league, they typically had lower yardage totals (under 750) but had a high share due to their anemic passing offense. If you read my most precocious college receiver seasons of the decade article, this crew should look pretty familiar. Might I remind you that Corey’s 2013 season appears at #6 on that list and his 2014 will rank very highly once I make the update to include 2014 performances.
Corey Davis has dominated his team’s receiving touchdowns
More than just yardage, Davis has been largely responsible for Western Michigan’s aerial strikes over his first two seasons. Looking again at player performances before their age-20 season, Corey Davis has twice accounted for 50 percent or more of his team’s passing touchdowns. He is the only player of the past decade to accomplish this feat (minimum 30 targets).
|TRGNAME||SCHOOL||Year||SEAS Age||msTD||RC TD|
|SIDNEY RICE||South Carolina||2005||19.33||72.2||13|
|JASON HILL||Washington State||2004||19.86||60.0||12|
|COREY DAVIS||Western Michigan||2014||19.97||57.7||15|
|COREY DAVIS||Western Michigan||2013||18.97||54.5||6|
|DEANDRE BROWN||Southern Mississippi||2008||19.22||52.2||12|
|DEON BUTLER||Penn State||2005||19.99||50.0||9|
To be clear, I think market share of receiving yards is much more important, and the statistical models agree with me, but that doesn’t make this performance any less impressive. Corey Davis is the Broncos’ best touchdown threat and everyone knows it, but he is so talented that opponents can’t do anything about it.
Corey Davis has elite raw production
Probably the most amazing thing to me is that Corey Davis has accumulated so much raw production at such a young age. In fact, over the last decade, only Davis and Robert Woods have accounted for 2,000+ receiving yards and 20+ touchdowns before their age-20 season. Big Mike Williams from USC did it too, but he was from the 2002 & 2003 seasons, from which I have incomplete data. Click through the list to see all players who had 1,000+ yards before their age-20 season, noting that a large number of the best young pass-catchers in the NFL (and prospects, like Amari Cooper) are on this list. Oh and Corey’s brother, Titus Davis, is on this list too! How’s that for good genes?
|WR||Yds||TD||Last season under 20|
|BIG MIKE WILLIAMS||2579||30||2003|
For some more perspective on Davis’ dominance, consider that in 13 of his last 18 games played he has at least 90 receiving yards. Even more impressively, consider that Davis has caught at least one touchdown in 14 of his last 17 games. That kind of touchdown dominance reminds me of when Larry Fitzgerald scored a TD in 18 of his last 20 college games, or when Dez Bryant caught 25 of Oklahoma State’s 33 touchdowns over the last 17 games of his career. All of them are RIDICULOUS!
Hopefully you caught Davis’ 8-176-3 outburst at the Potato Bowl. If not, there aren’t many YouTube breakdowns of Davis, but check him out here, as an 18 year old in his first collegiate game, going up against Michigan State and eventual first-round pick Darqueze Dennard, who is 3+ years older than Davis. He ended up with 8-96-1 that game, which was the single best receiving performance against the 2013-14 Rose Bowl champs.
Regardless of what Corey Davis’ NFL future holds, the bottom line is that what he has accomplished in two years is virtually unprecedented. Even when these smaller-school prodigies do come along, we usually don’t catch them until after the fact. Knowing about Davis this early means it will be a treat to watch him evolve in 2015 and I look forward to seeing him face off against Michigan State and Ohio State in non-conference games.