The 2017 Cotton Bowl represented a chance for the previously-undefeated, eighth-ranked and MAC champion Western Michigan Broncos to garner some further respect for their program. It also presented an opportunity for arguably their most talented player, senior wide receiver Corey Davis, to showcase his talents against a Big 10 defense and up his stock for the 2017 NFL Draft.
It isn’t that Davis has gone unnoticed to this point, however. Davis had a real chance of being drafted in 2016 as a junior, but Stephen Hawkins of the Associated Press reports that he returned to Western Michigan for his senior season to fulfill some personal goals and team goals.
Among those personal goals were getting more aggressive in going after jump balls, and the team goals included the results that the Broncos have produced this season. A win in the Cotton Bowl would only further that success.
Davis’ Growing Résumé
Staying for his senior season has reaped personal rewards for Davis as well. He now holds the FBS all-time record for career receiving yards and was named an All-American, becoming the first Bronco to earn that honor. The tandem of Davis and Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell need only to hook up for one touchdown during the Cotton Bowl to break the FBS record for touchdowns scored by a QB-WR tandem. Davis was a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award and was named the MAC Offensive Player of the Year this season. He will finish his career as the only receiver in the history of FBS with over 300 catches, 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns. Because of all this success, he will look to become the first wide receiver from the MAC since Randy Moss – and just the second ever – taken in the first round of the NFL Draft in April 2017.
That’s a likely scenario providing that Davis doesn’t get hurt in the Cotton Bowl. Nick Buckley of the Battle Creek Enquirer reported that Davis has taken out an insurance policy in case he does get hurt, and with that confidence Davis plans to fully participate in the Cotton Bowl despite the risk.
Davis’ Draft Prospects
If Davis should maintain his health and perform up to his potential in workouts held between now and the draft, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell could be calling his name quickly on a Thursday night in April. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. thinks that he will be the first wide receiver taken in the draft (paywall). Lance Zeirlein of NFL.com lists teams with needs at the wide receiver position as the Tennessee Titans (picking fifth and 18th overall), the San Diego Chargers (seventh overall), the Buffalo Bills (10th overall), the Philadelphia Eagles (picking either 14th or 15th overall), the Baltimore Ravens (16th overall) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (19th overall). Zeirlein also states that he believes that the Los Angeles Rams have a need at wide receiver, although Los Angeles is currently without a first-round pick and would likely have to trade up to get Davis.
USA Today’s Draftwire did a mock draft in December which had Davis being taken 16th overall by the Buffalo Bills, but that mock was done before Buffalo fired former head coach Rex Ryan and before the order for the first 20 picks was set after the regular season ended. While the Bills’ head coaching vacancy doesn’t alter Buffalo’s personnel needs, what effect the eventual replacement will have on the team’s draft strategy is currently an unknown. Walterfootball.com’s latest mock draft has the Philadelphia taking Davis 15th overall, but it’s uncertain whether the Eagles will pick 14th or 15th pending a coin flip with the Minnesota Vikings.
Rob Rang of CBS Sports did a mock this past week, and he is higher on Davis, slotting him in 10th overall to Buffalo.
The consensus is that Davis is a talent deserving of a first-round pick, although opinions vary on how high in the first round Davis will be taken. A strong showing in continued workouts could raise his stock even higher.