With the NFL draft almost a full month behind us, I wanted to take a moment to evaluate the Kansas City Chiefs draft class starting with 3rd round selection (96th overall) running back Knile Davis. The talented player out of Arkansas stands at 5’10”, weighs 227 pounds, and ran the fastest 40 time of all the running backs at this year’s combine posting a time of 4.37 seconds. Plus, he pressed 225lbs 31 times, which also was the best at his position. When you read all those intangibles, the first thought is that Davis is a first round talent. So why did he fall all the way to the 3rd round?
If you look back at Davis’ history, starting with his junior year of high school, he broke his collar-bone that season which caused him to only play in four games. In his first game back the following season, Davis was having an excellent game in which he carried the ball 33 times for 278 yards and two touchdowns as well as three receptions for 46 yards. Unfortunately, Davis broke his ankle in that game and that would cost him his senior season as well. Nonetheless, he was still ranked as the third best running back prospect out of the state of Texas and would eventually sign a scholarship with the University of Arkansas. In his first season with the Razorbacks (2009), Davis appeared in 12 games but only carried the ball 33 times for a total of 163 yards and 4 touchdowns. That was the first season in two years that Davis was able to stay healthy. His sophomore season would prove to be his best. Davis started in only eight of the 13 games that season, carrying the ball 204 times for 1,322 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. Davis would finish that season with a 6.3 yards per carry average, including an average of 147 yards per game in the last seven games, and be voted as a first team all SEC selection. Pretty impressive right?
Just when fans were starting to think that Davis had turned a corner and finally kicked the injury bug, 2011 came and hurt his rep once again. In an early portion of an August practice, Davis went down to a left ankle injury and would once again have to miss an entire season. He came back in 2012 and battled hamstring issues and a major fumble problem. In the game against Alabama last season, Davis fumbled four times and lost two of them in a 52-0 loss. Davis was averaging a fumble every 12.4 times he had touched the ball (82 carries, 5 receptions) at that point in the season. After the very disappointing 2012, Davis decided it was time to move on from Arkansas and here he is now in OTA’s and mini camps with Kansas City.
Knile Davis is definitely the type of player you would consider boom or bust. Watching the highlights of his 2010 season (you can find them at the bottom of the post) can definitely make you understand why any team in the NFL would consider taking him. He has a playing weight in the upper 220-230lb range and has track sprinting speed. He gets to the edge with a tremendous burst and has enough size to break tackles. Davis is a north and south runner. He isn’t going to juke you out of your shoes but has a great one cut move and enough straight ahead speed to out run the majority of defenses. Davis has proven that, when healthy, he can be a very effective back. Reports out of last weeks OTA’s are that the coaching staff is constantly working with him to help change the way he carries the ball to try to solve his fumbling issues. That proves how much the Chiefs are trying to invest in making him the best player he can be. With not much risk, considering he was only a 3rd round pick, the Chiefs don’t have much to lose and so much to gain. Plus new head coach, Andy Reid, has a good track record with running backs in his past (Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy) so it wouldn’t be surprising to see this pick work out for the Chiefs.
With a healthy Knile Davis in Kansas City’s backfield, the Chiefs could have one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL. Last season they finished 5th in the league without a truly effective number two option at running back. Davis could be the perfect complement back to Jamaal Charles. He will be most effective as a short distance back, who has the ability and speed to make a big play at any time. I can’t see the Chiefs putting the ball in his hands more than 10-15 times a game. All of this, of course, falls back to if he can stay healthy. If Davis can give effective production, this will help to take some pressure off of not only Jamaal Charles, but Alex Smith as well.
As fans, all we can do is speculate because, honestly, all of it’s just potential. Davis flashed his talents perfectly his sophomore season of college, and that alone was enough to get him drafted in the top 100 prospects in 2013. If the Chiefs can find a way to develop this kid and keep him healthy, they may have just put together the most dangerous backfield in the NFL.