In this series I will be focusing on players who’s mere presence denotes the proverbial “Red Flag” to be waived. There’s an age old adage in the scouting community that reads; The best type of ability is availability. Whether it’s off the field issues or medical concerns, the whole high risk/high reward scenario is enough to drive the NFL community up the wall.
One player I’ve had my eye on for the better part of the last four seasons is Knile Davis, the oft-injured running back out of the University of Arkansas. As a sophomore in 2010, he looked the part of an NFL franchise back. He was big (5’10 – 225 lbs). He was fast with a preeminent first step. Productive (1,322 yards with 13 TD’s, 6.5 yards per rush). He very much looked to be the next Darren McFadden, the star tailback who proceeded him at Arkansas. McFadden’s size (6’1 218 lbs) speed (4.33 over 40 yards) and productivity (1,830 yards with 16 TD’s, 5.6 yards per) landed him with the Oakland Raiders after being selected 4th overall in the 2008 draft. Needless to say, Davis had the scouting world abuzz with what his junior campaign would produce. And then it all came to a screeching halt.
On August 11th, 2011 — Davis was carted off the field during an Arkansas practice with a broken left ankle. A quick overview of his injury history notes that he missed most of his junior and senior years of high school with ankle and collarbone injuries. It wasn’t until after his freshman season in Arkansas (A whole year later) that he showed his previous explosiveness. The reason this is pertinent information is because that type of recovery timeline will coincide with his first season in the NFL. The 2011 ankle injury took him out of action all the way until the start of season play, 2012! He missed the whole 2011 season. His off-season training activities were non-existent for the 2012 season. 2012 was pretty much shot. Gone for most of the season was his explosive first step and blazing speed. He finished with 377 yards and 2 TD’s, which would’ve been a one game total for him in 2010.
And then the Combine happened
Davis put on a complete freak show at the 2013 Combine. Looking every bit recovered from his injury, Davis was checked in at 5’10, 227 chiseled lbs. He benched press 225 lbs an uncanny 31 times (1st among all tailbacks). He ran the 40 in 4.37 smoldering seconds. He looked like his old self. He was back to the form that made me think he was former Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray returning to campus on some “Leon Sandcastle” stuff. I mean seriously! The two are almost identical twins in everything from their look, to their styles of play. They even both wore #7 on teams who’s primary color are a maroon/burgundy color.
A deeper look reveals that they may actually be the same person. Murray, who is an oft-injured star in his own right, now plays for the Dallas Cowboys. He was a 3rd round draft choice that by all accounts would’ve been a first round pick if not for injury concerns. He looked to be the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year after he broke the Cowboys single game rushing record with 237 yards against the St. Louis Rams. He finished with 897 yards on a mere 164 carries. 5.5 yards per carry! At 6’0 215 Lbs, running a 4.41 “40″ – Murray looked like a budding superstar on the most popular team in American sports.
His 2nd season was disappointing as he was once again marred by injuries, limited to only 10 injury plagued games, Murray finished with a meager 663 yards on 161 carries – 4.1 per. His ability was outweighed by his unavailability.
This is type of thing that makes Knile Davis a huge risk. A risk that I think someone in the 3rd or 4th round should take. I personally think that Davis has the makeup of DeMarco Murray and could give you the same enigmatic results. Teams with an established back could work Davis in a rotation to cut down on the wear and tear he will receive in the NFL. Davis could take a run game like the Atlanta Falcons’ and give it an explosive jolt, to go along with the power of Steven Jackson and the shiftiness of Jacquizz Rodgers. The Cowboys are looking for another back to rotate with DeMarco Murray, why not bring in his twin? He could even rotate with Darren McFadden in Oakland! I’m counting on Davis to be one of the steals of the draft much like Murray was in 2011. I will chalk this one under High Reward!