No running back did more to help his draft status at the 2013 Scouting Combine than Arkansas’ Knile Davis.
The buzz is that the Atlanta Falcons might be in the market for a running back in free agency or the NFL draft in April as the conversation about Michael Turner—who ESPN analyst Adam Schefter said the Falcons are likely to release as a cap casualty—heats up.
Head coach Mike Smith wasn’t exactly forthcoming in his comments about cutting Turner.
"Michael is under contract right now,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported from Smith’s press conference at the combine. “We’ll continue to go through that process in terms of how we are going to recalibrate it. Myself, Mr. Blank and Thomas have had numerous discussions. There is a cause-and-effect to every decision that you make at this time of the year. You’re dealing with the salary cap and those decisions will work themselves out over the next couple of weeks."
Prior to the combine, predicting where Davis would go in the draft was quite troublesome. Because his stellar 2010 season, where he gained 1,322 yards and scored 13 touchdowns, was counteracted by a less-than-enthusiastic 2012 season where he gained just 377 yards coming back from a broken ankle that forced the star to miss the 2011 season, projections had Davis landing on an NFL team somewhere on Saturday. No one was able to narrow down a target between Round 4 and 6.
After Davis ran a blistering 4.37 40-yard dash and pushed up 225 pounds 31 times, he became one of the most talked about running backs in the draft.
Why should Davis be attractive to the Falcons?
On top of his speed, Davis is a thick and powerful runner who’s best suited for the straight-ahead bruising impacts that Turner was so good at for the first four years of his stay in Atlanta. His speed helps get into the second level of a defense and beyond quickly, and his agility can make people miss.
Anyone who watched Turner run in 2012 knows making people miss is no longer in his repertoire.
Davis also has decent hands for a runner, and that’s necessary in this new-look Atlanta offense. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter makes great use of running backs as receivers and has revitalized the screen game for the Falcons.
When Davis carried the ball 204 times in 2010 he also caught 19 passes. He caught 11 passes last year for Arkansas, so while he may not be the receiving threat Jacquizz Rodgers is, the power aspect of Davis’ game complements Rodgers well.
That’s exactly what makes Davis intriguing as a mid-round Falcons pick. Atlanta doesn’t need a Rodgers clone, the Falcons could use a running back who can thrive between the tackles and in short-yardage situations. Davis seems like that kind of back, and one who can also add some of the speedy options Rodgers brings to the table.
What the Falcons must find out prior to the April draft is whether or not Davis’ injuries are in his past. If so, he makes a lot of sense to Atlanta in the third round or beyond if the team does indeed cut Turner.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.