Scouting Report: Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina
Mike Davis out of South Carolina is a running back who fantasy GMs need to know about. He may not be getting the kind of publicity that some of the bigger names are getting, but he has a chance to be the best back in this class when all is said and done. That’s not to say that Davis is a player without concerns. The fact that his production slipped from 2013 to 2014 is a worry for some, but when I watch his 2014 film, I see enough positive traits to buy-in from a physical standpoint. The potentially troubling angle is that Davis may have lightened up a la Jadeveon Clowney for the purposes of saving himself for the NFL. Only time will tell on this one, but I’m inclined to call this more smoke than fire.
The reason fantasy footballers, and NFL teams for that matter, need to do their homework on Davis is because, while he’s a throwback in many ways, he also has all the tools to succeed in the modern NFL. He is a legit 3-down talent with the skills to be effective in all phases of the game. Davis could be a big fantasy factor because he’s a runner who can be a workhorse but can also pile up the receptions. Those in PPR leagues should take note.
I’ve always been a fan of Carolina’s Mike Tolbert because of how diverse and fundamentally sound he is. When I watch Davis run, I see a smaller more explosive version of Tolbert. In the right offense, he could become a household name.
Davis’ brother, James, played for Clemson before being taken by the Browns in the 6th round of the 2009 draft. He played three years in the NFL. At the combine, Mike said that his brother gave him advice on how to handle the combine. James told him to stay focused and to “tune everything out, work hard and do the things you have been told.”
Davis posted solid though not eye-popping numbers.
- Height - 5’9”
- Weight - 217
- Hand - 9 3/8”
- 40 - 4.61
- Bench - 17
- Vertical - 34”
- Broad - 9’8”
- 3-Cone - 7.00
- Short Shuttle - 4.18
- 60 Yd Shuttle - 11.65
There’s not much too beat his cheat about but there are also no red flags here. He didn't duck any events, so give him some credit for laying it all on the line. Davis did mention that he played six pounds heavier compared to the 217 he weighed in Indianapolis. That’s closer to what he weighed in 2013, which could be significant and something to watch going forward. When asked about leaving school early, Davis had a clear rationale. “My decision was based off my mom struggling. I just had to get her in better living.” No way I am going to knock a guy for taking care of Mom.
- Feet - Rotobahn readers know how much we like backs with quick feet. You rarely see a back Davis’ size who is so light on his feet. This helps him as a runner and as a receiver.
- Build - Davis is a relatively big back and he has a nice low center of gravity which he uses to his advantage at the point of contact. He can definitely get yards after contact at the next level.
- Breaking tackles - As mentioned, the build gives him an edge. Davis has that ‘bowling ball thing’ going, but he also defends his frame well with a good stiff arm. I also like the way he uses the spin move to disengage during contact. He’s not a make-you-miss guy, but he usually gets more than what is blocked.
- Hands - Davis is an outstanding receiver for a bigger running back and he’ll be able to play in just about any situation for the team that drafts him. Scheme fit is not crucial for Davis. He can play in any offense.
- Vision - Davis scores well here. He exhibits patience with the ball in his hands, but he’s also decisive when holes open up. He would be effective in a zone offense or on a team that employs more scheme blocking. He’s always looking to get upfield. We like the north/south mentality.
- Diversity - Davis can run power and he can bounce outside. He’s good at the goal line and between the 20s. He’s an impressive receiver out of the backfield, but he also has the ability to line up outside. He’s got receiver’s feet and receiver’s hands. Again, it’s rare to see this in a back with a power skill set. He’s a player who can create mismatches and exploit defensive personnel.
- Pass Protection - Playing for Steve Spurrier is a plus in this regard. Davis had plenty of responsibilities in this area at South Carolina. The NFL passing game will not be culture shock for Davis as it has been for many others.
- Production - The numbers are very good despite the slight regression in 2014 and the film backs that production up nicely.
The film tells the story. This is a back with an NFL body and an NFL skill set. He’s not perfect. His straight line speed is just adequate and he regressed off of his 2013 numbers. Still, this is a player I am inclined to bet on because he has many of the characteristics we look for in good fantasy backs.
- Goal line ability
- Receiving ability
- Can handle the load
- Can play on all downs
- Adequate in pass protection (keeps him on the field)
It’s self explanatory, but Davis is a back who doesn’t need to be pulled when his team falls behind because he’s got legit passing game chops. He doesn’t need to be pulled on the goal line because he’s a very good short yardage guy with a nose for the end zone. He has the discipline as a runner to play in an offense that likes to scheme block, but he has the vision to excel for teams that run a lot of zone.
Mike Davis can be a fantasy starter even in smaller formats if he gets a starting gig for a decent team. The key, as I always say about rookies, is location. We’ll have to see if he lands in a place where he can compete for a job right away. The Jets would be the perfect fit for him based on scheme and depth chart composition.
I’ll update Davis’ fantasy value after the draft.
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