Speed may be one of the most essential tools to success as a running back in the NFL. But no matter how fast your magical feet are, they won’t even scrape the field if there are enough flaws in your game to negate it.
Enter NFL prospects Knile Davis and Onterio McCalebb.
Hailing from Auburn, McCalebb burned up the 40-yard dash, running an unofficial 4.21, which would have broke Chris Johnson’s record of 4.24 set back in 2007. However, the NFL reexamined it and clocked McCalebb at 4.34., still a blazing time but not good enough to beat out Johnson.
During McCalebb’s Senior season at Auburn, he tallied up 570 rushing yards on 94 attempts, good for 6.1 yards per carry to go along with six touchdowns. He never rushed for more than 1,000 yards in a season, due mostly in part to injury and playing behind Michael Dyer and Tre Mason. McCalebb never posted a 1,000 yard rushing season while at Auburn.
McCalebb’s best college moment came as a Junior at the 2011 Chick-fill-A Bowl, where he took advantage of Dyer’s suspension and rushed for over 100 yards and record two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving.
That’s about where the highlights end for McCalebb though. At 5’10, 174 lbs, he lacks the size to be a durable running back in the NFL, as evidenced by his inability to stay healthy at Auburn. He sat out the senior bowl due to a hamstring injury and isn’t a likely candidate to stay healthy in the NFL.
Overall, if McCalebb does find a niche in the NFL it will probably be as a slot receiver/hybrid running back similar to Dexter McCluster in Kansas City. Odds are he won’t be starting this season so stay away from him in your dynasty league.
Up next, we have the slightly more intriguing Knile Davis. At 6’0, 226 lbs, Davis is tremendously strong. He put up a freakish 31-reps on the bench press at the combine and when combined with his unofficial 4.30 40-yard dash, makes for a lethal combination of size, strength, and speed.
But like McCalebb, Davis has durability issues. In the first game of his senior season, Davis trucked his way to a monster game of 33 carries for 278 yards before breaking his ankle during the first game of his senior season. During his junior year, a broken collarbone ended his season after just four games. In his only full season with the Razorbacks as a sophomore, Davis rushed for over 1300 yards and 13 touchdowns.
What may scare teams even more about drafting Davis is his proneness for coughing up the ball. Throughout his career at Arkansas, Davis fumbled the ball on 6.5% of his carries, that averages out to a fumble every 12-14 carries, a truly staggering number. Davis will have to work diligently to correct that, as fumble-prone running backs in college tend to take their bad habits into the NFL until the coach gets so angry he forces said back to either protect the ball better or ride the bench.
Despite a few big issues though, Davis does have the tools to be a successful running back in the NFL. There’s enough concerns to not bother with him this season, but he’s worth keeping on your radar.