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When it comes to solid, yet unspectacular running backs in the 2015 NFL Draft, look no further than South Carolina’s Mike Davis.  He appears somewhere between fifth and tenth on most draftniks mikeydratings boards.  I reviewed five of his games against Georgia (2013 and 2014), Missouri, Kentucky, and Mississippi State to get a better feel for what skills and talents he brings to the next level.  Here are my thoughts:

RB Mike Davis, South Carolina 5′ 9″ 217 lbs.

Cons: The back gets caught, at times, dancing too much in the backfield (east and west) when he should be moving north and south.  This lack of decision-making will be more actualized in the NFL than it ever was at South Carolina.  Once Davis hits a pile-up, his legs do not appear powerful enough to move the cloud of dust any further, for a power runner I expected more power.  He is an adequate blocker in the passing game, but shows varied efforts which will put a quarterback at risk.  This could cause some teams to view him as more of a two-down back.  Davis also played behind a very good offensive line that might have made him appear to be a better player than he truly is.

Pros: Davis has decent vision, but does a good job following his blockers.  He has a strong upper body which he exploits with a nice stiff-arm and sometimes plainly swats defenders out of his way.  The back has bouncy, quick feet and never seems to take the full brunt of a hit using good balance, instead passing it on to the defenders.  By using combinations of stutter steps, jump cuts, and spin moves, the runner does a good job of keeping the defense guessing.  He runs ok inside the tackles keeping his feet chopping, but is a better outside runner.  Davis can also assist run blocking which might have some NFL teams looking at him as a possible FB/RB hybrid.  The back likes to leave his feet to convert on fourth downs/goal line situations.

In the passing game, despite his lack of skill in blocking, Davis has soft hands and runs more routes than most backs including hooks, and wheel routes.  The runner catches the pigskin well in stride and occasionally split out wide.  He is great on ball fakes, draws and screens when they take the defense by surprise.  Davis seemed the most effective running option plays, because he is better in wide open spaces created by that style of offense.

Overall thoughts: This back has the upside of becoming similar to Buffalo’s Fred Jackson with his slashing style, but I believe he will have a career more similar to the Rams Bennie Cunningham.  Like Cunningham, Davis could be used as an outlet receiver, change of pace back, and returner.

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