Mike Davis and Jamaal Williams look like key running backs. They’re older, lightly regarded running backs who haven’t done much yet as pros, but they’ve been signed by teams that are looking for them to be contributors.
Davis is in a promising enough situation that he might be selected about 20 running backs into drafts. He had some success filling in for Christian McCaffrey last year, and now he’s about all the Falcons have at the position. They signed him to a two-year deal worth $5.5 million.
Williams (pictured) signed an even more lucrative deal with the Lions – two years for $6 million. He’ll face more competition in his backfield (the Lions also have D’Andre Swift), but offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn back in May stated very clearly that he believes it will be Williams rather than Swift who’s Detroit’s main running back. And the Lions are putting together what appears to be an above-average line. With Swift (who’ll be picked before Williams in most drafts) throwing up a considerable smoke screen, Williams looks like a good later-round investment.
With both of these veterans, you’re getting modest overall talent. Both are well below average in the speed department, and they have ordinary elusiveness. Both were originally fourth-round draft picks. Davis is in his seventh year, and he’s never run for 700 yards in a season (he had a career-high 642 last year). Williams is in his fifth year, and he’s never run for 600 yards in a season.
If you draft these guys, it would be with the hope they’ll run for 800-plus yards, with a healthy number of catches and some touchdowns. But there aren’t a lot of backs who’s done what these guys are attempting to pull off.
Since 2000, only 18 running backs have had their first 700-yard rushing season after their first four seasons. And of those 18, only eight were running backs no longer with their original teams who were chosen after the first three rounds (I’ve got those guys in bold; Powell, Ward and Graham also weren’t chosen in the first three rounds of the draft, but they were with their initial team).
In the chart, backs tagged with black dots were originally picked in the first or second round – those guys came into the league with higher expectations than either Williams or Davis.
In the chart below, you’re seeing the rushing stats for each back. The PPR total shows his fantasy points, including receptions and receiving yards and other touchdowns (but those stats aren’t printed). The final column shows where the player ranked among running backs that year using PPR scoring.
|LATE BLOOMING RUNNING BACKS|
|2000||Lamar Smith, Mia.||7||309||1,139||3.7||14||261.0||13|
|2003||Moe Williams, Min.||8||174||745||4.3||5||251.9||12|
|2004||• Thomas Jones, Chi.||5||240||948||4.0||7||235.5||12|
|2005||• LaMont Jordan, Oak.||5||272||1,025||3.8||9||296.8||6|
|2006||• Ladell Betts, Was.||5||245||1,154||4.7||4||242.9||10|
|2007||Earnest Graham, T.B.||5||222||898||4.1||10||231.2||10|
|2007||Kenny Watson, Cin.||5||178||763||4.3||7||207.7||14|
|2007||Justin Fargas, Oak.||5||222||1,009||4.6||4||166.7||24|
|2008||Derrick Ward, NYG||5||182||1,025||5.6||2||193.9||20|
|2008||Sammy Morris, N.E.||9||156||727||4.7||7||147.8||36|
|2008||Michael Turner, Atl.||5||376||1,699||4.5||17||282.0||4|
|2011||• Reggie Bush, Mia.||6||216||1,086||5.0||6||223.2||13|
|2013||Rashad Jennings, Oak.||5||163||733||4.5||6||174.5||24|
|2014||Justin Forsett, Balt.||7||235||1,266||5.4||8||246.9||8|
|2014||Joique Bell, Det.||5||223||860||3.9||7||200.2||13|
|2016||Bilal Powell, NYJ||6||131||722||5.5||3||199.0||17|
|2017||Dion Lewis, N.E.||7||180||896||5.0||6||203.0||13|
|2019||Raheem Mostert, S.F.||5||137||772||5.6||8||169.2||26|
Since I’ve got the numbers in front of me, I’ll also share the running backs who had their first season with 700-plus rushing yards in their fourth season. Former first- and second-round picks tagged with black dots.
|RUNNING BACKS EMERGING IN FOURTH SEASON|
|2000||• Tiki Barber, NYG||213||1,006||4.7||8||296.5||8|
|2000||James Allen, Chi.||290||1,120||3.9||2||198.1||24|
|2002||Amos Zereoue, Pitt.||193||762||4.0||4||176.3||26|
|2003||Troy Hambrick, Dall.||275||972||3.5||5||154.1||30|
|2004||Reuben Droughns, Den.||275||1,240||4.5||6||228.1||15|
|2004||Nick Goings, Car.||217||821||3.8||6||208.5||20|
|2008||• Cedric Benson, Cin.||214||747||3.5||2||125.2||43|
|2009||Jerome Harrison, Cle.||194||862||4.4||5||184.2||22|
|2009||Fred Jackson, Buff.||237||1,062||4.5||2||218.7||13|
|2010||• Brandon Jackson, G.B.||190||703||3.7||3||171.5||24|
|2011||Michael Bush, Oak.||256||977||3.8||7||224.5||12|
|2014||• Mark Ingram, N.O.||226||964||4.3||9||193.9||15|
|2015||Ronnie Hillman, Den.||207||863||4.2||7||163.4||25|
|2015||Latavius Murray, Oak.||266||1,066||4.0||6||206.8||10|
|2016||Spencer Ware, K.C.||214||921||4.3||3||199.8||16|
|2017||Orleans Darkwa, NYG||171||751||4.4||5||137.7||36|
|2018||Tevin Coleman, Atl.||167||800||4.8||4||193.6||18|
|2019||Kenyan Drake, Mia.-Ariz.||170||817||4.8||8||216.2||17|