For any running back, there is such a small window of opportunity you have to make your mark—and money, in the NFL—that you have to strike while the iron is hot. Arkansas' Knile Davis must feel like the best chance for him to do just that is right now, as he declared for the 2013 draft.
Davis made the announcement on Wednesday, saying in a statement (h/t Associated Press via Sports Illustrated) that he made the decision to forgo his senior season after careful deliberation with his family and friends.
Over the last few weeks, I've been very reflective in weighing my options. However, after careful counsel with my family and support system, I've made the decision to forgo my final year of eligibility and enter the 2013 NFL draft. I sincerely look forward to working towards realizing my ultimate goal of becoming an NFL running back of the highest caliber.
Because running backs have become so disposable in the NFL, with the exception of a very select few, you can understand why Davis wants to move on. At 21 years old, it will give him one more year to hone his skills at the next level, instead of going through another trying season in college.
However, it needs to be asked: What value does Davis have right now? Two years ago, he would have been one of the top running backs in the country and likely a first-day—or at least an early-round—selection in the draft.
As a sophomore in 2010, Davis ran for 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns on just 204 carries. He was a key part of the Razorbacks team that made it to the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State. He looked like a star in the making.
Unfortunately, that would be as good as it gets for Davis in college. He hurt his left ankle during a practice session in August of 2011 that caused him to miss the entire season.
Making his comeback this season, Davis and the Razorbacks had huge expectations. The team was ranked in the Top 10 in both the AP and USA Today preseason polls. But neither Davis nor the Razorbacks lived up to their lofty expectations.
Davis ran for just 377 yards and two touchdowns on 112 carries. He also missed two games in November with a hamstring injury. His 3.4 yards per carry was more than three yards below what he was averaging during his breakout 2010 season. He could have taken another year and rebuilt at least some of his value, instead of limping into the NFL.
The only logical reason for Davis to go into the draft now is because he is either unhappy with where Arkansas is right now (which is understandable), or someone, somewhere told him that he needed to go now to maximize whatever value he has left and avoid another injury.
Either way, it is hard to see an NFL team investing a lot, either in a draft pick or money, in Davis based on what we have seen from him over the last two seasons.