Fantasy Files: Stephen Davis, 1999
In the first three seasons of his career, Stephen Davis posted 815 rushing yards and five touchdowns for the Washington Redskins, primarily spelling Terry Allen.
By the start of his fifth season, Davis had signed the NFL's first $100 million contract.
What happened in between?
Entering the 1999 season many fantasy footballers failed to realize that Stephen Davis was just waiting for his time to shine. As a former USA Today High School Player of the Year and Auburn's fourth all-time leading rusher, there were signs that Davis was more than a halfback/fullback mix.
It didn't take long for Davis to strike. In the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys, Davis rushed for 109 yards and two scores on 24 carries.
The next week against the Giants, Davis used fewer carriers (23) to rack up more yards (126) and touchdowns (3). Thus, the fantasy frenzy was on.
During the summer when fantasy gurus were doing their diligence, Stephen Davis ranked between the 20th and 40th best running backs in the NFL. Many mock drafts included Terrell Davis at the top and Stephen Alexander at the bottom, with Stephen Davis nowhere to be found.
As a big back with limited receiving ability (1.25 career receptions per game), there was concern that Stephen Davis would be one-dimensional and only used in short yardage and pass pro.
All of these factors led to Davis being a super sleeper in late rounds, or even better, a waiver wire wonder.
Throughout the 1999 season, Davis continued to smash through the NFL racking up yardage, and more importantly, touchdowns along the way. His 100.4 yards per game and 17 touchdowns were both tops amongst running backs.
Davis was rewarded for his efforts with a Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection in 1999, but it came as bittersweet for the fantasy owners after the former Redskin record-setter failed to play in the team's last two games, including the crucial Week 16.
The first name that comes to mind when comparing Davis to today’s fantasy running backs is Michael Turner.
While Turner's success wasn't as unforeseen as Davis', both players surpassed expectations in their first season as starters. Both players are bigger backs who are less than serviceable receivers--in other words, one dimensional.
Davis was successful over his next two seasons in Washington but his YPC took a dip to 4.0 and I wouldn't be surprised of Turner's YPC does the same.
Another back that shares similarities to Davis is Brandon Jacobs. Big, injury prone, and one-dimensional are all characteristics that the two share.
Because of his size, Jacobs is more of an anomaly than Davis, but both backs had relatively quiet starts to their careers before busting onto the main stage.
Unfortunately there isn't a front-runner for the next rags to riches running back this season. But it doesn't mean there isn't another Stephen Davis out there.
The closest thing I can see for 2009 would be Michael Bush, the former Louisville standout, now on the Raiders. However, with the future being Darren McFadden in Oakland, it may take a change of scenery for Bush to shine.
In 2010 or 2011, Shonn Greene is the guy you should be eyeing. He is big, one dimensional, and can rack up a lot of yards and touchdowns in a hurry.
Be sure to keep your tabs on Bush and Greene and don't forget to keep pay close attention for the next out of nowhere fantasy stud.
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