Player Spotlight: RB Domanick Davis, Houston Texans
Posted 7/7 by Jason Wood and David Yudkin, Exclusive to Footballguys.com
Jason Wood's Thoughts
It can be tempting to look at a subset of any player's season and use that
to project what "might have been." The problem comes with objectivity.
Too often people will highlight a random segment of a season to support their
positive (or negative as the case may be) view on a given player. But while
we have to be mindful of a player's performance in totality, I do find dissecting
a season can be helpful in certain circumstances.
With that in mind, Domanick Davis wasn't given the starting job with the Texans
until Week 7 last season. In the final 10 games, as a starter, Davis compiled:
- 203 carries
- 860 yards rushing
- 4.2 YPC
- 217 receiving yards
- 8 touchdowns
- 6 games with 100+ yards from scrimmage
- Six games with at least 20 carries
Any way you slice it, Davis was impressive as a starter last season. Looking
ahead to this year, I think he's very well positioned to improve upon those
numbers for the following reasons:
- Houston ranked 31st in time of possession - Last season, only
the Falcons fared worse in time of possession than the 2nd year Texans. The
Texans, which had one of the league's worst defenses (31st in yards allowed,
28th in points allowed) were unable to keep the opposing team off the field
AND the offense, hamstrung by an injured David Carr and a still developing
receiving corps, were unable to sustain drives. While I'm not sure the team
is ready to leap into the league's upper echelon, there have been enough improvements
on both sides of the ball to project modest improvement; and increased time
of possession SHOULD lead to more carries and a larger reliance on the ground
- Improvements to the offensive line - The Texans added Todd
Wade to play right tackle this season, and Chester Pitts (last season's starter
at LT) is expected to move inside to allow Seth Wand to man the other tackle
spot. With Pitts and Zach Wiegert playing inside, the team will have four
players who have played tackle in the NFL on the line.
- Implementation of a new zone-blocking scheme - Houston is
abandoning the man-on-man blocking scheme used last year in favor of a zone-blocking
scheme; most effectively utilized by Baltimore and Denver (but also used by
about half of the league). The switch is only possible because of the team's
increased athleticism along the interior of the line; and if implemented effectively,
should create better running seams for Davis. Davis' running style (his patience,
quick initial burst, and ability to cutback) played no small part in the coaches'
decision to alter the blocking schemes to better take advantage of his abilities.
- David Carr is healthy - David Carr's return bodes well for
the entire offense. The team was forced to use a very basic (and ineffective)
passing attack in his absence. His presence should not only impact Davis directly
(i.e., more looks out of the backfield as a receiver), it should also help
keep opposing defenses from stacking 8 men in the box as Carr proves himself
capable of beating teams with his arm.
But what about competition for carries; don't the Texans like Tony Hollings?
The Texans used a 2nd round pick in the supplemental draft to select Tony Hollings,
and certainly GM Charlie Casserly didn't use that pick in vain. However, when
they selected Hollings, Domanick Davis was an unproven commodity in competition
with J. Wells and S. Mack for playing time. But the way Davis played last season,
and what limited ability Hollings showed when given the shot, it would be difficult
to envision Hollings beating him out in camp. Remember that Davis differentiated
himself last year from the RB cadre:
- Jonathan Wells - 2.8 YPC
- Stacey Mack - 2.7 YPC
- Tony Hollings - 2.7 YPC
- Domanick Davis - 4.3 YPC
- Davis was ultra productive for a team that has nowhere to go but up in terms
of offensive output and line play
- He proved a multidimensional player who makes plays in the passing game
as well as running the ball
- The Texans are implementing a new zone blocking scheme to better take advantage
of Davis' cutback abilities and quick initial burst
- The new blocking scheme and offensive line shuffling (Wade signing, Pitts
to guard, Wand to tackle) may take some time to work itself out; the first
few weeks could be disappointing
- The Texans must improve on both sides of the ball for Davis' upside to be
- Davis' durability remains a mystery, he hasn't stayed healthy as the feature
back for a full season yet and suffered a litany of injuries in college
In my opinion, it's quite clear Domanick Davis is the best back on a young,
up-and-coming team. He is multifaceted, a critical component to becoming an
elite fantasy running back, and showed proficiency for scoring on a team that
was otherwise inept offensively. This year, the team is implementing a new blocking
scheme to accentuate Davis' skills as a cutback runner. Combine that with the
likelihood of improved time of possession driven by a better defense and more
productive passing game, I see no reason why Davis shouldn't be considered
an excellent RB2 with very real potential to finish this season among the top
10 fantasy backs. If you can land Davis in the early second round to pair
with another top RB, your team should be quite competitive out of the gates.
David Yudkin's Thoughts
In one of my dynasty leagues last year, I had the last pick in our rookie draft.
I had to choose between Domanick Davis and Tony Hollings and took Hollings.
As it turns out, the Texans had the same choice to make, and it appears that
they have chosen Davis. Last year, "Double D" was a gift from the
waiver wire gods, as the planets aligned in such a way that Davis somehow leapfrogged
Stacey Mack, Jonathan Wells, Hollings, and James Allen (who decided to retire
right before the season started) and wound up as the Texans #1 RB by Week 7.
Davis excelled when he got his chance. From that point on, he posted 4 games
with 100+ yards rushing (and another with 99) and scored 8 TD in just 10 games.
Projecting those 10 games across an entire season would have given Davis 1,376
rushing yards, 347 receiving yards (he was used more of a receiving back early
on), and 13 TD (which would have been good for 250 fantasy points and a #8 RB
Now before we all go out and go nuts over Davis, nay sayers will point to the
mediocre run defenses he compiled big numbers against. His 5 biggest games were
against the Bengals, Jets, Falcons, and Colts, and every one of those teams
was ranked in the bottom third in rushing defense (several were bottom 5).
His worst games (although not horrendously bad) came against the Patriots,
Titans, Buccaneers, Panthers, and Bills--all Top 10 teams against the run. Somehow,
I don't think that that's a coincidence, but then again that's not unexpected
either. Davis cannot be held responsible for the schedule, but he clearly performed
better against softer run defenses.
- Put up solid numbers in his rookie year, especially considering he only
started 10 games and still ranked as the #14 RB in 2003
- Davis emerged as a dual running and receiving threat as he had 47 receptions
- The Houston offense should continue to improve. Davis did well in a scheme
that was bottom 10 in rushing and bottom 5 in passing-one can only imagine
what he could do in a productive offense
- The Texans saw enough in Tony Hollings to invest a second round pick to
get him. A healthy Hollings may get a shot to win the starter's job or at
the very least take touches away from Davis
- Davis is not the prototypical sized back (if there is one) and is only 5'9".
Then again, so is Priest Holmes, and he seems to have done all right for himself
- Davis might not be able to sustain his performance level if the Texans
offense remains well below average
If you want to see how good Davis will be on your fantasy squad this year,
he will come with a hefty price tag on draft day. I don't envision a scenario
where Davis will fall out of the second round, and he may actually sneak in
as a late first round selection in some leagues.
Some people will not be convinced that a 10-game stretch is proof of anything.
They will point to William Green as "Exhibit A." There have been other
examples of RBs over the years that had a hot stretch for a brief period but
overall their careers did not meet with the same success.
From what I have seen, the Texans still seem high on Hollings, and that may
pose a serious problem for Davis. With opening day still months away, it will
be very difficult to read the tea leaves as to what the Texans are planning
for these two. The Texans offense still is not great and does not score a lot
of points (ranked 28th in scoring last year), potentially limiting Davis' scoring
I will project conservative numbers for Davis with the caveat that his ceiling
is higher if he gets more work, stays healthy, and keeps Hollings on the bench.
Quotations from the Message Board Thread
To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary
in there), click here.
"Dom Davis has excellent balance and vision; has a low center of gravity
and runs tough between the tackles. He doesn't have breakaway speed per se,
but he can bounce it to the outside for solid gains. Davis is proving to be
a good receiver out of the backfield as well, and is a good safety valve for
David Carr. As the young Texan offensive line continues to become more cohesive,
Davis will step his game up even more."
"Capers is a conservative coach and he'll try to establish the run against
teams that will be prepared to stop it. One defense that will be ready for Davis
this year will be the Colts. Davis scored four of his eight rushing TDs against
them last season and accounted for over 30% of his fantasy production as a starter
vs. Indy. I think Davis will struggle this year and suffer through some physical
and statistical disappointment in his sophomore campaign."
"Broken hand, back problems, groin injury, chest sprain, ankle injury,
and a bruised quadriceps muscle. Tony Hollings doesn't scare me as much as these
injuries that kept Davis out or limited his time do. In 46 college games, he
only started 13 and was never the featured back. 11 of those 13 starts came
in his senior year, but LaBrandon Toefield was the primary ball carrier."
"Davis is the third down back as well; he has the best hands, goes to
the right places and is the best at pass projection. I think that Capers will
spell him a bit more than last year when Hollings was green/not practicing hard
enough (he was made inactive one week for this reason according to Casserly
on talk radio). I thin Hollings gets every fourth or fifth series and if there
happens to be any serious garbage time. I also hesitate to project any Texan
with over 10 TDs."
Just Win Baby:
"There are a number of the players above who also did not claim the
feature back role until partway through their breakout season and maintained
essentially the same role & situation in their next season: Dillon, Lewis
(one season removed to avoid the injury), Green, Alexander, and Portis. Again,
this is a group of very talented backs, likely more talented than Davis. It
seemed similarly promising to scale up the statistics of each of these guys,
just as you have done for Davis.
But here's the rub: They averaged a gain of only 4% in the season following
their breakout season, and that is from their straight numbers, not from scaled
Domanick Davis Projections
|Message Board Consensus