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2017 NFL Draft: Scouting USC Trojans RB Justin Davis

In a rich crop of running backs for the draft, where does Davis fit in?

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 season saw Justin Davis sustained an unfortunate ankle injury that really hampered his production, holding him to 607 yards and a mere two touchdowns on 110 rushes he also had an additional 14 catches for 112 yards. However, the season before he collected 1,091 total yards and seven touchdowns in the duel role with Ronald Jones II.

There are a lot of variables with Davis, making him a tough player to evaluate. He has a very high ceiling but his floor is also dangerously low, because of his size and other factors. While he needs to put on about 15 pounds, his 6’1”, 208 pound frame is a solid start. He also offers that duel running back threat that is so valuable in the NFL now, namely he has fantastic hands out of the backfield while running between the tackles.

Pro Comparison -

While Davis has had some very bright spots throughout college, he has never shined as a primary back. Even in his best season, his counterpart Jones II also had over 900 yards on the ground. Davis is a good back but his ceiling is in a multiple back system, meaning he will probably never be an every down back like Le’Veon Bell or Ezekiel Elliott.

With that in mind Davis will be most similar to Spencer Ware of the Kansas City Chiefs. Ware is a smaller back, in a system that has supported at least three backs his entire career. When the most snaps he commonly has to max at is 70 percent he has thrived. While he has had some injury, the split time has made him durable through the injuries. His lighter frame and great hands have made him an explosive threat in the passing game, especially screening.

As with most players who are not transcendent talents, the landing spot is key for Davis, but he can be a great, dynamic player who loads up on 30 to 60 percent of the carries.

Best Fit -

If Davis lands with the Carolina Panthers, he will have an immediate impact. The fullback Mike Tolbert is now free agent and the two young incumbents, Cameron Artis-Payne and Fozzy Whittaker, have both been inconsistent. They have never received a bulk of carries over any stretch and Davis has enough talent to supplant both.

Davis is explosive, dangerous out of the backfield on both stretch runs and as a pass catcher and the Panthers have a an offensive scheme conducive to a running back’s success. Their quarterback, Cam Newton, is a big factor in the running game as well, giving the team the read-option wrinkle in their playbook. They also run a more advanced blocking scheme on the offensive line that involves lots of guards and or tackles pulling to add more blocking or create more distraction away from the play. All these factors help build a successful environment for the running back.

But what about Jonathan Stewart? He will no doubt be the starter in 2017 and Davis coming in as the second man who picks up a chunk of the workload would be a perfect fit alongside the soon to be 30 year old back. Stewart is also coming off an injury plagued season and a solid young option to keep his per game carries down would be to the benefit of both players. Another bonus is that Davis is projected as a third or fourth round pick, Mean the Panthers could draft some desperately needed defensive backs before helping out their backfield. This is a win for both sides and a perfect fit.