What Should Fantasy Football Owners Do With Knile Davis?

The second-year running back has a chance to shine for the Chiefs, but with Jamaal Charles' practicing, what should you do?

Fantasy footballers everywhere cringed inside when Jamaal Charles went down Sunday with an ankle injury. But then Thursday afternoon, many of those same people were confused, distraught and down-right angry thanks to this tweet:

Thanks to Adam Teicher's report, many Charles owners will be on pins and needles over the next few days. Will Charles start? Will he see limited action allowing Knile Davis to contribute here and there? Who should be in fantasy lineups?

Regardless of what's to come, there's reason to believe in the Knile Davis hype. If you spent half of your free agent auction budget or a top waiver claim on Davis, don't feel bad. Step away from the ledge - not only was your process right, but Knile Davis is a good football player.

Waiting for an Opportunity

In 2013, Knile Davis saw action running the ball for the Chiefs, but Dexter McCluster claimed a role in the passing game, as he was more of a receiver than anything else. Davis wasn’t necessarily the third running back, but McCluster was used on the field in a completely different way.

RushesTargetsReceptions% of Plays
Jamaal Charles2601047035.4%
Dexter McCluster891839.6%
Knile Davis7015118.3%

In 2013, the Chiefs ran an average of 64 plays per game, and Jamaal Charles was involved on 35% of those plays between his rushing attempts and targets in the passing game. And Charles made it worthwhile for the Chiefs, as his Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) per Target was fourth best among all running backs with at least 15 targets.

McCluster and Davis were effective in the passing game as well, ranking 13th and 27th, respectively, within the same metric, but obviously didn't see as many opportunities as Charles. McCluster was involved in 9% of plays on a per-game basis, while Davis was just slightly less at 8%.

But with McCluster gone in 2014, one would think that Davis would naturally see an increase in his involvement in the offense. Davis carried the rock only once in Week 1 and only received one target, but it was a different story in Week 2. Of the 75 plays that Kansas City ran, Davis was involved in 33 of them, 10 of which being targets in the passing game.

But did success come with those opportunities?

Work in Progress

When picking up the crumbs in the backfield for the Chiefs in 2013, Knile Davis wasn’t exactly the best back in the league. He wasn’t Bernard Pierce-bad, but it still wasn’t pretty.

Rushing NEPPer RushTarget NEPRec NEPRec NEP/Target
Jamaal Charles13.930.0523.7954.660.53
Dexter McCluster-4.15-0.5212.7638.300.46
Knile Davis-8.63-0.121.465.590.37

Davis was somewhat average in his effectiveness in the passing game for the Chiefs, but our metrics pegged Davis as a below-average rusher in 2013. Given the fact that Davis ran the ball 27 times in the 2013 regular season finale for the Chiefs – and was a rookie still learning the game – the potential is seen in Davis. We shouldn't pretend we have a massive sample size.

But despite what appeared to be a good Week 2 when Charles went down, 2014 hasn't been incredibly kind either. Against the 12th-best run defense in the league (according to our numbers), Knile Davis was limited, posting a negative contribution to the Chiefs efforts in the running game but a positive contribution in the passing game. If you put together Davis’ Rushing NEP (-1.11) with his Reception NEP (1.13), which signifies how much he contributed on receptions only, he had a net NEP of 0.02 – a fairly average day.

Fantasy Football Potential

In 2013, Davis put up double-digit fantasy points on three different occasions, tallying over 10 fantasy points in Weeks 14 and 15 and posting a 20-point game in Week 17, after a majority of fantasy leagues were over.

In Week 2 against the Broncos, he posted 105 all-purpose yards and found the end zone twice. Davis’ 21 points equated to the fourth-best performance in standard league scoring (second-best in PPR leagues). So while our NEP metrics may not like him too much due to lack of efficiency, Davis, based on opportunity, will still bring a lot to the table for your fantasy football team.

If you were savvy enough to handcuff Jamaal Charles with Knile Davis via your waiver wire this week, you did the right thing. Before the "Charles is Practicing" headline broke, our projections placed Davis as the 19th-best back this week (standard league). While the threat of Charles playing will inevitably bump him down the rankings, he could still be worth of a flex play as he gobbles up some of McCluster's work from a season ago. We just didn't see that in Week 1 because the team trailed and got away from the run, and in Week 2, Charles was hurt for most of the game.

If you went running back-heavy in your draft, you may have a contingency plan among running backs. This may not be the best week to start Knile Davis until more information has been released. However, if you have no other options at running back due to injuries/suspensions, starting Davis might be a necessity for you. Owners that start him could very well be rewarded but be prepared for both Davis and Charles to put up little in the fantasy football world in Week 3.