The Falcons running back depth is a big question mark for 2021, though we think we have a pretty good idea of who is starting. The team moved on from the three primary backs of 2020 in Todd Gurley, Brian Hill and Ito Smith and signed Mike Davis in the off-season. He will join Cordarelle Patterson and Qadree Ollison (and possibly an undrafted free agent) to form the new unit in the backfield, and will likely be the lead option.
Davis had his best year in the NFL at age 27 with the 2020 Carolina Panthers - a team that struggled offensively. Under a creative playcaller like Arthur Smith, what kind of year could Davis have? Let’s take a look.
In 2020, Davis played in 15 games and started 12. He averaged 11 rushing attempts, 42.8 yards and 3.9 yards per attempt on a per game basis. For the entire year, he had 165 rushes for 642 yards. Over his career, he has averaged just 6.6 attempts per game and 3.7 yards per attempt. This will be his first season coming in as the expected lead back, though he will undoubtedly split carries.
Given that his role is being elevated, we can probably bump his rushing attempts up to 15 per game. If we assume he hits at roughly 4 yards per carry, that would give him 60 yards per game. Taking that across a 17 game season would give us 1,020 yards for the year. For simplicity, we’ll set the baseline at 1,000 yards.
The case for the over
Even though Davis has been in the league since 2015, he has very little wear on the tires. At 28 years old, he hasn’t yet hit the “30 wall” and for his career he has just 412 total carries, which is only 34 carries more than what Derrick Henry had in just the 2020 season. Speaking of Henry, the coordinator that utilized him to the tune of 3,500 rushing yards in two seasons is now the Atlanta head coach. Henry is Henry, but Arthur Smith didn’t hurt.
Davis was one of the early signings for Atlanta, a sign that the team may really like his potential in the new offense, and one of the few players this spring who signed for more than one year. He won’t have to carry the load like Henry did, but having a dynamic passing game in front of him should help open up opportunities in the running game. At only 60 yards per game to hit the baseline, it’s easy to see why the over makes sense. Arthur Smith should be able to maximize his potential, at least for 2021.
The case for the under
Let’s state the obvious: Mike Davis is not Derrick Henry. While he figures to have a bigger role, it’s unlikely he will be the centerpiece of the Atlanta offense in 2021. His lifetime averages - even in 2020 when he was the de facto starter - have been fine, but nothing to get excited about. To hit this baseline, he will have to have the best season of his career and top his 42.8 yards per game by nearly an additional 20 yards per game. Sharing snaps with Patterson and Ollison may make this a tough ask on top of the expectation of him playing for all 17 games.
While Davis seems lined up to have his best season ever in the NFL, this baseline might be a smidge too high given his previous production over his career.
Let us know what you think. Can Davis top the 1000 yard barrier in 2021?
Mike Davis rushing yards
This poll is closed
He’ll get 1000 or more
He’s going to fall short of 1k