FAYETTEVILLE — Running back Knile Davis’ final season at Arkansas didn’t go as planned after returning from the ankle injury that sidelined him throughout 2011.
It didn’t deter Davis from entering the 2013 NFL Draft with one season of eligibility remaining. And it finally paid off late Friday night.
Davis became the first Arkansas player selected, going to the Kansas City Chiefs in the third round with the 96th overall selection. It was a surprise pick, considering most of Arkansas’ pre-draft publicity for the early rounds centered on quarterback Tyler Wilson. But Davis stood as the only player selected after two days.
The draft will end with rounds four through seven today. It begins at 11 a.m.
The Chiefs snatched Davis because of his potential after rushing for 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2010. He missed the 2011 season because of a broken ankle suffered in preseason practices and struggled when he returned, rushing for just 377 yards and two touchdowns last season.
But Davis went to work in the pre-draft process determined to show NFL teams he was healthy and worth a selection this week. He made his biggest impression at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine in February, testing among the top of the running back class in most categories. Davis also performed well during an on-campus pro day.
“Every team I’ve talked to has definitely said I’m a first-round talent,” Davis said earlier this week as he waited for the draft. “That’s not a question. But just the injuries and the season I had kind of brought that down a little bit. But I just want to get picked in a reasonable round and go to work.”
Davis said earlier this week he visited Dallas, Arizona, New England and the New York Jets for private workouts. Ultimately, the NFL team closest to Arkansas’ campus ended up pulling the trigger and selecting the Houston native.
New Kansas City coach Andy Reid told the Chiefs media Friday night he believed Davis’ fumbles last season were a bigger issue than his injury history. But it didn’t deter Reid from selecting the running back to compliment Jamaal Charles.
“You take the fumbling out of his game that he had this past year and you see a running back that you would put up there with any of the top running backs in the nation,” Reid said in Kansas City. “We look forward to getting him here. He knows his situation. He knows his problem, the label he has out on him now, being a fumbler. He’ll work hard to fix that and we think we can help him with that.”
Davis was the sixth running back selected in the draft, joining a group that includes North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard, Alabama’s Eddie Lacy, Wisconsin’s Montee Ball, Texas A&M’s Christine Michael and Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell. All six running backs were selected in the second and third rounds Friday night.
Davis’ selection ended what had been a quiet night for other Razorbacks like Wilson.
The Greenwood native’s journey to the NFL continues in a draft that has not been kind to quarterbacks. Only three quarterbacks have been selected in three rounds.
Florida State’s E.J. Manuel was selected by the Buffalo Bills with the 16th pick Thursday night, while the New York Jets took West Virginia’s Geno Smith with the 39th pick in the second round Friday. North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon was the third quarterback taken, going to the Tampa Bay Bucs in the third round (No. 73).
Wilson was hopeful he could be taken in the first three rounds, but admitted earlier this week he had prepared for the “absolute worst” as well. Southern California’s Matt Barkley and Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, two other quarterbacks who chose to return to school after considering the draft last year, have not been selected either.
Other quarterbacks like Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib, Tennessee’s Tyler Bray and Arizona’s Matt Scott remain on the board as well in a disappointed class.
“Some of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game weren’t the first overall picks,” Wilson said Monday. “Me as a competitor, you take it personal for every pick that you’re not picked. But in reality, that’s just part of the deal. There’s a lot of very, very successful quarterbacks. You’ve got Joe Montana, a third-round pick. Tom Brady, late round. Tony Romo was undrafted, Kurt Warner … You can go down the list.
“You’ve got to get in there and work at the end of the day.”
Wilson said via Twitter he was watching the draft with friends and family Friday. He also had a media session in Ft. Smith tentatively scheduled for Friday night, but it was postponed after the quarterback was not selected among the first 97 picks.
Any celebration will have to wait until today, when the draft concludes with its final four rounds. Wilson certainly won’t be the only Razorback watching closely.
Other draft-hopeful Hogs like tight end Chris Gragg, wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, guard Alvin Bailey and running back Dennis Johnson are hoping to be selected. All four were regarded as mid- to late-round picks by numerous mock drafts.
Linebackers Alonzo Highsmith and Tenarius Wright, running back Ronnie Wingo Jr., defensive tackles D.D. Jones and Alfred Davis, punter Dylan Breeding and cornerback Darius Winston are other Razorbacks hoping to find NFL homes by the end of the day as well. The players aren’t projected as draft picks, but several will have chances to sign free agent contracts as soon as the seven-round draft ends.
Davis doesn’t have to wait and wonder any longer after being selected by the Chiefs.
“Happy to b a Chief !!! Words can’t express how I feel!!! Its been a long…road blessed and highly favored !!!@kcchiefs,” Davis posted on his Twitter page late Friday.