Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian summed up the standard appraisal of Anthony Davis Sunday evening.
“He’s had a checkered career with injuries,” Polian said in a post-draft press conference made available on the Colts’ Web site. “When he’s been healthy he’s been dynamite.”
Just how good was a healthy Davis at the University of Wisconsin?
“When I first saw him two years ago, or maybe three even, I thought I was looking at Thurman Thomas,” Polian said. “He doesn’t have quite as much shake and bake as Thurman but boy does he run hard and boy does he hit the hole.”
The Colts took Davis, who stands fifth in Big Ten history in career rushing yards (4,676), with the 29th selection in the seventh round of the NFL Draft Sunday, the 243rd choice overall. Davis was not available for comment Sunday.
Few college running backs could approach Davis’ level of productivity, but his 5-foot-6 ¾, 202-pound stature and recurrent bouts with the injury bug in his last two seasons diminished his draft value.
Heading into his junior year at UW, Davis had run for more yards in the two previous seasons combined (3,021) than any other returning running back in the nation. Ankle injuries, however, kept him out of five full games and parts of four others his junior year, restricting him to 682 yards and seven touchdowns rushing.
He missed 3 ½ games after fracturing an orbital socket as a senior last fall, then missed close to two more games with a bruised thigh later in the season. He still finished with 973 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing in 2004 and was a consensus second-team All-Big Ten choice.
“We really liked him and we understand that it’s a risk because of the injuries,” Polian said. “But at some point in time I think you have to take a flyer on talent and production. And this is a player who when he has been healthy has really produced.”
Davis’ agent, Jim Ivler, said Thursday before the draft that many NFL personnel people considered Davis’ injury history to be an overblown issue. “He really had a couple of freak things [happen to him],” Ivler said.
But there is no doubt that the injuries played a role in Davis being available when the Colts selected him. As Ivler said, however, Davis’ stock is also weakened by his diminutive stature and the fact that 2005 was a strong year for running backs in the draft, 18 of which were taken before Davis.
“Obviously there is some realities that we have no choice but to deal with,” Ivler said.
“[Davis] just wants to get on the field and show what he can do,” Ivler said. “He certainly feels like he’s got a lot to prove.”
Davis will join former UW defensive end Jonathan Welsh and former UW quarterback Jim Sorgi in Indianapolis. The Colts chose Welsh earlier Sunday with a fifth round pick, the 148th overall selection. They tabbed Sorgi in the sixth round of the 2004 draft.