A post over at the Giants blog Big Blue View caught my eye yesterday, as they were voting on an over/under of yardage totals for rookie RB David Wilson this season. The number they chose? 571. Why 571? That’s the number of yards Brandon Jacobs had in 2011. Not surprisingly, more than 75% of the Giants fan base at Big Blue View had Wilson breaking that benchmark. That got me wondering how many highly drafted running backs over the past five years have fared in their rookie seasons. Here they are:
Analysis after the jump…
If you’ll notice, only 10 of 28 of the above backs reached the 571 landmark.
I think the perception is that running back is a position that is comparatively easy to learn and there’s a higher likelihood of success for a rookie RB than there is at a much more cerebral position like QB. This is a perception I largely agree with, as 5 running backs drafted in the 2nd round or higher between 2008 and 2007 had bigtime rookie seasons:
However, in the last 3 years, that trend has not continued. While 4 early picks in 2007-2008 topped 1000 yards their rookies seasons in 2007-2008 and a 5th racked up 10 TD’s, running back classes of the last 3 years haven’t done nearly as well. Here’s that group:
Now, these running backs were entering the league with varying situations which might affect playing time and therefore the number of yards they could rack up, but note the yards per carry of the group from 2007-2008. It’s a very impressive 4.5 yards per carry. The group from 2009-2011: 3.9.
Some more notes:
- The Giants had a very high pass:run ratio last season, and due to some stellar play by Eli Manning and his receiving corps, they were able to ride that to a Super Bowl. However, evidence would suggest that the Giants are trying to get better in the run game this season. They signed Martellus Bennett, who has been a major disappointment in the passing game in his career thus far, but is a very good blocker. They also drafted a couple of offensive tackles (although they’re unlikely to see action), as well as TE Adrien Robinson, whose game is similar to Bennett’s. And of course, they drafted a Wilson to be a complimentary back to Bradshaw. The added resources to help the running game could mean two things: They either plan to run the ball more, or they simply want to be better at running it when they do (but not necessarily planning on running it more). I’m leaning toward thinking it’s the latter.
- If you can’t pass block in the NFL, you won’t play. Period. I’ve yet to take a deep look at Wilson on film in the pass blocking department, but most scouting reports will tell you that’s an area where Wilson needs work.
- Last season, on just his 5th carry of the season, Da’Rel Scott fumbled against the Saints. He never saw the football again in 2011. Tom Coughlin does not accept fumbling. Wilson had 7 fumbles last year at Virginia Tech. I think Coughlin will need to be sure he can trust Wilson to hang onto the football before he gets a significant number of touches.
- In the last 2 years, there’s been 4 highly drafted RB’s that have been lost for the season prior to Week 1 with a serious injury: Ryan Williams, Mikel Leshoure, Ben Tate, and Montario Hardesty. I think that’s more of a flukey thing that has little to do with Wilson’s likelihood to get injured, but I just thought it deserved noting.
I think the Giants will try to mix Wilson in, and when they do, I think he can be a productive compliment to Ahmad Bradshaw, but unless Bradshaw gets hurt for a significant stretch of games, I would lean toward taking the under. I would advise Giants fans to expect Wilson to start to pay off in Years 2 and beyond, but to keep your expectations in check for 2012.