We’ve recently had a new addition to the family. Thankfully, this one was planned. Our new dog, Foxxy, is a four-year-old collie we rescued almost a month ago. We would’ve bought one sooner, but there are necessary items you need to own a dog. Chew toys, a leash and a doghouse are just a few, and we had none of them. Well, we have a doghouse, but I was convinced David Wilson still lived there.
Let’s try to understand what we’re dealing with concerning the Giants’ ultra-talented running back. Wilson, selected immediately after Tampa Bay drafted Doug Martin, was the buzz of Giants training camp. Here’s what Eli Manning had to say about him this summer:
“The fastest running back we’ve ever had,” Manning said of Wilson last August. “I mean this guy’s quick. He’s explosive, so that’s kind of exciting.”
After rivaling Martin’s summer hype, Wilson excelled in a preseason game, rushing five times for 49 yards in what looked to be a preview of what fans would see all year. That all came to a crashing halt in the blink of eye, when Wilson, the anointed starting running back in-waiting, committed the cardinal sin of Tom Coughlin running backs – not protecting the football. On a fateful Sunday night against Dallas, Wilson fumbled on his second NFL carry. Coughlin never let him forget it, burying him in his backfield rotation and virtually destroying any of his 2012 fantasy value. The fact he cried like a seven-year-old getting his mouth washed out with soap after the play didn’t seem to help things in the court of public opinion. Wilson was leapfrogged by virtual unknown Andre Brown and fell to the third on the team’s depth chart. All the while, Martin was exploding into the best young runner in the NFL.
Still, astute observers understood the high level of talent Wilson held. That talent flashed for the first time in week five, when the 2011 ACC Offensive Player of the Year rushed for a 40 yard touchdown on his first carry of the game against Cleveland. It was also the first time Wilson performed his personal creation of an endzone celebration – a standing backflip. This went over like a lead balloon and the Giants quickly put a stop to it. Owners who used a high draft pick held on to him in hopes that he would stumble into another opportunity. In Week 12, Brown’s season ended with a broken fibula, and all that was standing in Wilson’s way was Ahmad Bradshaw. As you know, Bradshaw getting hurt is as safe a bet as Mike Shanahan running you until your leg falls off. See Griffin III, Robert.
With fantasy titles on the line, that opportunity came. Showing the promise he had all season, Wilson ran for 100 yards and scored three touchdowns in a Week 14 win over New Orleans. The following week, Bradshaw sat out with a sprained knee and Wilson became a starting running back. The sky was the limit heading into Week 16 against a suspect Atlanta run defense. Through no fault of his own, that big day never came. The Giants got pounded like a piece of meat, losing 34-0 to the Falcons. When the game was close, Wilson was on fire, opening the game with 44 yards on his first five carries after only a half a quarter. From that point on, he carried the ball just seven more times for 11 yards.
With the off-season upon us, it’s time to sit and assess what we have, especially now that the Giants have released Bradshaw. In Wilson’s case, your decision is tougher now than it was before Week 14. Redrafting Wilson should be much harder than once thought given the steep price you’ll likely have to pay. With speed and quickness his biggest strengths, the most accurate comparable to Wilson is Bills running back C.J. Spiller.
Wilson also provides exceptional kick return skills. In his first season, Wilson led the NFL in kickoff returns (57) and return yardage (1,533). His average of nearly 27 yards per run back ranked in the top ten of the NFL. If you happen to be in any of those wacky leagues that factor in those things, keeping him on your dynasty team is a no-brainer. It’s never a bad idea to load up your team with players whose teams go out of their way to get the ball in their hands, and Wilson perfectly fits the profile.
Another thing Wilson has going for him is the offense in which he plays. Thanks to the former Virginia Tech Hokie, the Giants ranked fourth in the NFC in points per game last season. One thing I always look for in evaluating a running back is the effectiveness of his offense without him. Teams that can get near the goal line without the help of their runner are much more likely to lean on him when it’s time for a touchdown. With Manning, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks leading the way, the Giants proved by winning a Super Bowl last season that scoring points without a running game is no problem at all.
Even thought they ranked dead last in rushing a year before, the Giants know how to run the football. Despite winning the Super Bowl, they spent their off-season nitpicking about their lack of a run game. Some organizations look at the run as a point of pride – think of the Steelers, Ravens and as long as their legs don’t break, the Redskins. The Giants deserve to be mentioned in that conversation.
In regards to Wilson, here’s what I’m looking for this off-season:
1) Encouraging reports directly from Giants coaches.
2) Reports of improved ball security.
3) One of the Giants backfield dominoes to fall (and it just happened with Bradshaw getting released)
4) A trade offer I can’t refuse.
We’re talking about a player who rushed for an average of five yards per carry in his first NFL season – a better average than Martin or Trent Richardson. His key was being able to take any carry the distance. Not many backs have the ability to find an extra gear to create separation from any and everyone. The players that come to mind are Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles, Spiller and Wilson. This is a select class and Wilson holds a talent that makes great runners.
Wilson has too much talent to not give him the football. After all, he’s a running back and also a kick returner. With an offense that is likely to score a lot of points, the starting running back job is huge. Even though he had a down year by first round running back standards, one could clearly see his potential. If truly given the starting job, Wilson could be looking at huge numbers as soon as next year. I know he under-performed last year, but getting rid of this guy and trying to “sell high” now worries me. It’s possible the Giants could bring back Bradshaw or expand the role of Andre Brown, but they would have never cut Bradshaw had they not had faith in Wilson’s ability to at least shoulder a huge part of the future load.
I don’t want to be the guy who gave him up prematurely and you shouldn’t either.
Follow Dan Hasty on Twitter @DanHasty34