NY Giants General Manager Jerry Reese has had mixed success with the running backs that he has drafted in his seven drafts.
Ahmad Bradshaw was a hit in the seventh round in 2007, as was Andre Brown in the fourth round in 2009, albeit to a lesser extent. Seventh-round pick from 2011, Da’Rel Scott, hasn’t amounted to much and was non-tendered, and the seventh rounder from 2013, Michael Cox, hasn’t had the opportunity to do much yet, so the jury is still out. Then there’s the talented but fumble-prone and injury-ridden David Wilson, the first-round pick from 2012. Who knows about him.
With the Giants rushing game ranked 30th in DVOA in 2013, according to Football Outsiders, certainly there is a great need to infuse some new talent into the ground game. Reese has already started that process by signing guard Geoff Schwartz and running back Rashad Jennings, while allowing lineman Kevin Boothe to leave via free agency, cutting center David Baas, and not resigning backup lineman Jim Cordle, or Brown or Scott.
It would not be surprising to see the NY Giants continue to rebuild what was once one of the best running games in the NFL when the draft rolls around in two months.
A name to keep an eye on is Boston College’s Heisman Trophy candidate Andre Williams. CBS Sports has Williams projected as a fourth-round talent, and if he’s on the board when the Giants pick in the fourth, he is a no-brainer.
At 5-11, 230-pounds, Williams has the body reminiscent of a younger Michael Turner, and his bruising running style combined with good speed (4.56 40-yard dash time at the combine) is eerily similar to ex-Giant Brandon Jacobs.
He has excellent balance and uses that to his advantage when lowering his pads to blow right through would-be tacklers. Check out this video of Williams stiff-arming Maryland defensive back William Likely in a game last November.
Williams is not a flashy running back in the vein of Bradshaw, the highlight reels don’t show him making very many cutbacks or lateral moves, but they do show him authoritatively hitting the hole and blowing up defenders who try to make weak tackles.
It also shows why he was able to rack up 2,177 yards and 18 touchdowns while averaging 6.1 yards per carry. In a three-week span from November 9th – November 23rd, Williams had games of 295 yards, 339 yards, and 263 yards.
As far as his pass protection goes, Williams is not the best of this running back class, but he is certainly toward the top. He has a good ability to recognize oncoming blitzers and protect the quarterback.
It’s good that he can protect because – and this is putting it kindly – Williams couldn’t catch a cold. His 10 career catches and poor showing at the combine indicate that Williams shouldn’t even be used as an emergency check-down option on pass plays, unless you want the ball dropped.
The other knock on Williams is that he doesn’t have anything other than average acceleration, and that he needs a few steps to get going. We might as well call him Andre “Freight Train” Williams, because he might take a little while to get up to speed, but when he does, get out of the way.
Perhaps even more importantly, Williams is known as possessing great character and has stayed out of trouble, something that the Giants seems to value when looking at draftees.
As far as Tom Coughlin-style running backs goes, Williams is pretty darn close to the prototype – if he had better hands he’d be Fred Taylor.
There are certainly better running backs in this year’s draft class, but as far as the Giants go, Williams might very well be the best option, and best bargain.
Joe Vasile | Featured Columnist