The Giants will be trying to fix the league’s 29th worst running game this season, and will be looking for help anywhere they can get it. While it may seem like an obvious place to start would be the free agent market, it is actually a cloudy situation. While there are some big names on the market it doesn’t seem like there will be any big splashes. Maurice Jones-Drew seemed like a candidate to change teams but reports say he is happy in Jacksonville, Knowshon Moreno will have to be really wowed to swap Peyton Manning for Eli Manning, and all the rest of the free agents have big injury question marks. With the likely hood of landing a big name free agent without injury problems not looking very promising, the Giants must turn to this May’s draft.
The Giants are desperate for a back, but it is important that they don’t reach and draft someone too early. This year’s class, much like last year’s class, probably doesn’t warrant a first round running back selection. The draft philosophy has changed. It is a pass first league and it is easier to find good backs further down the board than in previous seasons. Last season play makers like Giovanni Bernard, Eddie Lacy, and Le’Veon Bell were all taken outside of the first round.
This year the Giants may be hoping to capitalize on a running back they could take in the later rounds as well. Tre Mason will likely be the first back taken, and he could fall to the Giants. Mason has incredible quickness, speed and the ability to perform against top defenses. In five games against top 10 teams this season, including the national championship game, Mason rushed for 973 yards and nine touchdowns. The former Auburn star finished the season 1,816 yards, 23 touchdowns and became the first non-quarterback to lead Auburn in offensive production since Bo Jackson in 1985.
Carlos Hyde from Ohio State is another back that is projected to go in the middle rounds. Hyde was overshadowed by his quarterback Braxton Miller and his ability to run the ball. The former Buckeye is known for his big frame; he stands at 6’ and 240 pounds. He can easily shed tackles and has the drive to keep the pile moving. He also has something most backs at the collegiate level lack, which is the ability to protect the passer. His grinding running style isn’t exactly conducive to today’s NFL but he can wear out defenses by prolonging drives gaining critical short yardage late in games. Hyde probably garners a third-round selection at best. While his size is impressive, he tires easily and is not a back who could handle the responsibilities of a starter.
Andre Williams from Boston College is an interesting late-round prospect. Williams led the nation this year with 2,177 yards, making him the 13th player in NCAA history to eclipse the 2000-yard mark. He finished his college career quite decorated as the Doak Walker Award winner, a unanimous first-team All-American selection, and he was even a Heisman finalist. Williams runs with great strength, power, and explosiveness. He’s a big back that typically runs through first contact and still maintains his balance. However there is a downside to him. Scouts mostly question if he is one year wonder. During his first three seasons in Boston, he ran for just over 1,500 yards despite starting 15 games. He also failed to catch a single pass this season and the Giants need a player with good hands out of the backfield. Williams is projected as a mid-level pick and the Giants could probably wait as late as the fourth round to get him.
De’Anthony Thomas is another player the Giants could add late in the draft to make an immediate impact. Thomas’s Oregon career has been nothing short of great. He leaves the Ducks as their all-time leader in kick-off return yards, punt return average, and is third in total career yards. The former Oregon star was also a member of their track and field team as he anchored their 4×100 meter relay. Thomas could be a huge a help in the Giants return game. With David Wilson’s future unknown and Jerrel Jernigan’s increased role in the offense, Big Blue will need an explosive runner to return kicks and punts. If a player of Thomas’s character is still available in the seventh round the Giants should take him.