The New York Giants were an absolute disaster in 2013. They started the season 0-6 and really never seemed to be in sync in any aspect on the offensive side of the football.
Things were especially awful at the running back position. The G-Men moved on from often injured running back Ahmad Bradshaw in the off-season, and the future appeared to be bright with the electrifying and ultra talented David Wilson taking over as the team’s lead back.
The serviceable and overall solid Andre Brown would be his running mate in the backfield, helping as a change of pace runner and goal-line option.
It wouldn’t go as planned.
Brown broke his leg before the season even began, thrusting Wilson into the starting role. Whether the Giants actually were comfortable with him as a three down back, they suddenly had to at least pretend to be.
We all found out right away in week one that they probably shouldn’t have been, as Wilson struggled in pass protection and ball control. Wilson fumbled twice and got benched for the second half by head coach Tom Coughlin. Just like that, the optimism at running back was waning in New York.
Wilson understandably was limited on offense over the next few weeks, while fantasy owners didn’t even get a single touchdown until week six. Just when Wilson seemed to be getting something going with that score, Wilson gave fantasy football owners the ultimate slap in the face with a neck injury that would effectively end his season.
With both Brown and Wilson down and seemingly out, the G-Men were forced to turn to scrubs like Peyton Hillis, Da’Rel Scott and Mike Cox. If that wasn’t bad enough, they even had to resort to bringing back the aging Brandon Jacobs.
Needless to say, it was a situation to avoid in fantasy football last year. The only question is, was that just one season from hell, or can the running back situation with Big Blue actually be one we can think about approaching in fantasy drafts for the 2014 season?
There is optimism that we don’t have to write New York’s backfield off completely.
While Wilson was an epic disappointment and surely can’t be fully trusted, he is expected to be back and ready for the 2014 season. The team also signed Rashad Jennings away from the Oakland Raiders, brought back Peyton Hillis and even drafted the talented Andre Williams.
They let the injury prone Andre Brown go, too, so suddenly their backfield seems to have a nice mixture of talent, stability, upside and competition.
To get a better feel of which running backs hold the most value in New York, though, let’s break each main back down and see if they’re worth a pick in your 2014 fantasy draft:
Rashad Jennings (Average Draft Position – Round 5)
Jennings obviously is the top running back in New York to own right now, and it’s pretty much by default. The Giants brought him in as a free agent for sheer stability, as he’s coming off of a career year. He should start the season as the team’s early down back, but it might be a stretch to consider him a true feature back.
With that said, he showed a nice combination of power and speed last year, and also proved to be exceptionally versatile. Just how big of a role he will have is going to hinge largely on the health and efficiency of David Wilson.
The upside here is that Jennings has a monster role and performs admirably, giving him a shot at stable RB2 value. The downside, of course, is that he plays like the near 30-year old that he is and that his sweet 2013 season was a fluke.
Needless to say, even round five might be a bit rich for him. I’d much rather roll the dice with guys like Toby Gerhart, Knowshon Moreno and Danny Woodhead – all of which can be had after Jennings in drafts, on average.
David Wilson (ADP – Round 11)
Jennings is the safer bet, as mock drafts will show, but he doesn’t have the talent or upside Wilson does. The Giants shockingly only got him the ball TWO TIMES as a receiver in six games last year, and that clearly needs to change.
The rest comes down to health and turnovers. Is Wilson truly healthy and can he stay that way? And can he find a cure to his fumbling woes? He also needs to be more consistent in pass protection, but if he can prove the first two concerns aren’t as big as they seem right now, that should instantly get him more playing time.
Wilson’s 11th round ADP is probably accurate for now, but don’t be shocked to see it slowly creep up more towards where Jennings is being drafted throughout the summer. Wilson burned a lot of fantasy owners and few will soon forget, but we can’t ignore his ridiculous upside. He should be drafted as a potential weekly Flex play for now. Just know he could end up being so much more.
Peyton Hillis (ADP – Undrafted)
Hillis is an aging plodder who can’t create much (if anything). He can only get what is blocked for him or as much as his brute power will let him plow through. At this point, that’s not a whole lot, making him a fringe player at best. The good news here is that Hillis is extremely versatile. He can block, catch and help in short yardage and goal-line situations.
All that being said, he was only decent in stretches for the Giants last year. He was signed off the streets and it took him a while to get his legs back, but he’s likely just a preseason body. He probably won’t make the team, and even if he does, it’d probably be as the team’s third or fourth running back. Unless he shocks the world and comes into camp in the best shape of his life and wins the starting gig, he can’t be drafted.
Andre Williams (ADP – Undrafted)
Williams is a rook, so naturally he’s going to start out pretty far down on the totem pole. Yes, even below The White Rhino. Williams is actually pretty similar to Hillis in terms of style, as he’s a downhill runner who relies on size and strength rather than speed or athleticism. He’s a better all around talent, was a fourth round pick and has more upside, though. If it comes down to him or Hillis, he’s going to get the nod. That should put him as New York’s #3 option out of the backfield at the very worst, but it still doesn’t make him a guy you need to draft. He’s facing a similar situation that Zac Stacy was in last season, though, making him a guy you still need to keep an eye on.