In the course of a discussion on Monday about the lack of touches David Wilson has been getting, someone posted a list of the carries given early in their careers to the other first round running backs taken in the last few years. The list included the following backs:
McFadden, Stewart, F. Jones, Mendenhall, C. Johnson, Moreno, D. Brown, Wells, Spiller, Matthews, Best, Ingram, Richardson and Martin.
The raw data showed Wilson has been given the least touches (by far) of any of those backs. Statistics, however, can be very slippery. I submit that the fact that other first round backs have been used more than Wilson is relatively meaningless in a vacuum. There are a number of factors that could explain why some, maybe most, of those backs got more opportunities early in their careers. Were the teams that drafted them good teams? In many of the cases listed, no. Not surprisingly, bad teams tend to throw their first round picks into action sooner. Those teams can afford to live with the usual rookie mistakes because they're not really contending, and it's important for their first rounders to get up to speed and contribute right away. Did the teams that drafted these backs have an established back who was any good? A good team who sees the new draftee as a significant improvement over a veteran may be willing to risk the rookie mistakes. I think most of those backs were not drafted into situations where the team was coming off a very successful season and was a serious super bowl contender and already had a quality back? Another factor to consider is, how many of those backs had hugely successful first years and became key performers for playoff teams? There's just a lot of factors to consider beyond the raw number of touches they were given to reach any meaningful conclusion.
I'm not trying to argue that Wilson should or shouldn't get touches. And I don't disagree that Coughlin is less willing than many of his peers to give young players a shot (although notice how much playing time JWill got last year and how much Hosley has gotten this year). But I do think there are a number of factors that make his decision understandable on a rational level rather than mere stubbornness.