Many of the mock drafts published by experts have the Giants addressing the running back position with one of their late round picks. This move has become a staple of the Jerry Reese/Tom Coughlin era, as Big Blue has used 6th- and 7th-round picks on a variety of players, with varying degrees of success:
- 2007 - Ahmad Bradshaw (7th): Key contributor in both of the Giants' most recent Super Bowl wins. 4,000+ career rushing yards, 34 rushing TDs
- 2011 - Da'rel Scott (7th): Lowest running back on depth chart for two years, then released last year after poor performance
- 2013 - Michael Cox (7th): Fourth RB on depth chart, Giants seemed reluctant to play him
This year, with the running back position very much in a state of insecurity (outside of surefire starter Rashad Jennings), New York could again consider this route.
A player I recently began to look at is Stanford halfback Tyler Gaffney, who erupted for 1,700 rushing yards in 2013, providing his team with a consistent rushing attack. Here are the pros and cons associated with the former Cardinal.
Pro: Physical Runner
Watching highlight videos of Gaffney, the way he runs reminds me a lot of a Marshawn Lynch kind of guy. He is big (6'1", 221 lbs) and uses that to his advantage, never falling backwards when hit, and uses extraordinary resiliency to get through piles of tacklers, or at least carry them a few more yards.
This run (0:23) and also this one (1:00) vs Oregon State is a perfect example of this. In both, Gaffney gets hit by one or more defenders while still distant from the goal line, but is able to power through and score both times. (Sorry, couldn't get the gif to work)
Pro: Great Vision
Last year, Gaffney did something that is very rare for power running backs: appeared on Sportcenter's Top Ten, thanks to this run. He initially runs into the pile, and is stopped. However, like any good running back is told to do, he doesn't stop working until he hears the whistle, which in this case doesn't come until he dives into the end zone twenty five yards later.
Along with his excellent vision, Gaffney often displays amazing patience in his runs. He slows down just enough to allow a hole to open, or to let his big offensive linemen get out in front of him when he's running an outside handoff. This is something we don't see very often at the college level, and another trait that I believe helps make Gaffney even more pro-ready.
Pro: Size, Durability and Quickness
As previously mentioned, Gaffney is big, and uses that to his advantage when taking on potential tacklers. Another area where he can use this size is pass protection. With a weight of 221 lbs, he can match up against most defensive ends and outside linebackers, and is often bigger than blitzing cornerbacks. And while his blocking technique might not be the most sparkling one you'll find, his size definitely allows for the potential to improve in this area.
Another important aspect in which Gaffney passes with flying colors is his ability to stay on the field. During his four year career at Stanford, he only missed three games because of injury, way back in 2010. This is especially impressive due to how much he was used in 2013, when he averaged 23.5 carries per game, including a record-setting 45 carry game against Oregon.
Last but not least among his positive traits is his quickness and lateral movement. In the previously linked videos, Gaffney not only shows the ability to break through a tackler's arms, he also shows that same ability when going into the hole at the line of scrimmage. Along with that, and his patience while waiting for a hole to show up, Gaffney is able to dodge bigger linemen, who he would have a problem trucking. His quickness was made evident at the combine, where he recorded the second best 3-cone shuttle time among running backs.
Cons: Speed and Receiving Ability
The one drawback we normally find in large running backs is their lack of breakaway speed, and that is true for Gaffney as well(4.49 40-yard dash at combine). Though he can often get to the second level or grind out tough yards due to his power, he has trouble outrunning most safeties and cornerbacks, limiting his game changing ability.
Along with his lack of breakaway speed, Gaffney doesn't seem to have much prowess receiving the ball out of the backfield, as evidenced by only 15 catches as a full time starter this year. However, he received positive reviews at the combine for this aspect of his game, so it could have just been a scheme issue that caused this deficiency.
Gaffney seems like a viable option to me because he fits the Coughlin mold. He is a power back, who can defend the QB, break tackles, and gain tough yards on 3rd- and 4th-down plays. He also has potential to be a good receiver out of the backfield.
He reminds me of a shorter, faster, and smarter version of Brandon Jacobs. He doesn't dance around or run sideways in the backfield, instead choosing to make small cuts and attempt to run north-south. And if Brandon Jacobs can have as successful a career as he did, leading the G-Men in rushing touchdowns, imagine what a faster, smarter version of him could do.
P.S. This is my first fanpost, please let me know what you think and how I can improve for future reference.