It was generally assumed that the New York Giants would be coming away from the 2017 NFL Draft with a running back. The secondary assumption was that the Giants would be targeting a bigger “power” back to complement Paul Perkins.
As it turned out, the Giants did draft a running back from this year’s talented crop. However, they didn’t select a typical power back. Instead they drafted 6’0”, 215-pound running back Wayne Gallman out of Clemson.
Despite being the leading rusher for an offense that played in consecutive National Championship games, Gallman didn’t get much attention prior to the draft. Gallman has a reputation as a steady, dependable, well-rounded runner, but what does he look like on the field?
While the first job associated with a running back is (predictably) running the ball, one of a running back’s most important duties is pass protection.
This play pretty well illustrates Gallman’s strengths and weaknesses as a pass protector. He knows his assignment, and doesn’t waste any time or energy getting into position. However, his technique gets him blown up as soon as the rush comes.
He doesn’t really “attack” the block and meet the rusher aggressively. Instead, he gets into position and waits for the rush to get to him. Making matters worse, he narrows his stance at the last instant and curls his upper body down rather than dropping his hips and getting leverage.
All of that means that on this play he is more of a speed bump than a block for the defense. Fortunately, DeShaun Watson has time to get the ball off.
This time Gallman is in pass protection and has to pick up a blitzing defensive back. Once again, he does a good job of knowing where he is supposed to be and being there to block the rusher. And this time he does a better job with his technique, spreading his feet and dropping his hips to set a nice wide, stable base.
I’d like to see him be more aggressive with the block and be the one to lay the hit instead of taking the hit. However, he does his job and keep the blitzer from getting to his quarterback.
In the modern NFL a running back needs to be a threat out of the backfield. Offenses need to be able to force defenses to respect the passing game at all time, and potentially have the running back be a reliable safety valve for the quarterback. Gallman wasn’t often used in the Clemson passing attack, with just 20 receptions in 15 games last year.
He does, however, have some upside as a receiver.
This is just a simple swing pass that lets Gallman get out into space before turning up field. The play is well timed enough to give blockers a chance to get into position and Gallman is able to grind out the first down.
He snags the ball out of the air and wastes no time turning upfield and uses a nasty jump cut back inside to take advantage of the first block. Then Gallman lowers his pads and uses his burst (and determination) to run through three defenders on his way to the first. There isn’t anything particularly complex about the play, but Gallman does his job and keeps the offense marching toward the end zone. That’s about as much as can be asked.
It would be nice to see him running more of a route tree out of the backfield, but that he can do the basics (being where he is supposed to be, catching the ball, and taking advantage of his blockers) is a solid start.
Runninng The Ball
Between The Tackles
Gallman’s first carry against Louisville shows what he can do between the tackles.
The play has a horizontal element — a receiver faking a fly sweep to create some uncertainty in the defense as to where the ball is actually going.
The run itself is a pretty typical power run with the right guard pulling around to the left, creating the crease for the running back. The hole isn’t a big one and it’s a testament to Gallman’s footwork and ability to get skinny that he is able to get through the trash at the line of scrimmage.
The fake sweep actually draws the safety into Gallman’s gap, but he runs through the attempted arm tackle. Two more defenders hit him well short of the goal line, but we get to see Gallman’s determination as he lowers his pads and uses his burst to get across the first down marker.
That determination to maximize his runs is something you see consistently from Gallman running up the middle. He isn’t a “power” back, but his determination, power and lower body strength make him a difficult player for defenses to bring down quickly or easily.
In the games I watched, Gallman did most of his damage between the tackles. There his one-cut agility, balance, burst, and lower body strength made him a very effective counterbalance to Clemson’s spread passing offense.
For balance’s sake a running back needs to be able to go outside, at least on occasion. Gallman doesn’t have the type of speed or agility typically associated with running backs who thrive on off-tackle runs, but he is effective enough.
It’s difficult to tell whether or not this was originally intended to be an outside run. Gallman starts out inside, but cuts sharply to run outside of the left tackle. About the same time he makes the cut, the outside linebacker comes up to fill the right A-gap. There wasn’t anything there, so it very well could have been a fake to draw the linebackers in.
Gallman has enough speed to finish the cut and still get the edge, thanks in part to a block from wide receiver Mike Williams. He has enough speed to keep from being run down from behind, and does a nice job of finishing the run by lowering his pads and delivering a hit to the defensive back that is trying to hit him.
The Giants wanted a running back to complement and counterbalance Paul Perkins. The assumption was that they would be targeting a big back like D’Onta Foreman or James Conner.
Gallman isn’t the player fans expected, but his downhill play style does complement the agile Perkins. That one-cut, downhill running should fit well in the Giant’s inside-zone blocking scheme. He has the vision to pick out holes, patience to let the blocking develop, good burst to hit them and make the most of his runs.
Gallman was considered an unsung hero of the Clemson offense, keeping it on schedule and picking up tough yards and touchdowns. He wasn’t a home run threat in college, and likely won’t be in the NFL, but that’s not what the Giants drafted him to be. The Giants are hoping Gallman does for them what he did for Clemson, perhaps giving them what they had only glimpsed from Orleans Darkwa the last two years. At his best, perhaps he could become the type of runner that Ahmad Bradshaw was for them.