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Who will be carrying the ball for the Giants in 2018?

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Let’s begin analyzing the roster by looking in the backfield

New York Giants v Denver Broncos
Orleans Darkwa
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Pat Shurmur is the new head coach of your New York Giants. How will he go about revamping a team that went 3-13 in 2017? Let’s begin looking at the question by going through the roster position-by-position.

We will start at running back, where there could easily be some new faces in 2018.

2017 roster

Orleans Darkwa
Rushing: 171 carries, 751 yards, 4.4 yards per carry, 5 TDs | Receiving: 19 receptions, 116 yards, 6.1 yards per reception | Contract status: Unrestricted free agent

Wayne Gallman
Rushing: 111 carries, 476 yards, 4.3 yards per carry | Receiving: 34 receptions, 183 yards, 5.7 yards per reception | Contract status: Second year of four-year rookie deal

Shane Vereen
Rushing: 45 carries, 164 yards, 3.6 yards per carry | Receiving: 44 receptions, 253 yards, 5.8 yards per reception | Kickoff returns: 9 returns, 196 yards, 21.8 yards per return

Paul Perkins
Rushing: 41 carries, 90 yards, 2.2 yards per carry | Receiving: 8 receptions, 44 yards, 5.8 yards per reception

Perkins was anointed the starter by then-coach Ben McAdoo way back in the spring. He flopped miserably. To be fair, almost all of Perkins’ carries came without D.J. Fluker in the Giants’ lineup at right guard. Fluker’s insertion midway through the season helped the run-blocking immensely. Perkins suffered a rib injury and carried the ball only nine times after Week 4.

Darkwa has a career year after a couple of seasons of watching Rashad Jennings and others get carries he perhaps deserved. He is a free agent, though, and his fit in a Pat Shurmur offense is to be determined. Darkwa is a straight-ahead, no-nonsense, hit the hole hard runner better going up the gut than hitting the edges or running outside zone. He also dropped a number of passes in 2017, appearing to be limited as a receiving threat.

Gallman, a 2017 fourth-round pick, appeared by the end of the season to be the team’s most complete back. Gallman probably isn’t a home run threat, but he could be a productive player in Shurmur’s offense.

Vereen caught a decent number of passes (44) but really had little to no impact. The 28-year-old is a free agent and it would be a surprise if the Giants brought him back.

2018 need

The first decision the Giants have to make is regarding Darkwa. The 25-year-old is a good player who waited — too long in my estimation -- for his turn and played well when he got it. Can you build a ground game around Darkwa and Gallman? Does he fit what Shurmur might want in his running backs? Is Darkwa worth something like the three-year, $15 million deal the Minnesota Vikings gave Latavious Murray last offseason?

Can Perkins, at least, develop into a pass-catching threat who could replace Vereen? He did show some promise in that area as a rookie in 2016.

Gallman’s versatility and youth figure to make him part of the solution. Will he be the featured back or just a cog in the wheel? That depends partially on what Shurmur sees when he finally gets to sit and evaluate tape from the 2017 Giants.

The Giants haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Ahmad Bradshaw gained 1,015 yards in 2012. There is no denying this is a position they could look to upgrade or at least supplement. They could use a more dynamic player than anyone on the current roster. Question is, with seemingly bigger needs on the offensive line and across the defense, along with the possibility they would seek to draft a quarterback in the first round, how much draft or free agent capital would the Giants be willing to put into the position?

Free agency

Le’Veon Bell might well be the best all-around running back in football. Every team would like to have a guy with his skill set. He happens to be a free agent, and there are increasing indications that he and the Pittsburgh Steelers might be parting ways. That, though, doesn’t mean the Giants should chase the 25-year-old.

Bell made twice as much ($12.12 million) in base salary as any other running back last season. He wants more. Somebody will probably give it to him, but that somebody should not be the Giants. He isn’t twice as good as everybody else, and the Giants have other uses for that money.

A more likely free-agent target might be Minnesota Vikings’ running back Jerick McKinnon. He ran for 570 yards (3.8 yards per carry) and caught 51 passes playing for new Giants coach Pat Shurmur last season. Both were career highs.

Draft options

OK, this is the part where we have the Saquon Barkley discussion. There are many who believe Barkley is the best player in this draft, and lots of Giants fans practically frothing at the mouth over the possibility of drafting the Penn State running back.

Personally, I’m not a fan of drafting a running back that high. Maybe if you have the other pieces in place and that game-changing back is the last part of your puzzle. Otherwise, no. Also, considering the quarterback situation, the needs on defense and his love for “hog mollies,” I have serious doubts Dave Gettleman would make a running back his first pick as GM of the Giants.

If they look to add a back in the draft, it seems more likely the Giants will hope to do what the New Orleans Saints did a year ago when they found Alvin Kamara (1,554 yards from scrimmage) in the third round.

This is hardly a complete list, but options might include San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny [prospect profile], Nick Chubb and Sony Michel of Georgia, Ronald Jones II of USC and Kerryon Johnson of Auburn.