The NFL Draft is always threatening to fringe roster players across the league. Gary Brightwell had a minor role as the New York Giants’ third running back in 2022, but a late-round draft pick may have him searching for a new home at the end of the summer.
By the numbers
Position: Running back
Contract: third year of four-year, $3,658,872 rookie deal | $178,872 guaranteed at signing | 2023 cap hit: $984,718
Career to date
Brightwell was selected out of Arizona by the Giants with the 196th pick in the 2021 draft. Brightwell was drafted largely because of his standout special teams play at Arizona. The Giants also needed insurance at running back with Saquon Barkley coming off an ACL tear.
In two years with the Giants, though, Brightwell’s role on offense has been minor. Brightwell never gained any traction as a rookie, rushing only one time for four yards despite being active for 13 games. He played 194 special teams snaps and posted a 58.4 Pro Football Focus grade.
In his second year with the team, Brightwell was the RB3 but still didn’t do much. He was active for all 17 games and rushed 31 times for 141 yards (4.5 per attempt) with one touchdown. He also had five catches for 39 yards. Brightwell earned a 66.7 PFF grade on offense in limited action. As a kick returner, he averaged 21.3 yards per return on 26 attempts and had a 60.3 PFF grade.
Brightwell may struggle to find a spot on the roster with the Giants’ selection of Eric Gray in the fifth round. He hasn’t shown much on the field offensively, and his kick returns are lackluster. It’s possible that his varied experience on special teams keeps him with the team.
As much as the NFL devalues running backs and does not like to draft them high, Brightwell shows the risks of taking any JAG (“just a guy”) in the mid-to-late rounds. Hits like Dameon Pierce, Tyler Allgeier, and Isiah Pacheco are more than offset by misses like Brightwell and many others.
Running backs may not be critically important, but they’re not interchangeable, either.