The Redskins recently signed second-round draft choice Derrius Guice. Considered a first-round running back talent, his draft stock seemingly slipped due to off-the-field concerns.
If and when you get an opportunity in the NFL, the best advice is to seize it while you can as it’s never long before someone else is coming around the corner for your job. Competition is fierce and there are players aplenty that are willing to sacrifice their bodies for short-term glory and a life-changing paycheck.
Last year, the Washington Redskins picked running back Samaje Perine in the fourth round out of Oklahoma and draft-day optimism turned into a team-leading 175 carries. No other Redskin had more than 64 rushing attempts. Perine ranked 43rd out of 47 qualifiers with a meager 3.45 yards per carry average, however, and just one season later the proverbial new sheriff is in town.
Instead of being the second running back selected, behind Saquon Barkley going No. 2 overall to the New York Giants, Guice was the seventh running back taken. A roll of the dice? Not according to the Redskins – or Guice.
“That just bumps the notch up,” Guice said of the slight during his introductory press conference. “I already ran angry. I’m going to run angrier than ever. It’s going to be tough for teams to bring me down.”
Guice averaged 8.5 yards per carry in limited action as a freshman at LSU before rushing for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns in full-time duty as a sophomore. While averaging 7.6 yards per carry during that breakout season of 2016, last year Guice ran for 1,251 yards but sank to a career-low 5.3 yards per carry.
Guice is undeterred, telling reporters during his press conference: “I’m a very physical, powerful runner that doesn’t shy away from contact. I like to compare my game to Marshawn Lynch a lot.”
Someone who doesn’t compare at all to Lynch is Chris Thompson, who in five seasons with the Redskins has averaged a healthy 5.2 yards per carry. At 5-foot-8 and 191 pounds, though, he primarily plays only on third down. In just 10 games last season, he caught 39 passes for a career-high 510 receiving yards. His 13.1 yards per reception was tops in the NFL among running backs.
Guice only caught 32 passes during three seasons at LSU, but that’s largely due to the team’s style of play and what it asks of its backs. Former teammate Leonard Fournette caught 41 passes in his three seasons at LSU but collected 36 receptions as a rookie last season for Jacksonville.
“I’ve seen him at his pro day catch the football,” Redskins head coach Jay Gruden told reporters gathered at his media availability during the draft. “He can catch the football fine, but really, our role for him is quite easy to see. It’s first, second down.”
Washington had the fifth-lowest rushing total in the league last season, with 1,448 yards, and was second-to-last in third-down conversions, with 66. The Redskins haven’t had a player top 205 carries or 800 rushing yards the last three seasons.
Guice should give the Redskins better production on first and second downs, meaning that Thompson – arguably the most effective third-down back in the league – will have less ground to make up when he’s on the field.
Factor in new quarterback Alex Smith, who last season owned the third-best pass completion rate (67.5 percent), the second-best passing yards per attempt rate (8.0) and tied for first in the NFL in passing interception percentage (1.0), and Washington may well have made the changes necessary to move it forward in 2018.
By Brett Kruschke
Follow Brett on Twitter: @bkru