Good things come to those who wait. Last year a lot of fantasy owners raced to add David Wilson with a belief that it would be a matter of time before he supplanted Ahmad Bradshaw as the Giants' feature back. After all, GM Jerry Reese used a 1st round pick on Wilson who many viewed as the most talented back in the 2012 draft class. Unfortunately, a few early miscues were enough to earn Wilson a place in head coach Tom Coughlin's dog house. The result was just 75 touches from scrimmage and a meager 47th place finish among fantasy RBs.
Yet, it's a new season and we have every reason to believe David Wilson will emerge this year as the franchise tailback we thought he would be.
Reason #1 -- Ahmad Bradshaw is Gone
Ahmad Bradshaw has battled foot injuries for years, but he deserves credit for playing hurt and producing when he's on the field. The talented veteran managed 1,260 yards from scrimmage and 6 touchdowns in spite of starting just 12 games, which made David Wilson's early mistakes all the easier to overreact to. Fortunately Bradshaw was sent packing and is now an Indianapolis Colt.
Reason #2 -- The Giants Need to Re-Commit to the Run
The Giants finished 23rd in rushing attempts and 14th in rushing yards last year, which played a big role in the Giants' 9-7 (non-playoff) record. Both Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin have expressed the importance of re-establishing balance to an offense that's predicated on throwing downfield off play action. Opposing defenses didn't take that threat seriously last year at times; expect OC Kevin Gilbride to remedy that situation with impunity.
Reason #3 -- Andre Brown is a Backup, Not a Time Share
THIS is the opportunity folks. I am STUNNED at how many people view Andre Brown as a credible alternative to David Wilson. Look, Andre Brown is a feel good story. It's one to tell your grandchildren about. But the MYTH has exceeded the REALITY. Let's review...Brown battled injuries and couldn't stick with four teams in 2010 before finding his way back to the Giants in 2011. Ahmad Bradshaw's injuries and David Wilson's early fumbles forced the Giants to give Brown a chance, and he did reasonably well. Yet, 75 carries for 384 yards and 8 TDs is hardly evidence of a bright future. Pedigree and talent matter, and objectively Wilson is the better player in every way. He's stronger, faster, a better receiver, has a better injury history, a better pedigree, a larger contract and profiles as a complete back. Brown has given himself an NFL life with last year's workmanlike role, but I just don't believe for a second Brown is anything more than Wilson's backup PROVIDED that Wilson manages to stay out of Coughlin's dog house. It's like worrying that someone is going to trade in their Porsche because they have a Civic in the garage, too.
Reason #4 -- Wilson is out of the Dog House
Coughlin, Reese and Gilbride have all been complimentary of Wilson throughout the offseason, and it's clear (even dating back to the final games of 2012), that all is forgiven provided that Wilson doesn't relapse (by turning the ball over or failing to handle his blocking assignments).
Reason #5 -- Wilson is immensely talented
We sometimes forget that talent matters. Sure, there are plenty of examples in league history where a player with less talent outperforms a talented player, but that's a) a rarity and b) not usually the case when the players are both solid citizens with strong work ethics. Footballguys own draft guru Matt Waldman had this to say about Wilson entering the draft:
Wilson’s quickness, speed, balance and stop-start agility are among the best in the country, and it makes him a special athlete/runner in the open field. Get him in space and he’s a nightmare to bring down. When he’s disciplined about what he’s doing conceptually, he has the pad level, acceleration and technique to be productive as a between-the-tackles, chain-moving runner.
Reason #6 -- The Offensive Line is Improved
The Giants prioritized the offensive line in the April draft, selecting Justin Pugh in the 1st round. Pugh will replace David Diehl as right tackle, and should be an instant upgrade (particularly as a run blocker).
- Wilson is a physical marvel, with all the skills requisite of a true franchise running back
- Tom Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride want to re-discover offensive balance
- Ahmad Bradshaw is gone, leaving the door wide open for Wilson
- Andre Brown had 8 touchdowns in limited action last year and poses a threat as a short-yardage specialist
- Wilson can't get in his own head early and fumble, or he may find himself back on the bench
David Wilson's rookie season didn't go according to plan thanks to early fumbles and pass-blocking difficulties. Yet, when the dust settled Wilson finished the season with 1,925 all purpose yards (a Giants rookie record) and looked like a franchise runner late in the season when the coaches finally gave him a shot. The Giants opted not to re-sign Ahmad Bradshaw, and then failed to draft a runner in this year's NFL draft. If that's not a testament to Wilson's opportunity, I don't know what is. Sure, Andre Brown may have a role, but this is Wilson's job to lose. As long as Wilson holds onto the ball, he is going to be the Giants bell cow and, as a result, offers tremendous value at his current ADP.
THOUGHTS FROM AROUND THE WEB
Wilson's ability as a runner makes him an enticing fantasy football play. But the Giants' coaching staff isn't looking for the best fantasy football running back. The Giants mix and match with running backs, and they'll put the ones on the field who help the overall offense function the best. That's why I'm not taking Wilson early. He could be a great asset this year. I just think there are too many question marks about the ways in which the team will use him to make him a trustworthy option.
Matt De Lima of FFToolbox believes Wilson is the breakout player of the year:
Like any high-upside running back, playing time is the key. Buffalo's C.J. Spiller is a comparable talent who forfeited a lot of playing time earlier in his career to Fred Jackson. Spiller and Wilson both have freak-of-nature speed and athleticism. What separates the pair is Wilson's incredible lower body strength and balance. He can absorb contact and bounce off would-be tacklers with ease. The second-year runner is a more natural running back who will require less grooming than Spiller, but took a few seasons to come into his own. Head-to-head, Wilson's skill-set is better; however nothing is a given in the NFL. If the Giants opt to use Andre Brown frequently, Wilson has little chance to break into RB1 territory.
In any league format, Wilson is a solid RB2 assuming he carves out a significant role in New York's offense. His ceiling is even higher too. If there's one young running back that can significantly outperform his average draft position (3.08 according to Fantasy Football Calculator), it's Wilson.
More from Jason Wood:
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Preseason Watch List: AFC North - July 22