Can the powerful back sneak into the first round?
The Sports Quotient’s annual Draft Preview series is back! Over the course of the eight weeks leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft, we will take a look at the top prospects at each position. This week, we dive into the running back position. Today, we’ll take a look at Derrius Guice from LSU.
After a decorated career at Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, Guice chose to remain in his hometown and attend LSU, turning down offers from other big programs such as Alabama and Texas. Guice was able to get on the field immediately, playing in every game as a true freshman behind superstar back and future top-five pick Leonard Fournette, albeit in a limited fashion.
When Fournette missed several games due to an ankle injury the next season, Guice seized the opportunity, finishing the year with a 183/1387/15 rushing line. His best performance came against Texas A&M, when he broke LSU’s single-game rushing record (previously held by Fournette) after racking up 285 yards.
A lingering left knee issue slowed Guice down in his junior season. He was able to post a 237/1251/11 rushing line on the year, but his yards per carry dropped to 5.3 all the way from 7.6 the previous season. The challenge for evaluators moving forward is determining how much the injury played into Guice’s dip in production.
Guice’s defining characteristic is his exceptional power as a runner. He’s not afraid to lower his head and punish defenders in his path, allowing him to create extra yardage and fall forward when going to the ground:
Guice also uses his power to gain positive yardage when holes close up quickly. The 20-year-old’s outstanding balance combined with relentless leg drive allows him to drag bigger defenders with him even when he’s hit at the line of scrimmage:
Measuring in at 5’10, 224 lbs., Guice possesses the prototypical frame for an NFL RB and could handle workhorse duties right away. The positives don’t just end at power and size, however. Guice has breakaway speed to turn stretch long gains into touchdowns, which he put on display many times over his college career:
Guice’s most forgotten trait might be his elusiveness. Slowed by injury in 2017, Guice lost some of the shiftiness that made his 2016 production so special. If he can regain the ability to make those quick cuts and dodge defenders like he did before, NFL defenses will have their hands full trying to stop him:
Guice doesn’t come with many negatives, but the ones he has are concerning. The biggest question mark has to do with his aforementioned knee injury. In his 2016 tape, Guice showed a rare blend of power and lateral quickness that would excite any NFL front office.
In 2017, however, something was missing. Guice still put up respectable numbers, but dropped off in nearly every rushing category from the year prior. At certain times, he’d be one cut away from a big gain, but would opt to put his head down and run straight into the pile for a modest gain:
It’s unclear if his choices on the field were injury-related or more based on vision/scheme, but put simply, there were plays Guice made in ’16 that he didn’t make in ’17.
Like most RBs coming out of college, Guice has lots of room to improve with pass catching and blocking. In 35 career games played at LSU, Guice had just 32 receptions, along with some easy drops that could’ve gone for big gains. In today’s NFL, he’ll need to be more dangerous through the air to be considered elite.
Guice proved to be a willing blocker in pass protection but still needs major work on his technique. Oftentimes he would step up to protect, only to throw a diving shoulder into the rusher’s legs and temporarily slow him down. Guice has the frame to be an effective blocker but must learn to square up with oncoming blitzers and get more of his body on them.
After Saquon Barkley — the clear-cut top ranked RB — the hierarchy at the position gets a little murky. Guice could very well be the second RB selected, but Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, and Ronald Jones are all right there with him. Barring an unexpected run on backs in the first round, Guice will most likely go in the early-to-mid second round.
There are several teams that could use a talented rookie RB; it’s just a matter of which teams will be looking for one as early as the second round. The Browns, Giants, Colts, Jets, and Buccaneers are all in need of a workhorse back and happen to be selecting at the top of the second round. Should Guice slip past this group of teams, however, the Dolphins will be waiting with the 42nd overall pick and have recently expressed interest in Guice:
LSU RB Derrius Guice goes 4.49 at 224 pounds at the scouting combine. Dolphins like him. A lot.— Armando Salguero (@ArmandoSalguero) March 2, 2018
It’s hard to see Guice falling past the Dolphins, and he’d be a great fit with their other explosive skill position players. Kenyan Drake shined as a lead back down the stretch last season, but his frame and skill set are best suited for third down duties. Guice would be the perfect complement as an early down bruiser who can wear down defenses throughout the game. Whether he goes to Miami, he has experience running both power and zone blocking schemes and can adapt depending on his team’s running philosophy.
Outside of the freakish, generational talent that is Saquon Barkley, Guice might be the most dominant RB in this year’s class. He compares best to bigger, punishing backs who still have a little wiggle, like Marshawn Lynch or Jay Ajayi. Guice ran all over SEC defenses the past two seasons, and if he ever fully regains his 2016 form, he can be a perennial Pro Bowler even with the recent influx of productive young RBs in the NFL. If not, he can still be a serviceable starter in the league.
Edited by Jazmyn Brown.
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