I was surprised by the Giants’ decision to spend a first-round pick on a running back. They needed a body, no doubt, after allowing Brandon Jacobs to sign with the 49ers in free agency. I figured, however, that 2007 seventh-round pick Ahmad Bradshaw, who rated eighth overall at RB in last season at +14.7, would have inspired them to a little more creativity (read: bargain shopping) at the position where pedigree seems least tied to success.
Wilson, in particular, strikes me as an odd choice. He is within an inch in height and ten pounds of Bradshaw and has a similar skill set. He provides no change of pace. He is depth. When Bradshaw is tired or hurt, Wilson will do Bradshaw things. And that realization sparked my own creativity. Why do the Giants believe they need more Ahmad Bradshaw?
The answer, I discovered, is for Eli Manning. I still had not come to terms with the sudden jump in his fantasy production after years of unmatched consistency, and perhaps this is the reason why. Eli was a different player and the Giants were a different team in 2011 when Bradshaw missed games.
|2011 Weeks 9-12||42.5||40.3||24.3|
|2011 Other Weeks||38.1||35.7||21.8|
|2010 All Weeks||35.3||33.7||21.2|
In weeks 9-13, when Bradshaw was out with a foot injury, Eli averaged more than 4 dropbacks and attempts and more than 3 completions more per game than in the weeks when Bradshaw was healthy. His numbers in those four weeks were close to a midpoint between the rest of the 2011 season and the 2010 season, and, in fact, his average number of completions in those four weeks was nearly identical to his average in 2010.
When looked at as a whole, the Giants appear to have had a philosophical shift in offense last season. They were well balanced in 2010 at 56% pass to 44% run. In 2011, that exaggerated to 62% pass and 38% run. The change is easy to overlook, anecdotally. Eli looked like a better player and the relative value of a pass over a run continues to increase with the changes in NFL rules for defender contact. However, I think the prudent expectation for 2012 will be for the 2011 numbers with Bradshaw and not the 2011 numbers in total.
With the increasing likelihood for a pass, defenses appear to have noticed. Eli was sacked merely 16 times in 2010. That number jumped to 39 times in 2011. Some of the blame can be placed in a diminished offensive line that fell from top-10 in 2010 at +2.9 in pass protection to dead last in 2011 at -99.3, almost twice as bad as the lamented Bears. However, some blame has to land on Brandon Jacobs, the lone Giants back who rated negatively as a blocker last season.
All of a sudden, Wilson makes a lot of sense. He can help the Giants as both a rusher and a blocker and could be the keystone to a return to a balanced offense. As such, I advise some tempering of expectations when it comes to the Giants’ passing game. Eli, Hakeem Nicks, and Victor Cruz will not stop being good, but they may not have quite as many opportunities to show you just how good in 2012 as they did in 2011.
Questions and comments are always welcome via Twitter – @PFF_ScottSpratt