There has been a lot of speculation in the weeks leading up to the 2012 NFL Draft that the New York Giants will be using at least one of their picks on a running back. There is a chance that the Giants could select a running back as early as round 2. Right now the Giants have Ahmad Bradshaw penciled in as the starter and it’s not likely that anyone the Giants draft will unseat him. However, after Bradshaw, who also has a history of injury, the Giants running game is questionable. Following Bradshaw is D.J. Ware, Da’Rel Scott, and Andre Brown. Ware is a nice backup who can contribute in the passing game but it isn’t likely he can be effective as a change of pace running back . Scott has a lot of potential and can earn himself more playing time with a strong camp and preseason. Scott is the likely replacement for Brandon Jacobs who left for the San Francisco 49ers a couple of weeks ago. Brown has not had a good offseason. He was recently suspended for the first four games of the 2012 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policies.
With the Giants running game full of question marks from starter all the way through the depth chart it is likely they will add one running back in the draft. GM Jerry Reese has never drafted a running back higher than the fourth round where he picked up Andre Brown from North Carolina State in 2009. He drafted Bradshaw and Scott in the 7th rounds of the 2007 and 2011 drafts respectively. I would be shocked if Reese used a draft pick higher than the 4th round, a round where the Giants have two picks, to nab some running back depth. There just isn’t a lot of talent in the draft this year among the running backs after Trent Richardson of Alabama and there is no way Richardson falls to the 32nd pick outside of getting arrested for assaulting Commissioner Roger Goodell on the morning of the draft.
In my opinion the best fit for the Giants is Bernard Pierce of Temple University. Pierce is the kind of running back Ahmad Bradshaw is, fast, powerful, and with great vision. Pierce recently ran a 4.3+ 40-yard dash at his Pro Day workouts, a much larger improvement over the 4.49 40 time he posted at the NFL Scouting Combine. Pierce set the school record for most career touchdowns at Temple University with 53 to go along with his 3,570 career rushing yards. He combines decent size, 6-0, 220 lbs. with speed and excellent vision. He has a knack for finding holes and exploding through them. His vision is what sets him apart in my mind. It is rare to find a running back who can read what is unfolding in front of him as quickly as Pierce can. He trusts his offensive line and won’t go nuts trying to create something that isn’t there.
He is not without his negatives, however. He did play in the MAC Conference so his competition, or lack thereof, might come across as a negative. It could also be a product of being Temple’s only true offensive threat and teams keying up on him in order to prevent him from running over them. He also has a habit of running upright, something that can be changed in training camp. He missed some time due to injury in 2010, appearing in only 10 games and his production suffered because of that. He also has only returned 1 kick in his entire collegiate career, returning it for 23 yards so if he contributes on special teams it will likely be in coverage where he can use his speed to get down the field and make a play on the ball carrier. In college, Pierce was strictly a runner and was never asked to contribute much in the passing game (he only had 19 career catches in his three years at Temple) so his pass-catching skills out of the backfield are questionable.
There is a chance that some team will select Pierce earlier in the draft, possibly as high as the second round, but he projects as a 3rd-5th rounder. His size and speed combo might be too much for some teams to pass up. However, the Giants could find themselves staring at Pierce at the end of the 3rd or 4th round and if he is available they should draft him. I have a feeling that Pierce would be able to flourish in the Giants system and would offer up some stiff competition to Da’Rel Scott and D.J. Ware as Ahmad Bradshaw’s backup.