With Tiki Barber in the TV booth, this was the year that Brandon Jacobs was to get his chance in the Giants lineup. The bruising, 6-foot-4, 265-pound back has been used primarily as a situational rusher (i.e. goal-line, short-yardage) up to this point, and that was supposed to change. But the signing of Reuben Droughns this spring has muddied the depth chart and now both backs are fighting for minutes on the field.
Jacobs entered and left camp with the starting job. But fantasy owners, like Giants fans, cannot be sure how the pair will split carries or whether Jacobs or Droughns will ultimately walk away with a full-time role. The bounty at stake is considerable: Barber averaged 1,680 rushing yards and nine touchdowns as the Giants' starter the past three years. While fantasy owners can't expect either Jacobs or Droughns to match that success, there is no question that the back who keeps the job throughout the year will be a viable fantasy player.
Why Jacobs will keep the job: As of right now it's a done deal. It has been so stated that it is Jacobs' job. Reports out of Giants training camp have been positive (though through two preseason games both backs have offered roughly the same results). An imposing runner, Jacobs can break arm tackles (break a few arms, too, perhaps) and he can win battles for first-down territory or entrance into the end zone. But what is really impressive is his deceptive speed. Jacobs can gain ground in the open field, and for that reason it is believable that he could stick as a featured back. What fantasy owners have to like, of course, are the touchdown numbers; in two seasons Jacobs has scored 16 times, and that number can only go up if he is handling the ball more often.
Why Droughns will win it: Fantasy owners should read all of the above propaganda on Jacobs with one raised eyebrow. Yes, Jacobs has looked good in limited duty, and yes he has been handed the primary role in the offense, but will he be able to perform consistently as a weekly starting running back? No one can be sure. Droughns, on the other hand, has acted in that capacity for the past three seasons -- two in Denver and one in Cleveland. And he performed quite well, considering the circumstances (3,230 yards, 14 touchdowns). As bad as the Browns were last season, especially along the line, Droughns still managed two 100-yard performances (both 25-plus carry efforts) and he caught more passes (27) than Jacobs has for his career. Not yet 30, Droughns still has plenty of good life left, and he has maintained a relatively injury-free career up to this point.
Who fantasy owners should pull for: Droughns
Yeah, yeah, touchdowns are the lifeblood of fantasy football, I know. But without yards, touchdowns only go so far. Should Jacobs win the job I suspect he'd present opponents with an interesting matchup each week, but his potential to gain yards and post the occasional monster game would be minimal. After all, he's not exactly the second-coming of Earl Campbell ... more like Craig 'Ironhead' Heyward.
Droughns can give fantasy owners a reliable performer who can catch the football and contribute the occasional big game. Jacobs, on the other hand, has NEVER carried more than 11 times in any one game.