While most NFL teams have moved away from a committee approach, the New York Giants, in having drafted Saquon Barkley No. 2 overall in 2018, have themselves a player fully capable of being the bell cow.
Alas, Barkley is rehabbing from a torn ACL. While he's expected to be ready to go by the time the season begins (at least that's the presumption since the Giants haven't' offered any time frame), the Giants knew going into this off-season that they had to protect themselves just in case Barkley wasn't at 100%.
That protection is Devontae Booker, who is entering his sixth season after spending four years with Denver and last year with Las Vegas. Booker could very well end up having a much more significant role for the Giants this year than anyone is ready to admit, so let's see what he brings to the table.
Coming out of Utah, Booker, per Pro Football Focus, held the sixth-highest overall grade among FBS running backs in 2015 and third among draft-eligible backs. He was also ranked eighth overall in FBS in run grade and third in his draft class.
Drafted in the fourth round by the Broncos, Booker earned the No. 2 spot behind then starter C.J. Anderson and then became the starting running back for the Broncos after Anderson suffered a season-ending injury in 2016.
Eventually, Booker lost his hold on the starting job to Justin Forsett even though Booker finished the season with a team-leading 612 rushing yards on 174 carries.
Booker's career trended downhill as he became buried on the Broncos' depth chart, behind Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay. When he hit free agency, Booker moved on to the Raiders, with whom he signed a one-year deal.
After landing on the Reserve/COVID-19 list during training camp, Booker returned and appeared in all 16 games with one start, rushing for 423 yards on 93 carries and three touchdowns and catching 17 out of 21 passes for 84 yards.
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What He Brings
Booker does enough things well to see why the Giants had an interest in having him join them. As a runner, he's primarily flourished in a zone scheme, though he is no stranger to having worked in a gap blocking scheme either.
Booker has decent speed, with 16.1% of his rushing attempts going for breakaways and good vision in finding and hitting the hole. He'll power through tackle attempts and try to move the pile.
He's also done a nice job of cleaning up his ball security issues, where after posting six fumbles in his first two seasons, he's only had two fumbles over his last three.
As a receiver, Booker's hands are reliable. He'd dropped just five passes out of 151 pass targets over his career.
In addition to his skills as a running back, Booker has experience as a kickoff returner, having returned 30 kickoffs for 626 yards (20.9 average).
Booker signed a two-year contract worth $5.5 million and which includes a $2 million signing bonus. He'll average $2.75 million per season and will count for $2.5 million against this year's cap and $3 million against next year's cap. Booker's contact also has up to $500,000 in performance incentives tied into rushing.
Barring injury, Booker is most likely locked in as the No. 2 running back on the depth chart. But again, with the team being unlikely to throw Barkley in head first after nearly a year away from the game, expect Booker to take on a more significant role.
These might include third-down duties, a role he's performed well in his career (only 14 pressures allowed in 153 career pass-block snaps), and perhaps on some short-yardage/goal-line situations where his ability to pick up yards after contact--he has a career average of 2.63 yards after contact average--would come in handy.