From top to bottom, the Giants running back room will be a lot different from what it was last year.
For starters, the team is optimistic that the star of the group, Saquon Barkley, will be back from a torn ACL bigger, better, and stronger than ever. The team has occasionally posted video clips of Barkley hard at work on his rehab, which has been encouraging to see. Still, no one will know how close he is to being his old self until the pads go on and he starts going through football movements at a regular pace.
Besides Barkley’s return, gone are all the veterans that filled the void left after Barkley’s Week 2 injury. Those veterans include Wayne Gallman, Dion Lewis, and Alfred Morris, all of whom are unsigned, and Devonta Freeman, who was last with the Buffalo Bills.
The Giants did add veteran Devontae Booker as a backup, and they have fullback Eli Penny, but beyond that, the experience level leaves something to be desired.
Would the Giants invest one of their precious six draft picks in another running back? On the one hand, it makes sense if it’s a Day 3 pick as it would give them a prospect to develop for the future.
But on the other hand, does it pay to make that kind of investment in a player who would probably be stuck behind Barkley and Booker on the depth chart when an undrafted free agent might be just as good of an option as any?
To be clear, the Giants need depth at the position, but in terms of prioritizing that depth, perhaps one of their two sixth-rounders will be a running back, and they’ll also look to sign an undrafted free agent.
Who might that be? Let’s look at some Day 3/UDFA prospects.
Rakeem Boyd, 5’11”, 213 pounds, Arkansas. Boyd has decent size and play strength in which he’s been successful more times than not in lowering the boom on charging defenders and picking up yards after contact (he averaged 3.15 yards after contact for his career). He’s also surprisingly adept at pass pro, a rare trait for many running backs coming out of college. Boyd lacks shiftiness in the open field, but he’s probably one of the more polished prospects in terms of being able to do everything typically expected of a running back at this point in his career.
Justin Henderson, 5’7”, 222 lbs. Louisiana Tech. Henderson saw his 2020 production take a significant dip following a 1,000-yard campaign, but the tools are certainly there. What he lacks in height he makes up for in power, as he’s surprisingly strong as a downhill runner who takes pride in punishing defenders coming up on him. He’s more of an in-between the tackles runner than a guy who can get to the edge and turn the corner, and he not going to rip off many chunk plays, but if you’re looking for a chain mover to wear down defenses, Henderson can be that guy.
Pooka Williams Jr, 5’9”, 170 lbs., Kansas. One of the most promising late-round/UDFA prospects in the draft, Williams lacks a natural feel and vision as a runner but has been more effective as a receiver out of the backfield. His smallish size might limit him at the next level and raises questions about how effective he might be in pass pro, but certainly, as a potential returner, he might offer some value.