This film study references to the following video highlights:
The Giants added running back depth in Gary Brightwell with the 196th selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. Brightwell has a compact frame with a dense lower body--he carries his weight well. The Giants may have had their eyes on Elijah Mitchell, a running back out of Louisiana coached by Rob Sale; Mitchell was selected two picks before the Brightwell selection.
They may have also had their eyes on Alabama guard Deonte Brown who went three picks before 196 to Carolina, but that’s just speculation, especially with Gettleman’s comments on finding special teams contributors with both of the sixth-round picks.
Brightwell earned All Pac-12 honors in 2020 after starting all five games and averaging 4.6 yards per carry. His best game came against Colorado's defense, where he rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. I would argue that there were better, more dynamic running backs on the board than Gary Brightwell, but he still offers value on early downs and on special teams.
His testing left some to be desired, and the highlights above showcase a more explosive player than I have seen throughout the rest of his film. Has 384 total special teams snaps in college.
He never had more than 92 carries in a season but has an average yards per carry of 5.3. He had 245 rushes for 1,305 yards and nine touchdowns in four seasons. He offers little upside in any phase of the passing game; he had 19 career catches for 121 yards and one touchdown - had five drops on 18 total targets.
He has the frame to be a good pass protector but just struggled in that area. He must lower his center of gravity and do a better job absorbing contact. He does show a nice screen dumb off at around the 25-second mark of the video; while in space, he runs low and gets to the first down marker on the 3rd & 15. I love the feel and cut back inside on that play.
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Brightwell has adequate overall burst and is more of a one-speed type of back that lacks breakaway juice. Plays low to the ground with a solid center of gravity while rushing the football--he runs well behind his pads. His contact balance is adequate, and his physical nature is something that I like in certain aspects. He brings a lot of physical toughness to an offense’s rushing attack.
He tested poorly with his abilities but has shown solid one cutability and a bit of wiggle in space. He makes players miss in the alley with subtle moves, and he has the strength to run through arm tackles. He is undoubtedly an urgent runner of the football, which has its place in the modern-day NFL.
Brightwell does have an impressive juke move that he employed very well. His lateral agility in this area comes up on film, and it’s apparent at around the 1:25 mark of the video; Brightwell hits the B-gap hard and gets the linebacker to commit too far outside while sticking his outside foot in the ground and finding a crease inside. Then he makes the safety coming downhill miss with a similar move. He flashes on tape when he’s decisive, and he can use that juke move to his advantage.
However, Brightwell isn’t overly dynamic in terms of consistency or experience. I believe he was drafted because of his physical nature and his downhill rushing ability, although he has shown solid ability with C-Gap runs. Brightwell wasn’t the best value on the board from an athletic, production, and play-making standpoint, but I believe the Giants have a role for Brightwell on special teams coverage--he had seven career tackles on specials in college.
I turned on Brightwell’s Arizona State film from 2020, and he fumbled the ball on the first play, which wasn’t exactly desirable. Still, he had some really interesting running plays that put himself into good positions to make second-level defenders miss. Below is a solid sequence of plays that ended with another fumble near the goal line…
Honestly, though, Brightwell doesn’t have a problem with fumbling the football. Through college, he only had three fumbles. Many of the highlights show a player with a much better burst than I saw in some of his other films. However, I do love how hard he hits the hole and gains a full head of steam.
Overall, the Brightwell pick isn’t the most exciting addition to the team, and it’s possible that he may not crack the final roster. I would imagine the Giants have a plan to utilize Brightwell, but I doubt it has anything to do with his involvement, or lack thereof, in the passing game.