The 2018 running back class is incredibly talented, from Saquon Barkley at the top of the draft to Kalen Ballage. There’s so much to choose from that teams will really have to figure out where they value the position before they draft it. There’s one running back that is all over the board, though, and that running back is Derrius Guice out of LSU.
Coming out of high school, Guice was a four-star recruit (247Sports) and had been recruited by Alabama, Texas, and a handful of other schools. He chose the school right down the road in his hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, LSU. The Tigers clearly viewed him as an asset to their offense from the moment he stepped on campus. From backing up Leonard Fournette to returning kickoffs, a big play could happen the moment that Guice touched the football.
Let’s take a look at the film on one of the top running backs in this class:
- Keeps it simple as a runner; lets his blocks set up in front of him
- Takes the yardage he’s given
- Will make you pay if you don’t take the proper angle/pursuit when tackling him
- Superb vision behind the line of scrimmage with cutting ability to create more for himself
- Aggressive runner with good balance through contact
- Has the ability to cut, spin and drop shoulder through tackles
- Despite “lack” of production as a pass-catcher, has the ability to catch passes out of the backfield
- Has versatility to play in various positions from the slot (catch passes or jet sweep) to returning kicks
On the play above, Guice takes the hand-off and lets the blocks set up in front of him. He bursts through the hole, gets in the open field, and cuts his way around the cornerback for an even bigger gain. His vision is incredible and he doesn’t get enough credit for his burst.
The pass catching ability is on display here. He runs to flats and, like he does so many times, cuts back inside and makes the linebacker look foolish. These will be catches and gains that haunt defenses on third down for a long time.
On the play above, you’ll notice that Guice is originally going towards the B-gap (between LT and LG), but he changes direction and cuts back inside and through the A-gap (between LG and OC). His vision behind the line of scrimmage is superb, and his ability to cut upfield to get this kind of yardage will be a key advantage for him on Sundays.
On this counter play Guice does a great job following the guard. He ends up tripping over his own feet, but aside from that, he does a great job letting the blocks set up in front of him. He doesn’t complicate this by bouncing outside or doing too much; he lets his blockers do the work for him. If he didn’t trip, he would have cut his way to the outside or back inside and gained even more yardage.
This shows the versatility that Guice provides. He’s lined up as a wide receiver, goes in a jet motion, and takes the jet sweep to the outside. This shows so much of what he does well and an area where he can improve. He does a nice job bouncing following his blocks on the outside and then cuts back inside, but there are times that his decision making is questionable.
With this run, he should have tried to get up the sideline and taken extra yards that way. He shouldn’t want to cut back inside and into the garbage. The reason for this could be a combination of him not trusting his speed/burst in the open field, or he could have just been trying to do too much in the open field.
It’s rare for him to do too much because he normally follows his blocks and takes what he’s given, but there are times in the open field that he makes some questionable decisions. Again, though, this is a great play for him because it shows that he’s more than just a one-dimensional back. He displays his vision and follows his blocks as the play develops, but he also shows off his cutting/change of direction ability.
- Lower body injuries will be worth monitoring but shouldn’t hurt his overall grade
- Inconsistent base when picking up blitzes
- Takes risks physically with aggressive rushing style
- At times, runs high between the tackles
With the play above, he follows his blocker but ends up jumping in the air to avoid contact. This is an unnecessary risk, especially with some of his nagging injuries. This could lead to another injury. I saw him do this a handful of times on film, and it’s not something he should be doing, unless he’s going for the end-zone.
Picking up blitzes can be inconsistent for every running back. There are times that his base gets too narrow and he lunges toward his key with his shoulder. He should be playing below pad level with a wide base and his hands locked inside. He’s far from bad at picking up blitzes, though. he just has a tendency to get sloppy with his technique. Getting better with blitz pickups is never a bad thing for anyone, and it is an area in which Guice could improve some. Below is where he ranked in pass blocking efficiency (PBE%) from Pro Football Focus. Despite his faults, he was much more efficient than Saquon Barkley, Ronald Jones, and even Royce Freeman.
According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Guice averaged 4.1 yards after contact (YAC) in 2015 and 2016 but only managed 3.2 yards after contact for the 2017 season. Give him a full bill of health and he’ll be able to maintain that 4.1 yard after contact (YAC). It’s been an interesting off-season for him, though. At the Combine, he was asked questions regarding his sexuality and if his mother “sells herself”. He did a great job handling the questions and proved that a lot of the questions these players go through are inappropriate. But here are the measurables that he posted at the Scouting Combine:
Guice has all the tools you want out of a first round back. From his prototypical size, physical running ability, and the way he reads the defense running at him. He creates in small windows with his cutting ability which, I believe, is the top trait that he possesses. I’m not one to throw pro comparisons at a player, but if I had to pick one for Derrius Guice, it would be Marshawn Lynch.
From a team that runs a lot of inside zone with a motion underneath it or running out a power running scheme, Guice can and will thrive in it. He can catch passes out of the backfield and every trait he possesses puts him in the category of a three-down back in the NFL. On our grading sheet, he graded out with a 5.230 overall, and on my board he’s a top-10 player.