Washington Is a Great Landing Spot for Derrius Guice
LSU seems to produce running back after running back. After teammate Leonard Fournette was taken with a top-five selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, high draft equity was spent on Guice in 2018 as Washington took him 59th overall.
What can we expect from Guice?
Guice As a Prospect
If Guice had not battled injuries for a good portion of 2017, he may have been considered a better prospect than Fournette was thought of when Fournette came out. After all, in 2016, Guice dominated while Fournette dealt with his own injuries. That year, Guice posted a clip of 7.6 yards per carry with 15 touchdowns on 183 carries. For comparison, Fournette put up 6.5 yards per run and needed 300 carries to rack up for 22 touchdowns in 2015, his best season.
However, there is certainly the possibility that Guice's efficiency was so high as he worked on defenses tired from facing Fournette, and it is disappointing that we did not get to see him fully healthy for the 2017 season, when he likely would've had the backfield largely to himself. Still Pro Football Focus graded Guice higher than Fournette in 2016. Guice also excelled in producing breakaway runs in 2016.
Guice ranks as the third-best runner in the class, according to Fantasy Guru's yards created. His relatively low mark of 5.3 yards per carry in 2017 can somewhat be explained away at least in part by the stacked box Guice faced on an obscene 73% of his carries thanks to LSU's lack of a threatening passing game.
As a runner, Guice relies more on his physicality than his finesse. While Barkley compares his running style to that of Barry Sanders, Guice has been compared to Marshawn Lynch, even by Guice himself. However, the slashing, ground-and-pound runner is not necessarily an ideal fit in today's NFL, which
favors running backs who can contribute in the passing game. And that brings us to Guice's biggest weakness: lack of production as a receiver at LSU.
The thing that makes Guice special is that most violent runners don't posses elite speed. Guice is expected to run high 4.3s to low 4.4s. If he gets it the open field he is scoring. The power he possess, combined with his home run ability is a rare combination. pic.twitter.com/xm6iG1XtfH
— Eliot Crist (@EliotCrist) February 5, 2018
Guice recorded just 32 receptions in three seasons at LSU. While part of that is a function of LSU's run-oriented scheme, his 7.3% college target share is below average for a running back, per to PlayerProfiler. Guice's lack of receiving production may be explained by his struggles as a pass protector in college.
While Fournette had similar pass-game concerns entering the NFL but produced as a receiver as a rookie, it remains to be seen if the same will hold true for Guice.
The Fit With Washington
On the surface, this looks like a great fit. Washington didn't need a dynamic pass-game back who excels at making guys miss in space; they already have that player on the roster in Chris Thompson.
What they needed was an early-down producer. Guice's violent running style would have been appreciated more a decade ago than in the modern NFL, but that doesn't mean Guice lacks a role. He should serve as a foundation runner who creates yards after contact as well as the occasional splash play.
Thompson is entrenched as the primary pass-game back, so Guice isn't likely to see much work in that department. The player most impacted by Guice's arrival is Samaje Perine, who struggled as a rookie and likely won't have more than a change-of-pace role moving forward unless Guice fails to hit the ground running.
Semaje Perine had PFF's No. 59 strict rushing grade among 60 qualifiers last season. Only Ameer Abdullah was worse. https://t.co/UIa585OAng
— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) April 28, 2018
Guice is a first-round talent, and while he slipped to the second due to off-the-field issues, he landed in a great spot in Washington, where he should have a fairly easy pathway to good volume -- especially on early downs -- as a rookie.
2018 Redskins RB Derrius Guice projection: 232 carries, 984 yards, 7 TDs, 32 targets, 25 receptions, 208 yards, 1 TD
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) April 28, 2018
Ultimately, Guice's long-term value will hinge on the extent to which he can contribute in the passing game, but he should be a good producer on the ground right away.