Derrius Guice – Running Back
School: Louisiana State University
Weight: 212 lbs.
Derrius Guice NFL Draft Profile
When it comes to running backs in this year’s draft, most of the talk has been around Penn State’s Saquon Barkley and his potential to be a future star in the NFL. What has gone under-covered is the rest of the draft class whose talent makes this year’s group of runners the deepest in recent memory. Visit any website or talk to any draft expert and it’s very likely you’ll get a different answer from each one on the order of the top five running backs this year.
One of the players that consistently ranks in the top three is LSU junior Derrius Guice. Guice’s decision to declare early isn’t particularly surprising given his battles with injuries this past season making him realize he needs to get a paycheck sooner rather than later. Those injury concerns don’t seem to be scaring many NFL teams as he is consistently ranked in the late-first early-second round in most mock drafts with some having him as high as being taken in the top-20 range.
Guice struggled throughout the 2017 season after suffering a knee injury so many scouts are just writing off the season as one lost to unfortunate circumstances. Before this past year, Guice was seen as a sure-fire first round pick and that praise remains but his injury concerns will cause him to drop a bit. While he won’t blow anyone away with his speed, he more than makes up for it in physicality and power that shows his potential to be a quality back especially in short yardage situations. Guice finished his last season at LSU with 1,251 yards and 11 touchdowns averaging 5.3 yards per carry.
Some see it as a gross oversimplification but it’s true nonetheless: there are two basic types of running backs. There are the speedsters and the truckers. Those who fall into both categories end up being the legends. For Guice, he is most definitely in the trucking category. The key factor with this to turn it into a positive rather than a concern is two-fold. First, a physical back has to show some skill besides solely relying on his physicality to win against the defense. This is what went wrong with Trent Richardson, he was bigger than everyone else at the college level and failed to develop any other skills beyond that. The second is they have to be able to win when contacted but not look for contact. If a back looks for contact on every play, they will cost themselves valuable yards.
With Guice, he avoids both of these perfectly and as a result, is the prototype for a physical back in the NFL. His vision identifies the hole quickly and when he hits it, his lower-body power is enough to keep the play going and his ability to keep his feet moving is one of the key aspects to this skill. Not only will this make him valuable in short-yardage situations, as he has proven he can move a pile, but if he breaks away on a big run, there are few safeties that are capable of matching him at the second level.
Without a doubt, one of the most important qualities a college running back has to have to succeed in the pros is good field vision. If a back can’t identify the right path to run through, NFL defenses will punish them every time. Luckily for Guice, this is one of the areas he excels in the most.
Guice not only is able to identify the best hole to run through but when his line collapses, he is extraordinary at readjusting to pressure and identifying weaknesses. While Guice isn’t at his level, it is this skill among others that makes Le’Veon Bell one of the best running backs in the NFL. Guice’s field vision promises if he goes to a team with a good offensive line or one that can create one quickly, he will thrive almost immediately in the NFL. Guice’s ability to see the entire field, especially when under pressure, is what could make him a successful running back in the pros.
There are a lot of other attributes a successful running back has to have in today’s NFL that will make him an all-around success other than just what he can do with the ball in his hands. Namely blocking and catching.
Luckily for Guice, these are two areas that he succeeds in. His size and physicality allow him to square up well against blitzes which increases a team’s ability to utilize the deep pass as Guice is more than capable of handling an extra rusher. His pass-catching abilities are just as good as his blocking ability. While he certainly can’t be depended on in the same role Dion Lewis fills as a shifty runner who can create space consistently on screens, Guice’s ability to catch balls well paired with his vision makes him a viable back in that area as well.
Running backs consistently take a beating on every play and have the most wear-and-tear of any other skill position. So if a player has an injury that has the potential to linger and harm their production, that is a major concern.
Unfortunately for Guice, that is exactly what happened in 2017. Despite only missing one game due to a knee injury that became increasingly obvious was limiting his play in early October. His production stayed up to expectations but his lack of ability to excel beyond what he had already proven was clearly a result of him playing hurt. So while he has apparently recovered from the injury, concerns about it rising up again are without a doubt the biggest thing hurting his draft stock.
Watching Guice’s tape, there is one play in particular that sticks in terms of concerns about his speed. With just five minutes left in the first quarter, Guice broke a huge run inside Ole Miss’s 10-yard line and was tackled just before the end zone. While that obviously isn’t a bad outcome, it was a play that would’ve been a touchdown for a slightly faster running back.
Guice lacks the breakaway speed that is needed to capitalize on home-run touchdown plays and that isn’t something that is fixed at the next level. Everyone is faster in the NFL so his speed will hamper his ability to finish off big plays. He’s not slow by any means, he finished fifth among running backs at the combine with a 4.49 40-yard dash time, but he clearly doesn’t have the speed to be a consistent home-run back.
With every good, there is a little bit of bad and for Guice, that bad isn’t too little to not at least note. While this isn’t a constant problem, it pops up enough in his game to note. His vision and ability to make the most of a bad situation can sometimes backfire. He tries to wait behind the line for a hole to develop after the first option collapses but after a few seconds, he completely collapses.
His hesitancy and bouncy behavior behind the line sometimes results in a loss of yards when it would be better for him just to drive forward for the extra yard or two. This is particularly problematic given he can easily do that given his size and physical play. Guice needs to learn when to abandon his instincts and simply accept a broken play when it happens.
While Guice’s junior season didn’t blow anyone away due to injury, his production was still impressive and his ability to combine his vision, physicality, and balance makes him one of the more dynamic and NFL-ready running backs in this year’s draft class. While the concerns of an injury recurring throughout his career have some weight behind it, Guice’s positives greatly outweigh the negatives of taking the risk. Guice will likely thrive the most in a running-back-by-committee system, he is more than capable of being the primary ball carrier in the NFL and will be particularly valuable in short-yardage situations. He is well worth a late first-round pick and if he slips beyond the top ten in the second round, he will be a steal for whichever team selects him.
NFL Player Comparison
Teams With Need At Running Back
Detroit Lions, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers