Position Battle: David Wilson vs. Andre Brown
By Jeff Brubach
Every 2013 fantasy football draft will have a large contingent of owners who will struggle to contain their excitement to draft a certain New York Giants running back. Currently, and this only May, David Wilson is flying up the Average Draft Position rankings as illustrated by his 2.12 draft position in the football.com ‘post-draft mock draft’ conducted recently. Consider the fact that the David Wilson hype-train conductors have barely begun to add coal to the fire in the engine room, and we could see Wilson as an early second round pick by the time the calendar flips to August. Despite the building buzz surrounding New York’s young speedster, fantasy football owners should first take a hard look at how the carries in the Giants backfield will be divided. With Ahmad Bradshaw out of the picture, there are a heap of carries available for David Wilson and Andre Brown to share, but the breakdown of the backfield workload is what will determine the level of fantasy success for both players.
The first step in determining the 2013 projections for both David Wilson and Andre Brown is taking two paces in reverse and analyzing previous workload splits for the Giants backfield. Before we dig into this treasure chest of fantasy information, please understand that these are overall numbers to help gain an understanding of the general breakdown, and Bradshaw’s periods of injured absence have not been scientifically extracted. Over the course of the last three seasons, the New York Giants backfield (Bradshaw/Brandon Jacobs in 2010 and 2011, Bradshaw/Brown/Wilson in 2012) has delivered a fairly consistent total number of carries, as well as a steady split between the backs. The three-year average for the Giants backfield breaks out to 370 total carries with a 60 to 40 percent split in favor of Ahmad Bradshaw. While Wilson’s speed and Brown’s extra two inches of height and 18 pounds of muscle make them a prototypical duo primed for a cheesy “smash and dash”-esque nickname, the committee usage may not be that clear. While history could easily repeat itself in 2013 with Wilson as the lead back, I expect the ratio of carries to differ slightly from what Tom Coughlin has used in the past.
The upcoming season will see the Giants employ a running back timeshare devoid of Ahmad Bradshaw’s services for the first time since the Tiki Barber era. In the 2010-12 span that we used for our average backfield split, Coughlin was using a trustworthy and proven back in Ahmad Bradshaw, something that the team is currently lacking. Wilson’s much publicized issues with pass protection and an early prime time fumble (and case of the boo-hoo’s?) led to sporadic usage of Wilson in 2012, even with Bradshaw battling injury issues. Although Wilson saw greater usage in the latter stages of the season, this does not particularly seem like a situation where Coughlin would necessarily hand over the 60-percent share of the carries immediately. In addition, Andre Brown was no slouch in 2012, averaging 5.3 yards per carry compared to Wilson’s average of 5.0, while also pounding in eight touchdowns as the team’s goal line back.
Now, I will not tell you that Brown is simply a better running back, due to Wilson’s blazing speed and significant upside, but I will tell you that the battle for carries in the New York Giants backfield will be closer than many assume. If the Giants divide the carries 55/45 percent instead of the 60/40 split they have used with Bradshaw over the last three seasons, the fantasy production of both backs gets much closer, and that is without taking Brown’s goal line talents into consideration. You can count on Wilson to top out at the 1,000-yard threshold with around seven scores, with Brown checking in 750 yards and double-digit touchdowns. Considering Wilson’s inflated ADP, Brown will be a far better value in 2013 fantasy football drafts.