Last night I had the pleasure of joining my old Co-host from Trick Plays, Micah James (The FFMagicman), on his new show on FFToolBox Radio. I had a blast with my old running mate, but one discussion really stuck in my craw all night
An audience member asked us to discuss the New York Giants’ roster and their fantasy prospects for 2014. I gave my best assessment of what I think the Giants have to offer for fantasy football players, but when it came to discussing David Wilson I was really at a loss. In reality I am not expecting anything from Wilson in fantasy football this season. I desperately hope I’m wrong and that he grows as a football player exponentially this summer, but the reality is there isn’t much time for him to heal physically (fused neck) and make up for all the short comings in his game. (Pass-blocking, fumbling, and timing as a runner) I have to admit that I was a huge supporter of David Wilson last off season. His athleticism is the stuff that fantasy dreams are made of.
If the measurables weren’t enough to keep your interest then the news that his direct competition for touches in the Giants backfield last season, Andre Brown, breaking his leg in the preseason may have swayed you to reconsider. These factors plus the fact that I was covering the Giants for BigBlueView.com and got to see David Wilson in person at the Giants’ training camp had me hook-line-and sinker. I watched as he exploded all over the field. He was returning kicks, flying through the line of scrimmage on runs and making leaping one-handed grabs in the passing game. (yes Eli was a little inaccurate even in the preseason) If I could have pawned my wife’s wedding ring to buy more shares in David Wilson I may have done it.
The big issue ended up being that I was too close to the situation. I was right up in there, drinking the cool-aid and writing it for everyone to see. If I had just taken a step back I may have not been so bullish on the situation. Here’s the reason why: The Giants’s offensive line in the preseason showed all the signs of an aging unit that could fall off the cliff at any moment. Center David Baas had been riddled with injuries since he became a Giant. Former-All-Pro Guard Chris Snee was playing on a hip that was operated on and compensating with the other one that was just as injured. David Diehl was a warrior for the Giants in the late 2000’s, but his best games were clearly behind him and he was still going to be a big contributor.
The only true hope was a rookie tackle that had short arms and was more of a technician than a mauler when it came to the running game. The depth behind the aging lineman was where the Giants really faltered. They didn’t have anyone that could actually come in and get the job done. They had instead tried to fill those roles with projects like James Brewer. Besides an offensive line that was showing signs of cracks the Giants had one of the worst blocking tight ends in the league, Brandon Myers, penciled in as their new starter. The bulked up former work-out warrior Adrien Robinson was supposed to be the key blocker at the tight end position, but he ballooned up to over 285 pounds and injured his foot in the preseason.
The fumbles by David Wilson against the Dallas Cowboys in week 1 were actually a culmination of mistakes that he had continued to make in the preseason. The pressure was on the young man and he really struggled with it. In redraft leagues I panicked right away. I was not buying low as some were in the first few weeks of the season. Instead I was selling him for a sliding scale from Frank Gore to Ryan Matthews. By the end you were lucky to get Mark Ingram for him. In dynasty leagues it was tough to become a seller. His value had taken a dip, but his potential was just so high that actually pulling the trigger on a deal was difficult.
All of these bad memories had me file David Wilson away as a cautionary tale in the back of my mind, but then after talking to Micah that file was reopened. I had to look at David Wilson for the opportunity and the player that he is THIS season. Wilson suffered a fractured vertebra in his neck last season and had spinal fusion in the off-season. The Giants were pretty tight-lipped about his recovery, but then around the NFL draft Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reece started saying that they believed Wilson would be cleared to play this season and that he was in fantastic shape. I teased a few of my friends on Twitter with tweets about Wilson being back, but they were all in jest.
I mean, the Giants had already moved on and signed their work-horse back in Rashad Jennings. The same Jennings that is 29 years old and has never rushed for over 750 yards in a season. The same Rashad Jennings who’s career totals look like a down season for Adrien Peterson. ( 1677 rushing yards and 13 TOTAL TDs) Well if Jennings isn’t the answer then it must be the running back the Giants drafted in the fourth round of this year’s NFL Draft. Right? Andre Williams is a gifted runner with some very surprising explosion numbers for a running back that is over 230 pounds, BUT he has smallish hands (9 Inches) and has never shown the ability to catch the football. He really hasn’t shown the leg drive that would make him a short yardage back either, but he is a very good running back to add to a rotation. If Jennings can’t stay healthy, as he’s often showed in his career, then David Wilson is right back in the mix. If he can somehow learn how to pass block to go with his pass catching skills then he could even slide right into Jennings role as lead back. There’s a lot to get excited about and that’s why my former Co-host was so adamant that he will take a flier on Wilson late in some drafts because of the upside. So what else does David Wilson have going for him this year? First of all he’s back on the field.
Second, he has a brand new offensive line blocking for him. The Giants spent a lot of money in the off season getting quality bodies to either start of be key back ups. They signed one of ProFootballFocus’s favorite offensive lineman in Geoff Schwartz from Kansas City. They signed J.D. Walton and John Jerry to be key back ups on the interior of the offensive line. They drafted the best Center available in the NFL Draft in Weston Richburg to potentially start and they signed Charles Brown to be a swing tackle. Third, he has a brand new offense.
Kevin Gilbride’s running game was built on slow developing running plays that really weren’t the best way to use David Wilson. Ben McCadoo’s new West Coast Offense should be just what the doctor ordered. Screens, Speed Draws, and quick fullback leads will get Wilson in open space quicker. My excitement for the new offense is tempered by the fact that he has to learn a whole new blocking scheme with new responsibilities. He will be learning this new offense all while coming back from a major injury. While he was clearly off my radar before last night he is back in my bag of late round darts at this point.
Even if he never becomes the fantasy star I thought he was destined for he can be a big contributor to a turn around for a Giants offense that was a fantasy wasteland last season.
Updated 8/4/2014: David Wilson has been told by New York Giants team doctors that his career is over. After suffering a burner in practice the week before many people around the organization feared the worse when thinking of David Wilson’s football playing days. Sure enough, the doctors confirmed that it was just too dangerous for Wilson to go back on the field. Tom Coughlin told the media that the smile never left Wilson’s face, even when hearing the career ending news. David Wilson’s quote put in perspective the fact that he still lived his dream, no matter how fleeting it was, and looks forward to dreaming a new dream and living that one as well. While I am sad today as a Giants fan as a fantasy football owner who dreamed of his potential, most of me is just so happy that we get to see him walk away from the game instead of suffering another major injury on the field.