NFL Big Men: Brandon Jacobs

glenn warciskiCorrespondent IMarch 26, 2008

Born and raised in the swamps of southern Louisiana, Brandon Jacobs has emerged as a potential star in the NFL. As a Giants fan,  recall, in the NFC Championship game and the Super Bowl, Brandon set the tone in the beginning of each game by punishing Packers cornerback Charles Woodson and Patriots safety Rodney Harrison respectively.

Jacobs, a huge man listed at 6-4 and 256 lbs, was drafted by the Giants in the fourth round (110th overall) in the 2005 draft. Like in past drafts, former GM Ernie Accorsi would take chances on guys from smaller schools. (i.e WR Ron Dixon from Lambuth, OT Jeff Hatch from Penn.)

In his senior year, Jacobs played at Southern Illinois. Before transferring to Southern Illinois, Brandon played at Auburn where he was third string behind eventual first round picks Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and Ronnie Brown.

Unfortunately, last year, Williams suffered perhaps a career ending knee injury. He may not be able to play again. Brown has played for the inept Miami Dolphins. Last year, he too suffered a knee injury and missed most of the season. Conversely, Brown will be able to make a recovery and return for the 2008 season. Although I think it is premature at this point to state Jacobs is the better back out of the three, I think because of his size Jacobs too may not last long in the NFL.

Jacobs is not an anomaly. In the past there have been big backs in the NFL, Christian "Nigerian Nightmare" Okoye, Barry Word, Natrone Means, Bam Morris, Dwayne Crutchfield, Craig "Iron Head" Heyward, Jerome Bettis, and Mike Alstott. These players show a correlation between size and longevity in the NFL.

If we throw out the high and low, (13 years for Bettis and four years for Crutchfield) the average years of service for the Big Backs in the table is about eight years. Upon further investigation from an article I culled from the New York Times, the NFL players union studied team rosters from the 1987 to 1996 seasons, an average of 1,647 players a year, or about 16,000 player years.

The study showed the average career of an N.F.L. player is 3.3 years. The shortest careers were those of running backs (2.57 years), followed by wide receivers (2.81) and cornerbacks (2.94). According to the report, clearly, it is the position and not the size of the player. My next question is: Why is there a short shelf life on running backs?

The study states the following: The short careers may be due mostly to the large number of high-speed collisions these players experience, N.F.L. officials said. Moreover, the study continues with: the only active running backs in their 40's are, well, there are none. How hard is it for a fullback or a running back to have the kind of career recently retire punter Sean Landeta has had?(Landeta's career spanned 25 years of service) Running backs had an 81.8 percent chance of getting to a second year, but a 63 percent chance of reaching a third, a 40.4 percent chance of reaching a fifth, and a six percent chance of reaching a 10th.

Last year, Jacobs missed five games due to injury. Despite playing in only 11 games, Brandon gained 1,009 yards rushing with five yards rushing per attempt. This upcoming season, Jacobs will be a four year veteran. His first two years, he was Tiki Barber's backup. Last year, he was named the starter.

I think this season, Jacobs will be the starter and will share carries with Bradshaw and Ward. Generally speaking, teams in the NFL have a two back system. For this season, the Giants will have the luxury of having three backs in the stable. I think Jacobs will share the carries with the other guys. Therefore, if he shares carries and can avoid injury, he may have a long NFL career.

I can conclude: It is the position, stupid!