With training camp just around the corner, I think it's worth taking a look at the New York Giants' roster and seeing which single player will be the most crucial to the team's success in the 2013 season.
Look for running back David Wilson, a 22-year-old out of Virginia Tech who was taken with the last pick of the first round in 2012, to be that player.
Wilson had a decent rookie season, compiling 358 yards on 71 attempts and averaging five yards per carry. He also collected four touchdowns and was very effective on special teams in the kick return game.
Now, with last year's starting RB Ahmad Bradshaw playing signing with the Indianapolis Colts, the Giants' starting running back competition is open, and apparently it's between Wilson and last year's backup Andre Brown. However, despite the competition, it appears to be Wilson's job to lose.
I'm here to tell you that Wilson will be the key to a successful Giants' 2013 season.
Let me proceed and explain why some other more notable players will not be as crucial as Wilson.
It's easy to go with anyone from the Giants' potent passing game—quarterback Eli Manning or receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks are obvious candidates. However, we are now in year nine of Eli Manning being the starting quarterback of the Giants, and by new we know what to expect.
The Giants' passing game will be good for around 4,000 yards, somewhere in the high 20s in passing touchdowns and around 15 interceptions. Eli and Co. have done this for the last several years, and though some of his targets have changed, he's pumped out similar stats year after year like clockwork.
So why not pick a defensive player?
It is indeed entirely possible that a defender could rise up and take the 2013 season as his own, similar to what Jason Pierre-Paul did in 2011 with 16.5 sacks. However, it is more likely that the Giants defense will be balanced at best, with no individual performer outclassing his teammates—not to mention the fact that this year's squad, like last year's defense, appears to be somewhat weaker than the Super Bowl-winning unit of 2011.
Therefore, the key to the Giants success will be its running game, and they key to the running game is David Wilson.
There was much speculation about Wilson's lack of playing time last season, with much of it having to do with his apparent fumble problems. However, that argument doesn't hold much water, and once given the opportunity to play later in the 2012 season, Wilson demonstrated his complete skill set.
I also don't know if this means much, but Giants legend Tiki Barber is impressed with the youngster as well.
Wilson is a powerful runner who also displays dangerous breakaway speed. As you can see from his highlights, he is able to bounce off would-be tacklers and fly through a hole once he sees an inch of daylight.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign of the young back—the most noticeable aspect found in the highlights above—is that he is a true north-south runner. Wilson doesn't hesitate in the backfield, the moment the ball touches his hands he's off like a jet towards the line of scrimmage, and he is dangerous once he breaks into that second and third level.
In order for the offense to function well, the running game needs to be potent, otherwise Manning may be forced into heavy throwing situations which could result in needless interceptions. The Giants already have a goal-line back in Andre Brown, but Wilson will allow the offense to find a steady balance of running and passing.
For the Giants to be contenders this year, Wilson will have to contribute heavily to the offense and control the ground game. The two most recent seasons in which the Giants offense was at its best, 2008 and 2010—not coincidentally the best two records the Giants have had recently as well (12-4 and 10-6, respectively)—featured an exceptionally strong ground game that compiled over 2,200 yards and at least 17 touchdowns each year.
With Wilson taking the reins of the starting job, the Giants will need him to post a strong yards-per-carry again and contribute somewhere around 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns.