Although the focus in training camp is usually on players who can potentially help the team in the coming season, often there’s a candidate who ends up doing just enough to remain in the team’s plans, albeit as a member of the practice squad.
One such player to keep an eye on who could be a nice surprise is running back/fullback Kendall Gaskins, a 6’1”, 240-pound first-year player out of Richmond. Gaskins was one of the two relatively unknown running backs (the other being second-year man Michael Cox) that running backs coach Craig Johnson said he’s looking forward to seeing in pads.
“Both of those guys want to prove it-- they’re hungry and they want to get after it,” Johnson told me for Inside Football.
Gaskins initially began life in the NFL as an undrafted free agent signed last year by the Buffalo Bills. He ended up being one of the final roster moves made by the Bills in their quest to get to the 53-man roster limit last year.
Gaskins then sat out of football until the Giants signed him to their practice squad on December 17, 2013. Following the 2013 season, he was signed to a reserve/futures contract.
NFL Draft Scout listed Gaskins as a fullback in its 2013 draft preview. Gaskins rushed for more than 1,700 yards in college, averaging 3.9 yards per carry and scoring 34 rushing touchdowns in 452 carries, which, as Ed Valentine of Big Blue View points out, translates to one touchdown per every 13.2 carries.
In his senior season alone, Valentine noted, Gaskins—a four-year starter and team captain his senior season—recorded 13 touchdowns on 148 carries, or one every 11 carries. His 38 career touchdowns were the second most in Richmond’s school history.
He also posted 46 career receptions and four receiving touchdowns. During his pro day, NFL Draft Scout reported that Gaskins posted some impressive measurables, including 40-yard dash times of 4.70 and 4.76, a 34-inch vertical jump, a 9’10” broad jump and 20 bench press reps.
During the spring for the Giants, Gaskins did a nice job catching passes out of the backfield and looked smooth running with the ball. It will be interesting to see if he gets most of his work this summer with the Giants at the halfback or fullback spot.
While Gaskins, a former team captain, is realistically a long shot to make the 53-man roster, he could conceivably get his chance next season, particularly at fullback, if the team doesn’t renew the contract of whoever wins the current fullback battle between Henry Hynoski and John Conner.