The New York "Football" Giants running game has been the staple of their offense for the past decade, and with the emergence of Ahmad Bradshaw, it looked even more promising.
However, with Bradshaw becoming a free agent, Brandon Jacobs dancing more behind the line than trying to break through it and no receiving back with hands comparable to Derrick Ward or Tiki Barber, the Giants should be looking to draft at least one running back this year.
With the passing game becoming the focus of New York's offense in 2010, a complete running back to turn to would give the Giants the offensive playmaker they've been missing.
It is clear that quarterback Eli Manning succeeded with the constant check down plays Ward and Barber would turn into at least five- or six-yard gains. With a running back that could provide another option in the passing game, it is undeniable that his accuracy would increase and likely that his interceptions would decrease correspondingly.
That being said, there are more than a fair share of running back options in the 2011 draft, but no consensus "safe" option as a future bona fide starter. Mark Ingram is seen by many pundits as the only consensus first-round pick, but even he has injury concerns with his left knee that may eventually shorten his career.
After Ingram, there are a few possible future starting running backs that will be selected within the first two days of the draft and a multitude of third-down running backs that will be playing on the first Sunday of the season. With that in mind, here are five of the players that could be traveling to New York when training camp opens.
1. Mark Ingram
Ingram has been a consistent and productive player throughout his career at Alabama. If he somehow drops to the 19th overall pick, his strengths would fit the Giants running game to the tee. Ingram has proven that he can be a feature three-down running back for the Tide and his ability to run between the tackles and pick up yardage would help the Giants go back to the ball control offense that they displayed during their recent Super Bowl run. However, his lack of breakaway speed and the aforementioned injury concerns may keep him off the Giants radar if he is available when they select.
2. Mike LeShoure
LeShoure's stock has been increasing since the combine, and it should only continue. Similar to Pittsburgh Steelers running back, Rashard Mendenhall, LeShoure, another Illinois alum, is a big back at 225 pounds, but has major playmaking ability and can gain significant yardage despite lacking breakaway speed.
He is already a solid receiver out of the backfield and will likely be pushing Ingram for best rookie running back in his first year. Ingram clearly has the advantage when it comes to experience in big games and the better college career, but when all is said and done, LeShoure may have the better NFL career.
3. Daniel Thomas
Some may believe Ryan Williams should be in this spot, but his slashing style doesn't seem to fit the Giants' history of running backs. Thomas, however, is a running back that lives between the tackles and will work hard for every yard he can get. The problem for Thomas, however, was his lack of consistency in the passing game at Kansas State. His technique in pass protection was stellar, however, and teams may look at him as a two-down back to pair with a receiving back like the next two on this list.
4. DeMarco Murray
Murray has, arguably, the best hands of any running back in the draft. His size, speed and ability to run through the line rather than around it had Sooner fans drooling when he first stepped on the field. However, it is that lack of fear to run through the line that has also got him injured repeatedly and kept him from showing his immense talents on the field.
With a "Fragile" label almost synonymous with the scene from the movie "A Christmas Story," Murray's injury history will probably have the Giants considering and then reconsidering selecting him depending on how far he falls in the draft. If he falls into the fourth or fifth round, however, they may just take the chance and hope he provides the receiving back they've been lacking.
5. Kendall Hunter
In a three-back system like the one the Giants run, wouldn't Darren Sproles be perfect? Well, Hunter may not be Sproles as some have suggested, but he could provide the Giants with an option in the passing game that can make defenders miss. Like Sproles he is able to change direction on a dime, but Sproles is likely the faster player. Hunter's diminutive stature at 5'7" will scare some teams away, but if they're in need of a third-down back who can likely contribute sooner rather than later, as the Giants are, Hunter may be the best option available.
Some may say that running back is a "need" position for New York, while others may say Bradshaw and Jacobs will be more than adequate options to play on early downs. Whatever the case may be, however, the Giants should be looking to improve their running game from last year and return to the hard-nosed style of football that has brought them success in the past.