On New Year’s Day, you’ll have an opportunity see see why there are those who suppose that the best back running back in the 2018 class is not Saquon Barkley, it’s LSU’s Derrius Guice. In the Citrus Bowl, Guice will showcase his considerable skills as the Tigers face Notre Dame.
Playing in the same backfield as Leonard Fournette in 2016, Guice led the SEC in rushing and established career bests in every category but one—rushing attempts. And when he did get the bulk of the carries this season with Fournette out of the picture, he suffered for efficiency, posting inferior numbers across the board, including a significant dip in yards per carry.
Given his monster 2016, after which there were NFL scouts who claimed that Guice was actually better than teammate Fournette, 2017 has to be considered something of a letdown. He was fourth in the SEC in rushing and was tied for sixth in rushing touchdowns while sharing the backfield with senior Darrel Williams, who out rushed Guice on a per-play basis.1
Even more concerning, a whopping 24 percent of Guice’s entire 2017 production came from one game.
|2017-09-02||Louisiana State||N||Brigham Young||W||27||122||4.5||2||1||4||4||0|
|2017-09-16||Louisiana State||@||Mississippi State||L||15||76||5.1||0||1||3||3||0|
Take away the one monster outing against Mississippi, and Guice’s final stat line for the 2017 season would be 194 rushes for 880 yards for a 4.54 per-carry average. Not a terrible season, but considering he’s been relatively healthy, one that should give us some pause when proclaiming him to be near Barkley’s level.
RANKING AND ATHLETICISM
While those numbers could be framed as disappointing, Guice remains one of the most enticing prospects in this draft class. For starters, he’s built for next level success at 5-foot-11 and 218 pounds. He’s also still very young, having just turned 20 in June. The most important measurable that we’ve found for NFL success, however, is speed, with those backs who can beat the 4.50 mark in the 40-yard dash going on to success at three times the rate of those who don’t.
That will be the key number everyone is watching for at the combine, and there’s reason to believe it’ll be a very fast one. Guice ran a hand-timed 4.32 as a 219-pound freshman, a truly freakish number if the weight is accurate.
Guice’s ranking among the second tier of RBs will be fascinating to track as the pre-draft process unfolds. Currently, CBS has Guice as the second RB in the class, claiming that the only thing he lacks in comparison to Barkley is breakaway speed:
His cutting ability, vision, and power are as impressive as the Penn State star — and they might be even better.
Le’s plug some of these variables into our RB Prospect Lab and see what names come up as comparisons. I gave Guice a 4.40 40-yard time to account for that 4.32 figure being hand timed, and I assigned him an average RB 3-cone time of 7.o seconds.
While not quite to the level of recent stars like Ezekiel Elliott (92) and Todd Gurley (85), a 78 places Guice in good company that includes 2017 stars Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette.
Guice is a guy that many of us are going to want to like. Watching his highlights, he certainly looks the part—a natural, fluid runner with sudden quickness, who runs downhill and picks up yards after contact.
But production is king, and Guice’s step back in 2017 in a lead role is enough for me to tap the breaks a little bit, especially combined with the fact that he’s never really been a big part of the passing game, averaging just 1.4 catches per game in 2017.
- 5.7 to 5.3 YPC. (back)