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Scouting Report: LSU Running Back Derrius Guice

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Will he make it to No. 32?

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles have made it clear that they are targeting a running back in the 2018 NFL Draft and the rumor is they have a serious draft crush. Jon Ledyard told BGN Radio’s Kist and Solak show that Howie Roseman has stated that he has a first round grade on LSU running back on Derrius Guice. Additionally, Tony Pauline of Draft Analyst has said that Eagles RB coach Duce Staley is a big fan. One of their 30 official visits, the vetting of Guice has been heavy, and given the Eagles history, you can be confident that where there is smoke, there is fire.

The hype around the sensational running back Saquon Barkley has a part in the lack of hype surrounding the other top talents that come from this class of ball-carriers. Make no mistake; there are at least a handful of backs that can make meaningful contributions and even some that can be bell-cow starters at the next level.

Last summer, the debate between Guice and Barkley was all the rage. Guice was coming off a 2016 campaign that saw him amass 1,387 rushing yards with 7.6 yards per carry. The debate cooled when he entered 2017 with a knee injury and took on additional nicks and bruises while playing hurt. Still, Guice managed to put up respectable numbers (213-1,121-5.3-11) despite an offensive line that got dogged all season against heavy boxes. He also produced a first down on 25% of his carries, a nod to his ability to not only keep an offense on schedule but to close games out with his angry, downhill running style.

The narrative entering the season was that Guice would finally see more opportunities as a pass catcher with new offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Instead, he was kept on a pitch count and running back Darrell Williams filled in on a solid chunk of passing situations.

When Guice did get healthy, notably when he returned to “100%” according to LSU head coach Ed Orgeron, Guice broke records. His 276 yard rushing performance against Ole Miss made him the first SEC running back to achieve three 250 yard games. This propelled him past Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson who both had two games with such gaudy production.

When scouting players that took a dip in production due to injury, it’s important to go back to their previous season to get a full picture to see how they were affected and what heights they can hit when healthy. Other examples of this are Boston College EDGE Harold Landry, Texas OT Connor Williams, and Louisville CB Jaire Alexander. All of those players had 2016 tape that could be considered far superior to their hampered 2017 campaigns. Still, those medical concerns should not be dismissed outright. In Guice’s case, the main concern with him is how long his contact seeking mentality will hold up in the NFL, especially if given a heavy workload.

To give a full picture of his game, I graded Guice in all of the critical factors of playing the position. Some factors are weighted heavier than others. Vision, Burst, Finishing, and Passing Game hold a higher value than other traits, as they are key to being productive. Some factors bleed into others, like Athletic Ability and Burst or Mental Processing and Vision, with one being more general and the other more focused. This is all taken to account in the final grade. With that qualified, here’s how Guice graded out.

ATHLETIC ABILITY: 5/7

Coming in heavier than expected at 224 pounds, Guice still managed to run sub-4.5, a very good number for him that confirmed the straight-line speed that I observed on tape. Powerful out of jump cuts, he is capable of chaining hard angle cuts together that spring from gap-to-gap. He’s missing the top-end wiggle of a back like Barkley, but he’s shifty enough to create favorable angles that marry well with his lower body strength.

BURST: 6/7

Whatever explosion was lacking in his 2017 tape was on fully display during his 2016 campaign. Guice runs through smoke in a hurry when working downhill. When pressing the line of scrimmage laterally, he’s electric when putting his foot in the ground to get up-field. There are plenty examples of him defeating run angles of pursuing linebackers with his initial burst.

VISION: 7/7

His biggest asset, Guice diagnoses at an elite level, which also elevates his Play Speed, the combination of athletic ability and mental processing, to a 6 out of 7. This helped him remain productive despite operating behind a sieve of an offensive line. Patient as he presses the line, he’s got a keen eye for locating creases to exploit when the picture in front of him is muddled. Possessing widescreen vision and the ability to think two moves ahead, Guice utilizes his ability to chain cuts to set up defenders at the second level with his initial move.

Scoring high in Creating (5/7), he is adept at finding a backside lane when the front-side gets bogged down. You won’t find him dancing behind the line and all of these components add up to a back that will maximize yardage on every touch.

FINISHING (7/7)

With a glass-eating mindset and top-notch contact balance stemming from excellent pad level and a powerful base, Guice is the best finisher in class. Keep his feet moving when engaged, driving and twisting for extra yards. Seeks and destroy runner with the flexibility to deflect and spring out of would be tacklers. Shows a very good understanding of how to absorb and melts contact like butter on a hot iron pan.

PASSING GAME (3/7)

This area is largely a known unknown for Guice due to the lack of use in the LSU passing game. The athletic profile is there for him to become a viable receiving option in the NFL and there are flashes of it on tape, but there are also reps that aren’t so pretty when it comes to him being a natural hands catcher. Route trees for running backs in the NFL are fairly basic, so he should be fine in this area, but there are other proven commodities from this group of backs that outclass him in this area as it stands now.

As a pass protector, Guice can rely too much on laying a shoulder into blitzers, which while effective at first, limits the time he is able to sustain blocks. When using proper technique, there is plenty of play strength to anchor and keep his quarterback clean.

SUMMARY

Taking into account other ancillary factors like competitive toughness, ball security, mental processing, etc, which scored above average for Guice, the result is a one of the highest final grades I’ve given out to this crop of prospects. It matches my belief that Guice is a starting running back that you win because of and one that you can feel confident about drafting in the first round.

FINAL GRADE: 5.70/7.00

Scheme agnostic, Guice is a versatile back that can function in a gap or zone heavy scheme, enhancing his value and not limiting the amount of teams who will have him high on their board. There is little doubt that Guice will be taken in the first round, Howie Roseman has acknowledged this, so they may have to get creative or extremely lucky.