This year’s RB class is very intriguing with players the Patriots can pick up and play starting from Day 1. Derrius Guice from LSU is no different and in fact complements the Patriots’ skill set in the back field the most from the early picks in the draft. Guice doesn’t have the well-rounded skill set that Sony Michel has from Georgia, but the skill set he has he’s very good at. Guice is a physical runner between the tackles with excellent open field speed. As a receiver and in pass protection, Guice has a lot of work to do in order to get good in that area. Guice comes from a Pro Style offense at LSU, so the Patriots won’t be starting from Square 1.
vs. Florida 2017
From watching both videos, Guice is a load to bring down even though he doesn’t look like a bruising back. There is some utility as a pass receiver there, especially for a 4.4 back who can break tackles in the open field. There wasn’t much to look at in terms of pass pro between the two games as LSU is very run heavy in their ratios.
The lack of a 3rd round utility off the bat might scare off some teams, particularly given his inexperience in pass pro. Guice is excellent with the ball in his hands, but the draft pick needed to get him might be too rich for the Patriots who have a big litter of prospects to pick from in Day 2 if Guice ends up going Day 1. The Patriots play-calling also could put Guice at a disadvantage given how they typically put in their power RBs to have them run the ball or execute play-action passes, which means 8 man fronts. The Patriots don’t have that outside receiver who constantly commands safety help, so teams won’t feel too burdened about putting an extra defender in the box.
Rookie Year Projection
Guice not only would be the team’s early down back, he has utility as a kick returner. Guice returned kicks for LSU, although the Patriots picked up Cordarrelle Patterson for that role last month. I would expect somewhere around 200 carries and 15 catches for Guice as a rookie while 90% of the plays he’s on the field for are run or run-action passes.
Long Term Projection
I think Guice has the potential to be a 3-down back as his pass pro and receiving skills improve in the NFL. Guice has enough wiggle to be very effective in the open field although I’m not sure how well he can run pass routes when lined up away from the backfield. If he’s able to do that, the Patriots literally found Marshawn Lynch 2.0 in terms of skill set. Even if the receiving game is only auxiliary, Guice is a 200-250 carry player in the Patriots offense for 4-5 years.
Grade: 5/5 Starter
Guice can contribute immediately for the Patriots as a rusher and reluctant pass receiver. Coach Fears will have to teach him the proper way to do blitz pickups, which is a skill that RBs that are willing to put the time in can learn.
Player Comp: Marshawn Lynch
I see a lot of similarities in running style and build between Lynch and Guice. Both are guys who you wouldn’t expect to be bruising type backs but they constantly move piles with a strong lower half. As long as Guice doesn’t develop Lynch’s attitude, especially post Super Bowl XLIX, the Patriots will be OK.
Draft Projection: 23 or 31
I don’t see Guice making it out of the first round as a player who can contribute immediately with potential 3, possibly 4 down value for the team that drafts him. Pass pro is his biggest weakness, which does limit the play calls Josh McDaniels can make while Guice is learning that skill. Saquon Barkley is the most electric RB in the draft class, but I also think Guice is clearly the 2nd best player at the position in this year’s class.
*Extra Note: I skipped #6, which was Pitt OT Brian O’Neill. Bernd has this piece up on him if you want to read up on him.