It’s no secret that the Washington Redskins have been one of the least exciting organizations in football over the past decade. Aside from the big splash they made in 2012 (Robert Griffin III’s rookie of the year campaign), and Kirk Cousins leading them to a 9-7 finish and early playoff exit in 2015, the Redskins have finished either third or fourth in the division in eight of the last ten years, including five double-digit loss seasons.
Despite admirable quarterback play from Kirk Cousins over his three seasons as a starter in Washington, the Redskins were inefficient and inconsistent in all other areas of the game. Since Jay Gruden took over in 2014, they’ve been a bottom 12 team in the league in both offensive rushing yards and total defensive yards given up in every season. Their defense hasn’t had consecutive top 10 campaigns in terms of points given up since the 2004 and 2005 seasons, and their run game has lacked a sense of cohesion since Alfred Morris’ rookie season when he was able to capitalize on Griffin’s mobility.
In 2018, however, there’s a new kid in town who’s bringing excitement back to Washington before even playing a single game. Redskins fans love everything about him so far; his college resume from LSU, the work ethic he displayed from day one at rookie camp, his engagement with fans and the community, and the constant smile on his face. The kid, of course, is Derrius Guice.
Guice slipped to Redskins at the 59th pick in the draft. He was the seventh running back selected, though most analysts expected him to be the second or third. Rumors were that he fell because of “character issues”, but everything he’s done since being drafted would suggest those issues were severely overblown. Since being drafted, Guice has only made positive headlines, and possibly more positive headlines than any other rookie. On the first day of rookie camp, head coach Jay Gruden was quoted saying, “He’s really excited to be here and he’s willing to learn…he’s first in the meeting, got his playbook open and just soaking in all the knowledge”. Right before OTAs started, Guice reached out to his new community and asked on Twitter if anyone wanted to go see the new Avengers movie with him. He ended up buying 50 tickets to watch the movie with his fans. A week later, he asked if anyone wanted to go bowling with him and had a bowling night with fans. More recently, Guice created his first fundraising campaign and raised over $21,000 for a cancer center in his hometown, and then he teamed up with another former LSU running back, Leonard Fournette, to pay the tuition of an LSU student in need. So far, his “character issues” have been hanging out with fans and giving money to charity. He’s been a model citizen since being drafted, and it’s not something you need take into consideration with drafting him.
At LSU, Guice earned the reputation as an angry runner who bulldozed his opponents. Over his sophomore and junior seasons he ran for 2,638 yards and 26 touchdowns, averaging 6.45 yards per carry. Almost directly after the draft, Gruden quickly revealed that Guice’s role for the team was quite clear and that he’d be an early-down back, taking most of the ground work on first and second down. As recently as late June, ESPN Redskins writer John Keim said he’d be “surprised” if anyone other than Guice opened as the day one starter. When Gruden was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati, the Bengals finished top 10 in rushing attempts in two out of his three seasons there. In Washington, the team hasn’t been good enough, nor have they had a good enough running back to rely on the “ground and pound” mentality, but Guice could change that dynamic and turn the Redskins into a run-first team.
Guice is a lock for early-down work, but unless he’s extremely efficient, he would max out as a career RB2 unless he can get his hands on some passes. It’s often noted that Guice didn’t catch many passes at LSU, but the truth is, neither did anyone else at LSU. in 2017 the Tigers ranked 113th in pass attempts in all of college football. They only threw the ball a total of 300 times, with no player catching more than 40 passes on the season (Guice caught 18). In Redskins OTAs, Guice has shown that he can catch the ball; the question will be whether or not he gets the opportunity to do so with Chris Thompson on the field.
Through the 10 games that Thompson played last season, he was the RB10 in PPR fantasy scoring and had more receiving yards than any running back in the league. He is set to retake his third down/passing down back role, but he’ll be turning 28 in October and is coming back from a brutal ACL tear. He’s also only been available for a full 16 games in his career, which could mean that Guice may be able to show off his playmaking abilities in the passing game sooner than some believe.
Another thing that Guice has in his favor is new Redskins quarterback Alex Smith. Running backs have always fared well when playing alongside Smith. Dating back to his 2011 season in San Francisco, the team that Smith played for ranked in the top 10 in rushing yards in six of the past seven seasons. Aside from last year’s offensive explosion alongside Tyreek Hill, Smith has always been a game manager with a high football IQ. Gruden has called Smith, “the smartest guy I’ve ever been around”, and alluded to the fact that Smith may be able to run his playbook more efficiently that Cousins did, and with more consistency. Guice should benefit from that stability in his rookie season.
According to myfantasyleague.com and Fantasy ADP Calculator, Guice is currently going second overall in rookie drafts, and in the 4th round of dynasty startups. I believe his talent and long term stability warrant this. Based on what we’ve seen so far in camp, there’s a strong possibility that he will eventually emerge as a three down workhorse, even if that doesn’t come into fruition this season. After Saquon Barkley, Guice was viewed by many as the second most talented running back in the draft. After landing in Washington with Chris Thompson, Sony Michel and Rashaad Penny crept up on him. I still believe Guice is the 1.02. He slipped in the draft because of “character issues”, not because of talent