Make No Mistake, Derrius Guice Definitely Has The Look Of A First Round Running Back. Let’s Take A Look At How That Pick May Or May Not Fit The Detroit Lions.
The Detroit Lions could select a running back almost anywhere in the 2018 NFL Draft. There is an excess if talent at the position, and the Lions will basically have their chance at any back that they fall in love with. The exception to this is probably Saquon Barkely, who will, with almost complete certainty, be off the board by the time the Detroit Lions visit the podium. In my last article, I took a look at what the Detroit Lions should be looking for in a running back. The first back off the board after Barkley, will probably be LSU running back Derrius Guice.
The LSU back had a fantastic 2016 season playing behind Leonard Fournette and starting in his absence. He looked to be a surefire top pick in the 2018 draft, as long as he could stay healthy. Unfortunately for Derrius Guice and those of us who were excited to see him develop with another year under his belt, Guice failed to stay healthy and played the vast majority of his 2017 college football season at significantly less than full health.
Guice’s injuries don’t project to be anything that will hamper his long term health, but it is always something worth keeping an eye on in situations like these. Looking at a player like Derrius Guice, someone who experienced severe limitations in his final collegiate season, I think it is worth looking at both his final season and his previous season in equal regard. His final season is the absolute floor for Derrius Guice in terms of his athleticism, explosiveness, and his power. His 2016 season shows us what Guice is capable of when he is healthy.
This collective look at his tape paints a very pretty picture for Derrius Guice’s future. He has all the makings of a potentially top-tier NFL back. The question for Detroit Lions’ fans shouldn’t be whether Guice is going to be good or not. The question should be: Is it worth it to spend a first round draft pick on a running back? The Lions almost certainly won’t have a shot at Derrius Guice in the second round, so a first round pick is what it would take.
I believe that the Lions have far too many other needs to address to spend a first round pick on a running back this year. This is a deep class at the running back position, and I would much prefer to shore up the defensive line and add a running back later. That said, if the Detroit Lions do decide to spend their first round pick on a running back, Derrius Guice is really the only way to go.
Before we get started, I think this run sums up Derrius Guice pretty nicely.
Derrius Guice: Strengths
Derrius Guice has a unique combination of patience and aggressiveness behind the line of scrimmage. He doesn’t dance in the backfield or reverse field often, but he also isn’t mindlessly banging the ball between the tackles. He does a good job of recognizing pressure from the defense and using the time available to him to get to and through the line of scrimmage.
On this run, Guice sees the hole developing to his right, makes a quick jump step to his right to put himself in position to attack the hole. At that point, he hesitates. He has a receiver coming across to block the linebacker, and Guice waits just long enough for the receiver to get there. That split second of patience is what springs the run big. He gives a little jump to avoid the first open field defender, but is unable to outrun the second.
Watch Derrius Guice attack the line of scrimmage, and continue moving up field, while also picking his way and maintaining control in order to pick another hole if one presents itself. He keeps his forward momentum while still keeping his options open for additional running lanes. Those little stutter steps allow him to move laterally if necessary without losing too much speed or coming to a near stop.
He has good situational awareness, and you will see him taking less time to get to the line in short yardage situations. This is something that Lions’ fans should certainly be excited about. In 2017, the Lions had far too many runs that the backs dragged out rather than just getting up field to convert in short yardage situations. Watch as Guice has the opportunity to bounce this run outside, with plenty of space to get the corner, but decides to plow forward, aware that losing yards is not an option. He knows the situation, and he attacks the line of scrimmage.
The combination of patience and aggressiveness that Derrius Guice exhibits is something that lends well to all running schemes and all qualities of offensive lines. It should go without saying that all players play better with good offensive lines, but not all players can handle playing behind a sub-par run blocking group up front. Derrius Guice is probably the latter. His willingness to get to the line of scrimmage quickly when the situation demands it should help him if the run blocking doesn’t improve for Detroit next year.
Derrius Guice has among the best anticipation in this year’s draft class. In 2016, Guice often faced immediate penetration from the defense. His explosive lower body, and his anticipation allowed for him to be among the best backfield creators in college football. He was ready to make a move on a defender before he even took the hand off.
On this run, Derrius Guice quickly diagnoses the defense and jump cuts immediately after getting the hand off. The defender was held to the ground, but Guice had the move ready for him had the defender made it free. He then gets up field quickly for the easy score, thanks to some poor effort on the defensive side of the ball. Derrius Guice is very quick to recover from his anticipatory adjustments. Look at how fast he starts getting back up field after making his initial cut to avoid the free defender.
In 2017, this showed up, but not nearly as often. His lingering lower body injuries hampered his explosiveness. Those plays that he made look so easy in 2016, were suddenly not as easy. The anticipation was still there, but the quick-twitch explosiveness wasn’t as apparent, resulting in less yards created in the backfield.
This is something that I fully expect Derrius Guice to be capable of in the NFL and is another trait that will help him if his offensive line isn’t helping him out the way that you would hope.
This run loses yards, and certainly isn’t flashy, but watch how quickly Derrius Guice recognizes the defender penetrating in the middle. His first move is happening before he even takes the handoff. He is able to elude the defender with ease (with a little help from another missed holding call), and continue the run. There wasn’t much space for him, but he avoided a bigger loss of yards.
This run worked out a little better for Guice. Again, watch how quick Derrius Guice is to recognize the penetration on the left side of the line, where the run is designed to go. His lineman falls down, and Guice immediately breaks the run to the right side. He moves laterally along the line of scrimmage until he finds a crease and cuts up field. The cut gave him just enough to avoid a full hit from the defender, and he was able to spin forward for a few extra yards.
Derrius Guice moves laterally very well. He makes sharp cuts, explodes out of his cuts and is able to do so without losing too much speed or momentum. This is something that will help him fit into any running scheme. He can make the cut up field when stretching to the sideline, and he can also make sweeping cuts across the field when getting downhill between the tackles.
He doesn’t always get as much movement out of his cuts as you would think, but his cuts are sudden and deliberate, making it very hard for defenders to line him up when he is trying to elude them.
Paired with his combination of patience and aggressiveness, his lateral agility becomes lethal in the open field. He does a really good job of following his blockers, staying aware of where they are and how to use them. His explosiveness laterally helps him set up defenders and cut back behind his blockers with very little lost speed, maintaining his downhill momentum.
Watch how Derrius Guice uses his change of direction ability and burst to cut up field in a hurry while stretching to the sideline.
On this run, Derrius Guice makes four cuts. The run starts to the right, and he quickly recognizes that the defense is flowing to the right with the play. He cuts back across the line to successfully avoid the bulk of the traffic. His next cut is inside and up field to avoid the defender that is coming back to the edge. The defender gets an arm on him, but Guice is able to run through the contact with ease. The next two cuts happen in quick succession. He breaks the run back out to the outside, quickly realizes that he has a blocker incoming, makes a fourth and final cut to adjust his path to avoid a collision with his blocker, and then works to the sideline to maximize his yards gained. The final cut, took away a lot of his forward momentum, but overall, this was a very nice run.
Power and Balance
Derrius Guice has a lot of quality running back traits in his arsenal. His power and balance are chief among them. Guice isn’t the biggest of backs, but he has a ridiculously strong lower body and runs with absolute violence. His leg drive is among the best in college football. Paired with his leg strength, he creates a lot of yards after contact through pure determination and strength.
On this run, Guice waits for his blocker to set up outside on the pitch play. He puts his foot in the dirt, bursts up field and attacks the defender. He takes contact on the three yard line, but pushes through the defender to the goal line for the score. You’d like to see him bend and get a little lower here, rather than just lowering his shoulder, but he drives through the play well and converts.
In open field, he isn’t afraid to lower his shoulder to run through a defender. He takes defenders head on and doesn’t shy away from contact.
This run is an example of the type of punishment that Derrius Guice can lay on a defender. He follows his pulling guard, waits for him to find a target and then maintains an outside course when the guard turns back to the inside. When he recognizes that, Guice zones in on the defender down field,lowers his shoulder and explodes into contact, falling forward for an extra three yards.
Perhaps his best trait, and most translatable is his balance. His balance pairs well with both his lateral agility and his power. It is really hard to bring Derrius Guice down. His power and leg drive make it tough to tackle him without wrapping him up. His ability to get horizontal in a hurry make him tough to wrap up when he chooses his elusiveness over his power.
The blocking is really good on this play, but Guice picks his lane, gets up field and is able to stay on his feet through contact that would have downed most running backs. He follows up his spin with a nice shed of another defender and takes the play to the end zone.
Guice runs through arm tackles. He bounces off defenders. He drives through contact, and he shakes off smaller defenders with ease.
The power and balance combination that Derrius Guice displays is going to make him a strong runner between the tackles, and will produce ample yards after contact in the NFL. The Lions need a back that can pick up tough yards, grind through contact, and shake off defenders. Too often last year, the Lions backs were brought down on first contact or were unable to muscle for extra yards after making the first defender miss.
This isn’t the case with Derrius Guice.
This run illustrates just how hard Derrius Guice is to bring down and how his power and balance complement each other to create yards after contact.
Derrius Guice has good-not-great vision behind the line of scrimmage. I have this in the “positive” column, because it is certainly serviceable in the NFL, it just isn’t going to be an elite or defining trait for him in my opinion. He does a good job of finding lanes and taking what the defense gives him, but he doesn’t have the elite ability so see holes develop before they happen, anticipate lanes and react quickly to offensive line play.
Guice has a blocker in front of him, but both a defender to his inside and his outside. Rather than trying to cut it back inside or bounce it outside, Guice fails to recognize an attack point in the defense and ends up wandering straight into a defender. This play was well defended, and it was unlikely that Derrius Guice would have been able to get much more out of this, but deciding not to choose a direction was the wrong decision here regardless.
While I don’t consider this to be among his best traits, I consider it to be above average, and don’t expect this to hinder him in the NFL in any way.
His vision in the open field is much better. He sets up blocks and manipulates defenders extremely well. When he gets into space, he is a master of making the absolute most out of the field that he has in front of him. Watch how Guice cuts back behind his blocker to the inside to set up this defender. When the defender bites inside, he breaks back behind his blocker to the outside to continue upfield, allowing his blocker to get his body on the defender.
Derrius Guice: Weaknesses
The first, most obvious, and possibly completely irrelevant weakenss of Derrius Guice would be his health. In his first year carrying the full workload, he was hampered by injuries for the duration. Sometimes these injuries have no long lasting effects, and sometimes they carry on and a player loses a bit of what made him great. I would certainly lean toward the former for Derrius Guice. I don’t think these injuries are going to have any long lasting detrimental effects for him.
The part that concerns me is his running style. Guice is a violent runner. He isn’t a big runner. He isn’t afraid to take on defenders and attack the defense. This is part of what makes him such a successful and exciting runner. It is also what is concerning for his long term health. I’d probably feel a lot better about it if he had a bigger frame, but his size isn’t necessarily on the same level as his tenaciousness.
I’m not overly concerned about this, but I feel it is something that I had to bring up in relation to his projection as a pro.
Derrius Guice has some positive marks and some negative marks in this area. He has shown the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, make people miss in space, lower his head for a first down, and generally do everything you want to see out of a running back on a swing pass.
His hands are just OK. He drops some easy passes, but has shown the ability to catch the ball outside his frame. I don’t ever expect that he is going to be a back that is going to catch a huge number of passes. I just don’t see coaches trusting him with that kind of volume. I also don’t think that his hands are bad enough that he will have to get pulled on longer yardage situations.
His routes are inconsistent. Some of his routes are atrocious, while others look crisp and explosive. Guice has the agility to run crisp routes, but he doesn’t always seem to care about that area of the game. LSU doesn’t throw the ball much, due to inconsistent quarterback play, so this may be an area that Guice just never had proper training. I expect this to be something that Guice vastly improves on in the NFL, but may be a liability in the immediate future.
Pass protection is a problem from most college running backs. They generally have no idea what they are doing, a lack of experience, a lack of effort, or are generally just not built to take on defenders. While Guice isn’t a “big back” his size shouldn’t be an issue in pass protection. He hasn’t shown an unwillingness to engage defenders. He just seems completely lost in protection a good amount of the time. This is something that improves with almost every back once they are exposed to NFL level coaching, they simply have to be willing to engage. Guice has shown the willingness to engage.
This is my biggest criticism of Derrius Guice. Guice doesn’t have top tier body control. He makes sharp cuts, he’s explosive, he has good balance, and he is powerful, but his average body control keeps him from elevating those traits.
Guice doesn’t lean well away from defenders and often allows them to get too big a piece of him. His lack of that elite body control often keeps good runs from turning into great runs. It minimizes his room for error when making his cuts, and it keeps him from fully utilizing the lanes and holes that he finds in the defense.
Derrius Guice’s ability to run through contact and maintain his balance helps to minimize the detriments of his lack of body control, but he loses speed and explosiveness when defenders get their hands on him.
Unfortunately for Guice, this isn’t a trait that is generally coachable. It is instinct. You either have it, or you don’t. Guice doesn’t appear to have it.
On this run, Guice displays nice patience to wait for a running lane. He attacks the line of scrimmage and gets up field in a hurry. He makes it cleanly through the line of scrimmage and gets into open field. When Derrius Guice gets to the next level, he does a nice job of breaking back inside to put a little space between himself and an engaged defender, but then misjudges his angle on his next cut and ends up squarely in the arms of the defender. This was a case of a good run that could have been a great run if Guice had bounced a little further to the inside. It isn’t that he isn’t capable of making that cut. He just doesn’t always show consistency in the angles at which he cuts.
Derrius Guice is, in my opinion, absolutely worthy of a first round selection. He would be an excellent fit for the Lions’ offense and could immediately improve a struggling running game to a level that Detroit Lions’ fans haven’t seen in years. That said, I don’t think that he is worthy of the Detroit Lions’ first round selection. It isn’t anything against Derrius Guice, a player that I believe will have a very successful NFL career. I just believe that the Lions have greater needs on the defensive line, and that there will be other backs that will fit with Detroit. While there may be no back that is more complete than Guice available after he is selected, there will be running backs that can be successful on the Detroit Lions.