Workhorse. Bellcow. 3-Down Back. The running backs who fit these descriptions generally have one thing in common – size. They are usually in that 210 lbs, 220 lbs, 230 lbs size range.
But what about the running backs in Gio’s size range, the 5’9" types in that 195~200 lbs range, aren’t there some of them who have been heavy haulers for their offenses? Yes, there have been. And they all fizzled & declined after taking on that heavy lifting role.
Looking back over the last 7 or 8 years at 1,000 yard running backs who have similar sizes as Gio:
Ray Rice More than once, Gio has been compared to Rice. Rice is 5’9" and 195 lbs. In Rice’s first year he was eased into the NFL with 140 touches over 13 games. And then in years 2 thru 5 he was given 300+ touches per season, and did well with those. But now in year 6, after 4 years of heavy lifting, he’s not the same Ray Rice. He is missing the explosion and elusiveness, and is sporting a BJGE-like 3.0 ypc this year.
Maurice Jones-Drew Another size comparison running back, he stands 5’8" and 205 lbs. After being eased into the league, splitting time with Fred Taylor for 3 seasons, he was given the sole RB duties in year 4. In years 4, 5, and 6 he played 46 of 48 games, and cranked out over 330~380 touches per season. So like Ray Rice, after being eased into the league, he had a few years of good success. But then year 7 hit, and his missed 10 games. And then year 8 hit, and his ypc fell to a miserable 2.9 ypc.
Brian Westbrook Westbrook is another good size and ability comparison to Giovanni. Westbrook was 5’8" and 200 lbs. After a couple years playing a secondary role, getting less than 11 touches per game, he was set free in year 3. In years 3 thru 7 he was the Eagles’ primary RB, averaging 18~24 touches per game. And how did the undersized RB respond to the workload? He never made it thru a full NFL season. After he became the starter in year 3, his game totals were only: 13, 12, 15 ,15, 14, 8, 14.
Steve Slaton Who, you ask? My point exactly. He was a 5’10" and 195 lb RB who emerged in his rookie year topping 1,000 rushing yards for the Texans. He topped 300 touches that season. And what did that big work load do to him? In year 2, his games fell from 16 to 11 and his ypc fell from 4.8 to 3.3 In year 3 he only played 12 games, in year 4 he played 6 games, and that was that. Career over.
Ahmad Bradshaw He’s a littler taller than Gio at 5’11" but has the similar 195 lbs size. After hitting 320+ carries a few years ago, his game totals per season have plummeted to 12, 14, 3.
Chris Johnson Like Bradshaw, he’s a little taller than Gio. He’s 5’11" and 195 lbs. He exploded onto the league hitting 290+ touches and 4.9 ypc in year one, and hit 400+ touches and a 5.6 ypc in year 2. Since then, he’s actually been healthy, playing 16 games each year, but with little of the explosion that he showed in his 2,000 year campaign. After 5 years of heavy usage, this year has been his worst in ypc and touches per game.
So the moral of the story seems to be, with the undersized backs in Gio’s size range, it’s best to ease them into the league for a year or two. And hopefully after that, you can give them the primary duties, although those primary duties will ultimately catch up with them in a few years in the form of injuries or reduced production.