New York Giants: Can Paul Perkins be a feature back?
Dec 22, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Giants running back Paul Perkins (28) runs with the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

With Rashad Jennings gone and Adrian Peterson being bandied about, we ponder whether the New York Giants can feature Paul Perkins.

Paul Perkins was, undoubtedly, the most pleasant surprise of the 2016 season for the Giants.

While rookies like Eli Apple and Sterling Shepard were expected to be immediate contributors in New York, management seemingly considered Perkins a more developmental draft choice. A fifth-round pick out of UCLA, Perkins was expected to play backup to Rashad Jennings, with a chance to take over more rushing duties in the future.

However, with injuries to both Jennings and spell back Shane Vereen, the Giants were forced into using Perkins in a more prominent role. He seemingly got better each week, capping off his regular season with a 21 carry, 125-yard performance against the Washington Redskins.

Thus, as the Giants look to improve their roster this offseason, they must ask the questions: can Paul Perkins be a starting NFL running back?

Currently, the Giants are faced with a market loaded with rushing talent. The 2017 draft class boasts a bevy of talented prospects, headlined by multiple running backs among the best college football has ever seen.

Additionally, in a free agent class that boasts names like Eddie Lacy, LaGarrette Blount, and even Isaiah Crowell, the Giants could have a number of different options on the free agent market. Thus, it appears that a team that struggled to find its run game for most of the 2016 season could get a much-needed injection of talent at the running back position.

However, if the Giants believe that Perkins can make the leap next season towards being a feature back, he could absolutely steer them away from acquiring another starting caliber running back.

Whether or not Perkins can shoulder that load remains to be seen. He has just one game with over 15 carries in his entire career. Following the best performance of his young career against Washington, Perkins put up a dismal 30 yards on ten carries in the playoffs against Green Bay.

Furthermore, he doesn’t exactly stack up well against the competition at his position. Perkins finished the season with 112 total carries for the Giants. No player ranked in the top 20 for rushing yards had fewer than 198 carries. Additionally, Perkins ranked 22nd in the NFL in yards per attempt. His abysmal pass blocking drastically hurt the team, and prevented New York from playing him consistently in passing situations.

Simply put, while his offensive versatility and big-play potential make him an exciting player, it doesn’t appear Paul Perkins is ready to be a feature back in the NFL.

While the workhorse back is dying, in place of more robust multi-back systems in today’s NFL, most teams maintain a main ball carrier who shoulders the majority of rushing responsibilities and at the very least, the majority of offensive stats. Currently, the Giants lack that player.

Every Giants fans desperately wants to witness Perkins developing into a feature back after his strong finish to last season, but it appears that his skill set simply isn’t there to carry the run game.

The Giants should certainly pursue a running back in free agency or the draft. While there are more pressing needs worth spending the big dollars and high draft picks on, certainly a flier on a running back is worth a fairly priced deal or a middle to late round pick.

Perkins’ development will be one of the most intriguing storylines of the upcoming season in New York, but until he demands the workload of a feature back with consistent play, the Giants should play it safe and bring in an additional back for insurance.

Billy Nayden is an SMU Mustang from Connecticut born and raised on New York sports. Avid fan of nearly every sport from MMA to handball. His heart is in NYC, but Billy has seen games on multiple continents, and has frequented arenas ranging from high school gyms to world class meccas.