Did you think this game would end any differently? The Patriots whacked the Jets from the jump and never let up. No sense going any deeper on the game itself. The Patriots still need to win in Week 17 to keep the #1 seed in the AFC…and the Jets are the Jets.
The biggest note concerning fantasy has to do with the Jets’ RB situation, and I’ll address that last among the player notes below…
— Bryce Petty got hurt early and Ryan Fitzpatrick (8-21 for 136 yards, 0 TD/2 INT) mopped up and was his usual ‘awful’. Petty goes onto the I.R., and Fitz will start Week 17. Three notes about that move…
1: Fitzpatrick against his old team, Buffalo, in Week 17…maybe his final NFL game – I think Fitzpatrick is motivated and lets it all hang loose. He’s a sneaky option for Week 17.
2: If Fitzpatrick is starting, then Brandon Marshall (2-28-0/4 targets) will see 10+ targets (if active) and becomes a top 20 fantasy WR option for the week.
3: How bad does Christian Hackenberg suck for the Jets not to even trot him out there Week 17?
— I did not believe Dion Lewis (16-52-0, 1-5-0/1 target) was going to take a heavy carry count again, but he did. 34 carries the past two games. LeGarrette Blount is not giving up work – Lewis is just piling onto it. Lewis should make noise with heavy touch counts in the playoffs.
— IDP rookie we rate highly for the future Elandon Roberts (11 tackles, 1 TFL) led the Pats in tackles this week. He should see a decent amount of snaps in Week 17 as well.
— IDP second-year DB Rontez Miles (14 tackles) is coming on with more playing time. He led all IDPs in tackles in this game and is averaging 8.0 tackles per game the past four games. He’s a decent athlete and a solid hitter.
— I don’t think Matt Forte or Bilal Powell will be ready to go Week 17. They are both banged up, and it would be crazy to push them out there at half capacity. Makes no sense. The Jets promoted Brandon Burks from the P-squad and are working out FA RB Bernard Pierce again.
Already on the roster is rookie RB Brandon Wilds. You’ll see him creeping up our rankings more and more this week – if the news stays bad on Forte-Powell. Here’s our 2016 College Football Metrics scouting report on Wilds for some context of what we are seeing…
A scouting report clip from College Football Metrics pre-Draft:
NFL Draft 2016 Scouting Report: RB Brandon Wilds, So. Carolina
*Our RB grades can and will change as more information comes in from Pro Day workouts, leaked Wonderlic test results, etc. We will update ratings as new info becomes available.
*We use the term “Power RB” to separate physically bigger, more between-the-tackles–capable RBs from our “speed RBs” group. “Speed RBs” are physically smaller, but much faster/quicker, and less likely to flourish between the tackles.
Brandon Wilds is not a name that is constantly among the top RB prospects discussion, for some legit reasoning. However, he’s a mildly hot name among the underground, with the Draftniks. On occasion, you’ll see a David Johnson comparison, which is a hopeful reach, but does have a little plausibility. We’re going to examine all of that.
We’ll begin by trying to profile Brandon Wilds as a prospect, and then we’ll look at why most people don’t care about him that that much, and we’ll finish that with a discussion of the opportunity/potential with him that many people/NFL teams will overlook/undervalue.
Who is Brandon Wilds?
I get people making David Johnson comparisons, because Wilds is a little bigger of a running back (6’1”/220). Wilds, like Johnson, has great hands in the passing game. Mostly, the comparison is because everyone on the planet, besides our computer scouting models, missed out on seeing Johnson as the elite prospect he was the first time around (last year at this time). The ‘cool kids’ among draft analysts in 2016 are going to spend a lot of time looking for their ‘next David Johnson’ (since they completely missed the DJ arrival last draft season). Brandon Wilds is not the next David Johnson. No one in the 2016 NFL Draft, or any NFL Draft ever held in the history of the planet earth, is David Johnson (except David Johnson). It’s a reach, and unfair to try to label Wilds that way. But I get it.
Where people are right with the Johnson comparison to Wilds is what they do in the passing game. Football analysts see that Wilds has pretty good hands and a similar-ish size to Johnson and try to put two-and-two together. They’re on the right track, but I don’t think they quite realize how truly gifted Brandon Wilds is as a receiver. Short of David Johnson, Brandon Wilds has the best hands as a receiver that I may have ever seen from any running back prospect in the past 5–10 years.
Because Wilds did not catch many passes in college/play as a clear starter much in college, and was not invited to the Senior Bowl, most NFL people are truly not in tune with how good Wilds is as a receiver. They can tell he has good hands at first sight, and they leave it at that. The proper scouting on Wilds is that he has exceptional hands—and that’s meaningful in an effort to properly scout and value him for the NFL.
You could see it on some game tape, just how smoothly, gracefully Wilds comes out of the backfield for a pass, and how effortlessly he hauls in his targets. He really is an elite receiver out of the backfield. It’s hard to fully see it from watching him at South Carolina because the Gamecocks’ passing game/offense was up and down during Wilds’ tenure, and Wilds was in and out of the lineup.
Where I really confirmed my initial suspicion about Wilds possessing something a little more special than just ‘good hands’ took place watching him work at the NFL Combine—that was the final clincher. Catching passes from legit quarterbacks, and comparing and contrasting prospects like Kenneth Dixon and Josh Ferguson, or even Ezekiel Elliott—there was no comparison in the receiving drills. C.J. Prosise is a converted WR to RB, and he has great hands, but I don’t believe they are like Wilds’s…Wilds is just that gifted.
As a runner of the ball, Wilds isn’t bad at all. He has the size at 220 pounds. He runs a 4.54 40-time. He has OK-not-great agility measured from the NFL Combine, but I think he’s a little more instinctual and elusive on tape. He’s a legit runner. Watching him work on tape during his time at South Carolina or at the NFLPA college all-star game, Wilds was just different than most running backs in this draft or at his all-star game. He has a burst, with nice size/power, with great instinct. He doesn’t leave people in the dust, and he doesn’t plow them over—he’s just really good/solid. When given the ball heavily at South Carolina, Wilds ran for 100+ yards almost every time he got the bigger workload.
OK, so if I’m saying he has the greatest hands in the world, and was a really good, efficient/talented runner…then why are his numbers so bland at South Carolina? Why isn’t there a scouting commotion for Wilds as one of the better RB prospects in this draft? In fact, no one’s really even talking about him.
Why no one cares about Wilds that much…
The reason why Wilds is discounted into generic sleeper/‘keep an eye on this kid’ empty chatter is because Wilds was constantly nicked up/injured throughout his college career, and was stuck behind/splitting with Mike Davis for parts of his South Carolina run as well. He has the label of injury-prone, and his injuries did not allow him to put up colossal numbers that catch football analysts’ attention. All of Wilds’s great performances are fragmented, broken over several seasons…in games here and there. Just when he looks to take off, he gets sidelined.
Into 2011, Marcus Lattimore was all the rage in South Carolina. Lattimore got hurt, and it was freshman Brandon Wilds who came in and racked up three 100+ yard rushing games in his first four real opportunities at playing time. Wilds became a sensation. It was Wilds who was then discussed as the possible future of South Carolina football.
Into 2012, Wilds suffered a high ankle sprain, and the team decided to redshirt him. In 2013, Wilds dislocated his elbow and missed some time. In 2014 (and 2013), Wilds split time, worked behind the talented Mike Davis (draft pick of the 49ers last season). In 2015, his season ended short with a fractured rib against Clemson. Throughout his career, Wilds has battled nagging injuries, especially problems with his ankles all throughout. He’s never had a critical, surgery-required injury to any of the major areas (knees, feet, back, etc.), but every time you turn around Wilds would wind up getting nicked up again.
The injury bug/issue is a legit thing. Wilds should be discounted for this. It’s easy to say he’s frail, and I guess that wouldn’t be technically wrong, but Wilds does not play like a frail player. He’s not built ‘frail’. He’s just been unlucky, maybe. I remember people discounting Latavius Murray coming out of college as ‘always nicked up’, and it’s understandable because he was on and off in college. Last season, Murray went all 16 games as the lead back for Oakland. My scouting of these kind of ‘nicked up’ guys would be depending on the cost. At a lower price, what if they are clean ahead—what are they capable of in a full season? If their injuries are of a minor nature, what if professional training staffs keep them healthy, and what might happen if they can sustain playing time at the next level? Wilds has flashed skills beyond where he is currently rated for people—it comes down to ‘staying on the field’.
So what do you do with Wilds, as an NFL scout? The people that are grasping for the David Johnson comparison are more just trying to find the next David Johnson; to be cute or delusionally hopeful. Wilds is not the next David Johnson. You will hear some people refer to Wilds as Matt Forte–like—that’s a more appropriate comparison. Wilds is wiry like Forte, and both are runner-receiver types. Just looking at the tape, Wilds is almost like a clone of Matt Forte. The Forte comparison is what should stick in your mind, but there’s two twists to that equivocation:
1) Matt Forte was a much more accomplished runner in college, and his production numbers bear that out. Forte also tested much faster and more agile than Wilds…Forte tested on an elite level for his size. Wilds tested well, but not elite.
I can’t imagine Brandon Wilds as a workhorse running back in the NFL for years like Forte has been, but I wouldn’t totally rule out the possibility either. Of the two, Forte was a much better prospect as a runner of the ball.
2) On the other hand, as smooth and as gifted as Forte is in the passing game, Brandon Wilds is a better receiver. He just is. That’s no slam against Forte either, who’s a phenomenal pass-game weapon in the NFL and a Hall of Fame–level guy. Wilds is more likeDavid Johnson in that sense. It would not be crazy for an NFL team to consider moving Wilds to wide receiver to protect him from the nagging injury issues, if they occur at the next level. He’s that kind of receiving talent.
That being said, Wilds accomplishments/skills as a receiver are going to be missed, to a degree, by the NFL. Not missed totally, but not as embraced as they should be…selling him short; missing an opportunity.
NFL evaluators usually pretty simplistically put players in certain buckets because of who they remind them of, or because of a bias for/against that school, or whatever other simple factor. It’s just a fact of life. Many NFL evaluators will see a tall, big guy like Wilds, and not see what they should see—what they could see. They’ll want to call him the next Matt Forte–lite, or Latavius Murray–like or even a poor man’s David Johnson…they’re all going to want the 220-pound guy to be a power running back as well as a receiver. I would not want him to be a three-down guy, but that’s the prism they’ll look at him through. When they do that ‘three down guy’ comparison, Wilds is going to come up short because of limited tape/touches and all the nagging injuries. He’s not an electrifying, all-around talent like a Forte or David Johnson, or even like Latavius Murray are.
What most NFL evaluators won’t do—is simply look at him as the next (taller/thicker) Darren Sproles, or Dion Lewis, or Chris Thompson, or Theo Riddick. NFL scouts will spend this entire draft season charged with looking for a new wave of receiving running backs, and they’re going to have a picture in their mind of Dion Lewis. In an instant they’ll see smaller Kenneth Dixonand Josh Ferguson as the more ideal candidates…guys who don’t have high-end NFL running skills or size, so it’s easy to ignore that and fall in love with the one thing they do have—their receiving skills. The mistake will be not doing the same with Brandon Wilds. Wilds offers more as a runner (on size) than Dixon or Ferguson, but why not for a moment just throw that away and say it’s never going to happen, and strictly evaluate Wilds as a pure receiver? If you do that, he should be taken in the draft ahead ofKenneth Dixon, and for sure ahead of Josh Ferguson. Dixon and Ferguson will go ahead of Wilds because they have the bigger receiving numbers in college, they fit the one-track-mind profile. NFL teams that think outside the box can take Wilds and just make him their pass-catching RB…only he’s physically bigger with better hands—he’s the ultimate Dion Lewis, in a sense—a physically bigger, better hands version of Dion Lewis…if anyone bothers to see it.
What if an NFL team/Wilds gives over to this ‘third down guy’ specialist role, and cuts 4-5 pounds and gets his speed into the 4.4s? Stop adding weight to your frame, stop trying to fit the mold…create a new mold…a 6’0”+ tall Darren Sproles.
If Wilds is the ultimate, beefed-up Dion Lewis-like pass game weapon for the NFL, why should any team take Kenneth Dixon orJosh Ferguson higher than him in the draft? This line of thinking could make Brandon Wilds one of the absolute steals in the draft for an NFL team looking to fill that runner-receiver role, and passing on taking a running back in the first 100 picks of the draft.
Brandon Wilds, through the lens of our “Power RB” Scouting Algorithm
This next round of fuzzy math either tantalizes you a little, helped prove my ‘dark horse’ theory here, or it’s just seen as fuzzy math; a stretch…
Brandon Wilds played nine games in 2015, his first real stretch as ‘the guy’, in some sense. In those nine games, he left the Georgia game early with a rib injury, and then missed a couple of games. After his return, he started catching fire, and then got hurt at the end of the season versus Clemson. He took a few touches, before exiting the Clemson and Georgia games. Really, he only played seven full games in 2015.
Here’s what Wilds’s 2015 would have looked like taking the seven games he did play, and extrapolating them into a 13-game season: 993 yards rushing, 5.5 TDs, 32 catches for 263 yards receiving—1,256 yards total. Had Wilds posted a solid season like that, perhaps I would not sound so insane making a case for him.
In the 13 games in Wilds’s career, where he had 12 or more carries in a game, Wilds’s totals (trying to mirror a 13-game season): 240 carries, 1,142 yards (4.8 ypc), and 7 TDs, 28 catches for 255 yards receiving…1,397 total yards. *I left out his 12 carry game vs. UNC in 2013, so I could mirror a 13-game season total.
In nine career games with 16 or more carries, Wilds has rushed for 100+ yards six times. His per game averages in those nine games: 101.7 rushing yards (4.9 ypc) , and 120.4 total yards per game.
Wilds measured 6’0.6”/220 at the NFL Combine with a 4.54 40-time and a 7.08 three-cone. I wonder if Wilds stopped trying to prove he was a big back, and shrunk to 2015 and became a more elusive passing game RB…I wonder if he would be a high 4.4s runner with sub 7.0 three cone? He’d be more elusive/nimble at that size…and also an interesting slot WR profile.
The NFL “Power RB” that Brandon Wilds most compares with statistically in college, within our system:
I agree with many people that Wilds looks just like Matt Forte out on the field—similar movements, similar skills…we’ve already covered that. Our computer scouting models lined him more with Charles Sims, and I think that’s an excellent comparison…even though I’m not a huge Charles Sims fan.
Charles Sims plays a very specific role, and has a gift he brings to the NFL…a gift that was just slightly ahead of its time, on the front edge of the revolution to come—the running back that isn’t a very good runner of the ball, but is an ace in the passing game; a specialist weapon if you will. Sims catching the ball 4–5 times a game, and carrying it 4–5 times a game, can be just as valuable as the running back that totes it 15+ times, but is limited in the passing game. It’s a specific skill set. I think Brandon Wilds is a better/more talented version of Charles Sims, and is bigger/better version of Kenneth Dixon, and is a bigger/better version ofJosh Ferguson, and is a bigger/better version of Dion Lewis…judging them purely on the receiver out of the backfield role for the NFL. Wilds is the ultimate combination of size with tremendous hands.
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*A score of 8.50+ is where we see a stronger correlation of RBs going on to become NFL good/great/elite. A score of 10.00+ is more rarefied air in our system, and indicates a greater probability of becoming an elite NFL RB.
All of the RB ratings are based on a 0–10 scale, but a player can score negative, or above a 10.0 in certain instances.
Overall rating/score = A combination of several on-field performance measures, including refinement for strength of opponents faced, mixed with all the physical measurement metrics—then compared/rated historically within our database and formulas. More of a traditional three-down search—runner, blocker, and receiver.
*RB-Re score = New/testing in 2016. Our new formula/rating that attempts to identify and quantify a prospect’s receiving skills even deeper than in our original formulas. RB prospects can now make it/thrive in the NFL strictly based on their receiving skills—it is an individual attribute sought out for the NFL, and no longer dismissed or overlooked. Our rating combines a study of their receiving numbers in college in relation to their offense and opponents, as well as profiling size-speed-agility along with hand-size measurables, etc.
*RB-Ru score = New/testing in 2016. Our new formula/rating that attempts to classify and quantify a RB prospect’s ability strictly as a runner of the ball. Our rating combines a study of their rushing numbers in college in relation to their offense and strength of opponents, as well as profiling size-speed-agility along with various size measurables, etc.
Raw Speed Metric = A combination of several speed and size measurements from the NFL Combine, judged along with physical size profile, and then compared/rated historically within our database and scouting formulas. This is a rating strictly for RBs of a similar/bigger size profile.
Agility Metric = A combination of several speed and agility measurements from the NFL Combine, judged along with physical size profile, and then compared/rated historically within our database and scouting formulas. This is a rating strictly for RBs of a similar/bigger size profile.
2016 NFL Draft outlook…
I see Brandon Wilds drawing in analysts mock drafts anywhere from the third round to the seventh round. He’s not a very known or discussed entity, so he’s not going to generate a lot of mock draft buzz. Because he doesn’t get media chatter, the NFL teams will follow suit and just let him fall later in the draft. The smart teams will let the dumb teams overdraft a Kenneth Dixon or Josh Ferguson, and nothing against those guys—they are talents as well, but the guy who could be cheaper, and exponentially better than those guys, might go in the fourth or fifth or sixth round…and he could be one of the steals of the draft. I think Wilds will go after the top 100, partially because he has no draft buzz, but also the legit reason that he’s battled injuries quite a bit. Mostly, I just don’t think teams are going to see the simplicity of evaluating him only like they would Josh Ferguson or Charles Sims, etc.
If I’m an NFL GM, first off I’ve already drafted David Johnson way ahead of anybody last year and I’m laughing my ass off with my untold riches at running back. That aside, I would be all over Brandon Wilds as a discount runner-receiver later in the draft. Again, not just to fill this role like checking a box—I am interested in Wilds as a running back receiver because he has arguably the best hands I’ve ever seen for a running back—that’s worth something. That moves my needle. You don’t see that every day.
I’m not overdrafting Wilds, or trading up for him, or anything like I would pay for a David Johnson–like mega-talent—but I would have Wilds on my list of late-round guys to steal. The running back position just isn’t that critical that I have to go crazy here, but I’d be inclined to get a little excited to get Wilds’s great hands on my roster.
NFL Outlook: How productive Wilds will be in the NFL comes down to two issues: (1) If he can stay healthy, and not keep losing his place in line or any momentum he builds throughout training camps, etc. That’s a given. (2) What team drafts him? Is it a team with a vision that purposely thrusts him into that receiver role as a weapon? Or one that takes him because he’s really big, and sees him as a depth chart running back to have just in case their starter gets hurt?
I fear injuries are always an issue, but I hope they aren’t for Wilds. If he stays healthy, he’s going to be a steal.