While participating in yet another mock draft this week (shocking, I know) myself and my co-GM's, Grant and Manraj, found ourselves in a bit of a quandry. We traded back from the 30th overall pick to the eighth pick in the second round (2.08) while picking up the 13th pick in the fourth round (4.13) along the way.
However once our pick 2.08 came up, we quickly realized that the best player on the board was running back David Wilson. You wouldn't consider RB a need, perhaps, but we hashed out some discussions and decided that we had to take the best player available, Wilson.
Now it's well known that I don't think Brandon Jacobs OR Anthony Dixon will make the roster in 2012. The primary reason is that neither are the long-term answer to replace Frank Gore, who's clearly in decline. Kendall Hunter could be some form of "feature back" but he can't take 100% (or even close) of the snaps. He needs a complimentary back.
After the jump, we'll delve further into this subject.
This begins the case for finding Frank Gore's replacement now rather than later. You see, Gore is in his swan-song year, to me. He tired near the end of 2011, where he didn't miss a single game for the first time in a few seasons. Unfortunately I think this is going to be his last productive year as a feature back.
The issue then becomes finding a replacement who is ready to step-in as early as this year if Gore is injured, or next if he makes it through but isn't performing at a high level. If you wait until the 2013 draft to get this guy, you don't have this quality RB as a 2012 backup to Gore...AND I think you are going to struggle with a rookie who's thrust into the starting role immediately.
Pass protection in particular is a key area in which almost all rookie RB's need improvement. The playbook is another place that more time is the best practice. On a team that is hopeful to be involved in Championships for the forseeable future...starting a rookie RB in a run-heavy offense is not a risk I'd want to take.
On the other hand, you could roll with Dixon or Jacobs as the backup this year, though I think you'd see significant drop-off at the position if Gore went down...simply from a talent standpoint. The other thing that does is force the aforementioned scenario of replacing Gore at the last-minute with a rookie.
You have to be proactive in this league and waiting until your lead back breaks down just isn't the wise move. Depth is clearly an issue to the front office or Jacobs wouldn't have been signed. Unless Dixon improves 200% this off-season, the team is in the market for a bell-cow at RB.
The reason I'm good with taking a guy like Wilson is that he's a dynamic back who can run inside and out as well as contribute in the passing game. He has the athleticism, in terms of quickness and speed, to go with great balance. These are traits that make a starting-caliber RB in the NFL and if you're in the market and you see them...you have to pounce.