David Wilson may never measure up to Brandon Jacobs. He's about seven inches and 60 pounds smaller than the former Giants bruiser. But the team seems to think Wilson will be able to handle his job of complementing Ahmad Bradshaw and perhaps help the team that finished last in rushing yardage in 2011.
After waiting around for nearly three hours, the Giants selected Wilson, a 5-9, 206-pound running back from Virginia Tech, with the 32nd overall selection. Wilson was named the ACC Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 1,709 yards and nine touchdowns last season. He also caught 22 passes for 129 yards.
Wilson is the first running back to be selected in the first round by the Giants since Ron Dayne in 2000. The team had not selected a running back any higher than the fourth round since then. General manager Jerry Reese said it was "probably pretty fair to say" that Wilson was the second-highest-rated running back on their board behind Trent Richardson.
"This guy loves to play football," Reese said. "He's fast, productive, he can do anything you want him to do."
Wilson fills a need for the Giants, who released Jacobs earlier this offseason and had a group of unproven players on the roster to be Bradshaw's backup. That group included veteran D.J. Ware as well as young players Da'Rel Scott and former practice-squadder Andre Brown.
Tom Coughlin said Wilson will add to the Giants' "big-play potential." He also admitted that Bradshaw's chronic foot problems have the Giants worried.
"You have to think of that," Coughlin said. "If [Bradshaw's feet] do become an issue again, you have to have some talented people to pick up the slack a little bit."
Eventually, bad feet or not, the Giants see Wilson becoming the heir apparent to Bradshaw, who signed a four-year contract last summer. Bradshaw turned 26 in March.
"He's done it there," Giants director of college scouting Marc Ross said of Wilson being a lead back in college. "I think he can do the same thing up here."
Wilson said he was surprised to be taken by the Giants, with whom he interviewed at the combine but had very little contact with since (although he said his agent, Joel Segal, kept telling him the Giants might draft him). He said when the Bucs traded up to the 31st pick, he thought he might be headed to Tampa Bay. But when the Giants were on the clock, he thought that they "probably won't want to pick me."
They did. And it wasn't by default. The Giants wound up having plenty of players to choose from, including wide receiver Stephen Hill, tight end Coby Fleener, defensive end Courtney Upshaw and offensive lineman Cordy Glenn. They may have had their eye on running back Doug Martin, but the Bucs traded up to 31 just ahead of the Giants and selected him.
Once on the clock, Ross said Wilson was "a very easy pick." Reese said the team still took its allotted time to see if anyone was willing to "trade the motherlode" for their position.
For most of his career, Bradshaw has been the smaller, shiftier, more explosive running back for the Giants. Now, with Wilson, he'll have a running back partner who is more like him in many ways.
"I don't think Ahmad's role is going to change," Reese said. "He's going to be our lead dog and again, this guy is going to be a nice piece in our running back stable."
Wilson understands that.
"They have a great running back in Bradshaw," Wilson said. "In my whole career, I've been in a two-back system . . . I'm a good team player. In this league, one running back can't do it all, and I look forward to working with those guys and make the Giants the top team in the country."
Besides his production, Wilson has a quirky personality. He wore a suit and tie to classes at Virginia Tech; Coughlin joked that he will have to remind him not to do that to team meetings with the Giants. Ross said he routinely heard from those who know Wilson that he was "the best worker" and "pound for pound the strongest player."
"When you get those types of accolades from coaches, trainers, equipment people, whoever deals with the kid, blended together with a great football player, you can't go wrong," Ross said.
He's also been known to unravel a string of backflips on the field. The last time the Giants drafted a guy who did backflips, it was two years ago when they selected Jason Pierre-Paul.
"I knew I was stirring up something," Wilson said.
It turned out to be the last thing that caught the Giants' eye.
"We were looking for someone who can do backflips just like the guy we took a couple of years ago," Coughlin said. "That was a major factor.''