The New York Giants need to add weapons to their offense by 2023. And while that’s generally understood to mean “wide receiver,” they could use more depth throughout their offense.
Even if they re-sign Saquon Barkley, he saw his production drop as his workload increased. Adding another explosive playmaker to the backfield should certainly be considered for Joe Schoen and the Giants.
Pittsburgh’s Israel Abanikanda emerged as one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in college football in 2022. Generally speaking, unless he was stopped behind the line of scrimmage, there was a good chance he would run for a touchdown. The Giants could certainly use more touchdowns in 2023, and a “pony pack” with Barkley and a gun like Abanikanda could be incredibly dangerous.
Will Abanikanda land on the Giants’ radar?
Prospect: Yisrael Abanikanda (2)
Games watched: vs. West Virginia (2022), vs. Tennessee (2022), vs. Virginia Tech (2022), vs. North Carolina (2022), vs. Miami (2022)
Red flags: Undisclosed injury (late 2022)
Height: 5 foot 11
Weight: 215 pounds
Games played: 30
Yards (YPC): 2,177 (5.6 per carry)
Yards (YPC): 354 (9.3 per catch)
Total touchdowns (road/receiving): 31 (28 rushing, 3 receiving)
Games played: eleven
Yards (YPC): 1,431 (6.0 per carry)
Yards (YPC): 146 (12.2 per catch)
Total touchdowns (road/receiving): 21 (20 running, 1 receiving)
Better: Vision, contact balance, quickness, versatility, yards after contact, great playability
Worst: Power, pass protection
Projection: A starting running back with scheme versatility
Pittsburgh running back Israel Abanikanda is an instinctive, athletic running back with a great combination of quickness, contact balance and vision to play the position at the NFL level.
Abanikanda only has one real producing season, but he is coming off an incredibly productive junior season. The 2022 season saw him produce 21 touchdowns and average 6.3 yards per touch. Abanikanda is a versatile running back who is capable of running out inside and outside zone, and man gap blocking schemes. He also ran from the shotgun and also from the “I” formation, also splitting as slot and wide receiver.
Abanikanda runs with great pace and pace behind the line of scrimmage, allowing his blockers to get into position. He has great vision and is able to anticipate first-, second-, and third-tier defenders. He displays an instinctive understanding of how to alter his speed, stride rate, and frequency to manipulate defenders. Abanikanda frequently uses his path behind the line of scrimmage to move defenders out of position before suddenly slicing and exploding across his intended line of run.
He has great quickness and agility, and has the ability to drop his hips to shift his center of gravity before slashing. Abanikanda has excellent contact balance and is able to get through arm tackles and shoulder checks, as well as occasionally stumble. His vision, quickness, agility, and his low center of gravity allow him to turn sure shots into glancing blows.
He also does a great job of anticipating contact and adjusting to allow himself to rack up yardage after contact. All told, Abanikanda’s vision, balance and athleticism make him a very difficult player to take down once he crosses the line of scrimmage. He is a
Abanikanda’s agility, explosiveness, and open-field speed make him a big-play threat whenever he finds a streak of light.
While Abanikanda is a versatile, explosive and dangerous runner, he is not without his limitations. He lacks great playing power and shouldn’t be considered a short-range runner. He’s not a weak runner, but he simply doesn’t have the power to push the stack between tackles, nor should he be considered a “battering ram” of a running back. Abanikanda can be tackled relatively easily if a defensive lineman or linebacker can find him behind the line of scrimmage.
He’s a willing pass protector, but he needs to improve that area of his game. Abanikanda understands his role in pass protection and doesn’t shy away from defenders, but he doesn’t attack them either. He’s not a particularly strong pass protector and is more of a nuisance than anything else to defenders.
Teams may also need to work with Abanikanda as a catcher. It shows some advantages as a receiver, but it was not used very often. He was used primarily as a target on screen plays or as a checking option, averaging only 12 receptions per season.
Overall note: 7.5
Abanikanda is an incredibly dangerous running back who needs to be stopped behind the line of scrimmage. Otherwise, he’s a big-play threat with a chance to score almost every time he touches the ball. Abanikanda is capable of running between tackles in the inside zone, fast break or running between men, as well as in the outside zone. He should be fit for just about any offense in the NFL and should be able to contribute immediately as a change-of-pace running back, if not a starter.
Teams will probably want Abanikanda to improve his playing strength to the NFL level. He’s a quick and determined runner, but he’s not a great option in low-yardage situations. Likewise, he’ll need to work on his pass protection if he wants to see consistent plays in obvious passing situations. Teams can use him as a receiving option, showing that he can run a diverse route tree that will help earn their trust.
As an added bonus, Abanikanda also has some experience as a kick returner and could have an added advantage there.
The declining value of running backs in the draft could force Abanikanda to tear down big boards. He only has an elite production year and no amazing metrics. That said, he was such a consistently dangerous running back during his junior season that he should be a weapon immediately upon entering the NFL.