The New York Giants rode the Wayne Train to a 5-3 record to close out the season last year, while Wayne Gallman subsequently chugged his way in the hearts of Big Blue faithful. However, all good things must come to an end. For all his brilliance in 2020, the team simply didn’t value Gallman to the degree that his market price would dictate in free agency — especially with Saquon Barkley set to reclaim his rightful place atop the depth chart.
With Barkley back in the fold, Gallman’s plus-attributes would have been mitigated, ie: an in-between-the-tackle, volume runner. Instead, the No. 2 back in New York this season will be asked to man a plethora of different roles aside from spelling Barkley in the run game, from receiving to blocking to contributing on special teams — all facets of which Gallman falls short of free-agent acquisition Devontae Booker, whom Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox believes the nation is collectively sleeping on.
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Booker Named Giants’ ‘Best Kept Secret’
When Booker inked a 2-year, $5.5 million deal this offseason, it turned some heads. Especially considering serviceable talents such as Carlos Hyde and high-upside players such as Leonard Fournette each signed deals with yearly base salaries no greater than $1.6 million. In fact, Gallman’s market was far less lively than previously expected, leading to him signing with the San Francisco 49ers for a mere $990,000.
While the numbers may lead some to second-guess the Giants’ decision to let Gallman walk, or rather commit to Booker, Knox feels as if the organization should be ecstatic with their acquisition. The B/R columnist labeled Booker as the G-Men’s “best-kept secret” and even floated his name amongst the “most underrated” free agency moves league-wide.
The New York Giants’ signing of running back Devontae Booker might be one of the most underrated moves of the offseason. While star back Saquon Barkley is expected to be healthy following 2020’s torn ACL, Booker can be a fantastic complement.
A bruising 219-pound inside runner, Booker possesses the physicality needed to wear down defenses late in games and provide a change of pace. He served as a complement to Pro Bowler Josh Jacobs with the Raiders last season and should do the same with Barkley.
Booker put forth arguably the most well-rounded campaign of his five-year NFL campaign in 2020. The 28-year-old posted 423 rushing yards on 93 carries, an average of 4.5 ypc — each of which either ranks second or is tied for the second-most of his career. He also added 84 receiving yards and totaled three touchdowns while playing second-fiddle to Jacobs in Las Vegas. Now in New York, Knox expects Booker to man a similar role, if not surpass the one he held with the Raiders.
The benefit of adding Booker will be twofold. First, he’ll help keep Barkley fresh as the star works his way back toward 100 percent. Second, he’ll force opposing defenses to adjust between running styles. While Barkley is plenty powerful, he moves well in space and will utilize lateral movement to his advantage. Booker takes more of a head-on approach. If defenses spread out to contain Barkley on the edge, Booker can pound them up the middle.
Barkley will be the star of New York’s rushing attack, of course, but expect Booker to play a significant role as his backup.
So Much More Than a Runner
While Knox did laud Booker for his “bruising” running style, we’d be remiss not to point out that his 2.68 yards per carry after contact last season — while solid — was nearly a full-yard less than Gallman’s output of 3.63 yards per carry after contact.
However, as touched on above, Booker was brought to New York to do much more than pound the rock. While he wasn’t asked to man a large role in the passing game for the Raiders, the California native has hauled in 122 passes over his career, including three seasons of 30-plus receptions. As for Gallman, he hasn’t exceeded 21 receptions since 2017, averaging just 15.3 receptions per season over that three-year span.
In terms of blocking, neither Booker nor Gallman offers up blue-chip traits. Yet, Booker does hold a clear advantage, earning a PFF pass-blocking grade of 64.0 in 2020 (48th out of 172 eligible RBs). In 23 pass-blocking snaps, Booker allowed just one pressure. Gallman, on the other hand, notched a pass-blocking grade of 58.0 this past season, while Barkley has had his own lapses from time to time in pass protection.
With all that said, the cherry on top when it comes to Booker — and the reason why head coach Joe Judge is likely ecstatic to have him in the fold — is he has extensive experience on special teams. While Gallman has logged just 101 special teams snaps since 2018 (zero in ’20), Booker has played 533 special teams snaps over the past four seasons, including a 2019 campaign where he notched a career-high 45% of his team’s special teams snaps.
Booker is far from flashy and he’ll almost certainly fall short of Gallman’s production from a season ago. Yet, his well-rounded game should help elevate the Giants’ roster as a whole in 2021.
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