Last week, the New York Jets promoted running back Brandon Wilds from the practice squad to the active roster following the release of CJ Spiller and Jeremy Ross. Wilds saw his first action in Green and White in the week 14 victory against San Francisco, with two rushing attempts for four yards. Not the most auspicious of debuts, but with Matt Forte leaving the same game with a knee injury of, as yet, unconfirmed severity, we may see more of him in the coming weeks as part of the backfield rotation.
Wilds, a former University of South Carolina Gamecock, went undrafted in the 2016 NFL draft, despite being predicted as a late round pick. He was picked up by the Atlanta Falcons shortly after the draft ended, although was reportedly approached by a number of teams. He chose the Falcons partly to be close to his young daughter. For what it’s worth, Wilds was the Falcons’ leading rusher in the preseason, with 86 yards and two touchdowns, but following a knee injury picked up against Miami in late August, was released on September 3rd. The Jets added him to their practice squad on September 26th.
Wilds, (6’0″, 220) had a fairly successful college career in South Carolina, making a splash as freshman with three 100+ yard games out of five starts. However, as is often the case with running backs, his subsequent years were dogged by injury. A high ankle sprain kept him off the field for the entire 2012 season, and he missed games each season after, with a range of more minor ailments. Despite missing games, he managed over 500+ yards in both his junior and senior years, leading the team in rushing yards in his final season. He was invited to the NFL Combine, where he performed overall in the top 12 running backs, standing out particularly in the three cone drill and bench press.
His draft profile describes Wilds as tough back, who is a good blocker on third downs and decent in the pass game, however words like ‘functional’, ‘unpredictable’ and ‘average’ pepper the analysis. He is described as a one dimensional player, without the creativity to make quick moves to get out of closing running lanes or make turns against NFL level linebackers. From his Gamecock tape, Wild comes across as a serviceable and robust back up, but not a ‘set the world on fire’ chain mover. His strength, bulk, and ability as a downhill runner are his key strengths.
Wilds’ appearance for the Jets in Santa Clara marked his first taste of NFL regular season football. He sits low on the depth chart, behind Forte, Bilal Powell and Khiry Robinson (who returned to the team last week), but if Forte is kept out with injury, Wilds could see more snaps than originally intended. Whether or not he can stay the course remains to be seen; at the deep end of the chart, the Jets running back revolving door is turning quickly this season.
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