Backfield Battles: Buffalo

Backfield Battle BUF

By Jacob Bourgeois; Twitter: @JacobBourgieFFB

This is the third in a series on “Backfield Battles,” where I’ll be looking at the less desirable situations to see if “there be gold in them hills.”  I’ll review the backfield narrative(s) leading up to this offseason, the offseason results & impacts, and then finish with projections/conclusions.  Check out the first one on the NE Patriots, and the second on the ARI Cardinals.  

Stats are from www.espn.com; www.fantasypros.com; and www.pro-football-reference.com.  

Timeline

2018:

HC: Sean McDermott OC: Brian Daboll QB: Josh Allen

LeSean McCoy: 161 car., 514 Yds, 3.2 YPC, 3TD, 34Rec (14 games)

Chris Ivory: 115 car., 385 yds, 3.3 YPC, 1TD, 21 Rec (13 games)

Josh Allen: 89 car., 631 yds, 7.1 YPC, 8 TD (12 games)

RESULT: The team finished 6 – 10 and placed 3rd in the AFC east missing the playoffs in Josh Allen’s rookie season.   

SFF:

Matt Breida: 153 car., 814 yds, 5.3 YPC, 5 TDs, 27 Rec. (14 games) // PFF 75.8

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2019:

HC: Sean McDermott OC: Brian DabollQB: Josh Allen

Frank Gore: 166 car., 599 Yds, 3.6 YPC, 2 TD, 13 Rec (16 games)

Devin Singletary: 151 car., 775 Yds, 5.1 YPC, 4 TDs, 29 Rec (12 games) // PFF 66.1

Josh Allen: 109 car., 510 yds, 4.7 YPC, 9 TD (16 games)

RESULT: The team finished 10 – 6 and placed 2nd in the AFC East; losing in the wild card round to Houston.   

SFF:

Matt Breida: 123 car., 623 yards, 5.1 YPC, 2 TD, 19 Rec (13 games) // PFF 73.2

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2020:

HC: Sean McDermott OC: Brian DabollQB: Josh Allen

Devin Singletary: 156 car., 687 Yds, 4.4 YPC, 2 TDs, 38 Rec (16 games) // PFF 66.7

Zack Moss: 112 car., 481 Yds, 4.3 YPC, 5 TD, 14 Rec (13 games) //  PFF 72.3

Josh Allen: 102 car., 421 yds, 4.1 YPC, 9 TD (16 games)

Antonio Williams: 12 car., 63 yds, 5.3 YPC, 2 TD, 1 rec (1 game)

RESULT: The team finished 13-3 winning the AFC East for the first time since 1995 (the end of the Jim Kelly era) they picked up 2 post-season wins before losing to the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game.    

MIA:

Matt Breida: 59 car., 254 Yds, 4.3 YPC, 0 TDs, 9 Rec (12 games) // PFF 67.0

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2021:

HC: Sean McDermott OC: Brian DabollQB: Josh Allen

Zack Moss: ECR RB 36, 23 yo, 5’9” 223 lbs., 4.65s 40, 4.3 YPC, 14 Rec (13 gms) // 2020 3rd rd pick 86

Devin Singletary: ECR RB 42, 23 yo, 5’7” 203 lbs., 4.66s 40, 4.8 YPC, 67 Rec (2 yrs) // 2019 3rd rd pick 74

IN: Matt Breida: ECR RB 77, 26 yo, 5’10” 190 lbs. 4.38s 40 (42” Vert, 11’2” Broad), 4.9 YPC, 76 Rec (4 yrs) // 2017 UDFA

Antonio Williams: ECR RB 147, 23 yo, 5’11” 215 lbs. 4.5s 40 (estimated) 5.1 YPC, 1 Rec (1 gm) // 2020 UDFA

Josh Allen: 25 yo, 6’5 238 lbs. 4.63s 40, 5.2 YPC

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SUMMARY

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: having a QB of Josh Allen’s size with great athleticism and demonstrated rushing ability is a dagger for your RBs potential fantasy finish.  He has finished with 8, 9, and 8 rushing touchdowns in his first three seasons, and he’s 13 pounds heavier than the next biggest back: Zack Moss.  After Allen though, Zack Moss is the next obvious option at the goal line having picked up 5 rushing TDs as a rookie.  This left only 2 rushing TDs for Singletary for a second year in a row. 

They added Matt Breida, who is slight of stature but fast as the day is long to the backfield, who might add an explosive element to the rushing attack that they haven’t had since LeSean McCoy in 2016.  His breakaway chances are going to be his only opportunities for TDs as he will not be used in the red zone given his size. 

Antonio Williams was an UDFA out of UNC in 2020 and made the most of his one game of playing time in week 17 vs. Miami.  If anyone has break-out potential, it’s Williams based on his size/speed well rounded-ness and being an unknown from a prior-production perspective.  Interestingly, he backed up Michael Carter in 2019 on UNC who was drafted by the Bills division rivals, the Jets.

From all accounts, Devin Singletary is the starter.  When he and Moss were both active, they split work down the middle, with Moss edging him in carries and Singletary getting more targets in the passing game.     

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CONCLUSION

Despite having a mobile QB the Bills had a bottom half rushing team in 2020 but made up for it with an electric Diggs-bolstered passing attack.  Josh Allen has solidified himself as a franchise QB and that could lead to fewer rush attempts from him, potentially even at the goal line.  If anyone takes in uptick in the goal line department it will be Zack Moss.  Also, RBs are usually eased into the passing game, so Moss could see more involvement there as well.  These are the reasons he has the highest consensus ranking.  

There does not appear to be any reason for a RB to be featured in this offense, where all have produced in a similar way to this point in their careers.  If Breida demonstrates some game-breaking ability, he’ll force his way into the mix, but would never get a 3 down role due to his size (he’s been injured a bunch).  Antonio Williams is a guy to keep an eye on if the rest of the team gets injured at some point this season, where he could be surprisingly capable of handling 20 touches a game.  Outside of injuries I expect him to be either a healthy scratch or special teams’ contributor.   

If Devin goes down in the preseason for some reason, Zack Moss would approach a Damien Harris level value.  If the team comes out and says Josh Allen won’t run inside the 10-zone, Moss’s value would “shoot up” to the low RB2 range.  Outside of these unlikely scenarios, it’s safe to fade the Bills RBs. 

My take-away: don’t go zero RB. 

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