2018 was a year of growth and promise for the Buffalo Bills at the quarterback position. The same thing cannot be said about the running back position. In 2017, the Buffalo Bills ranked 6th in the NFL for team rushing yards, amassing 2,017 yards total. While the dip in production does not appear as significant on paper (9th in the league, 1,984 total rushing yards). there is a very good reason to be nervous about this group moving forward. Their leading rusher only played in 12 games this season, and he’s a quarterback. Josh Allen accounted for nearly 32% of the team’s rushing total. As encouraging as that may be for Josh Allen’s future, it is simply not a long-term recipe for success.
QB: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley, Derek Anderson
RB: LeSean McCoy, Chris Ivory, Marcus Murphy, Keith Ford
QB: Not a chance
RB: High priority in the mid-late rounds
Free Agent Tracker
RB: Le’Veon Bell, Tevin Coleman, TJ Yeldon
Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott will likely have several conversations between now and the start of the 2019 season about the running back position. The big question, obviously, is going to be about the future of LeSean McCoy. McCoy is set to make a shade (pun intended) over $9 million next season, however, the Bills can clear almost $6.5 million of that by releasing the 30 year old.
McCoy’s production suffered a massive decline this year. His days as an elite running back could be over, or this could have been a result of a poor offensive line group. Regardless, the team can’t afford to pay that much money for such little production.
Whether they choose to keep McCoy or move on is ultimately inconsequential regarding the importance of addressing this position in the offseason. Shady has missed 8 games in his four season in Buffalo, and certainly isn’t getting any younger. The team needs to start thinking about replacements in the long-term and security in the short.
Le’Veon Bell is a name to watch if Buffalo chooses to move on from McCoy. One of the best running backs in the NFL, Bell would no doubt make the offense better. While the idea of adding him to the backfield is intriguing, it just doesn’t seem like a “process” move. Beane and McDermott worked hard to clear bad contracts off the books, and it would be a surprise to see them break the bank for a running back with some character concerns, especially one who hasn’t played in over a year.
Coleman and Yeldon are some more realistic options to watch for. Both are young enough to still have some good years in them. Neither were ever able to take over a featured role in their offense, but they could both serve as complimentary backs moving forward.
The most logical solution to the problems in the backfield could come on days 2 or 3 of the NFL draft. Expect some highly regarded prospects, such as Rodney Anderson and Myles Gaskin, to drop due to injury concerns.
Devin Singletary, Trayveon Williams, and Justice Hill are smaller guys who could bring a big boost to the Bills passing attack out of the backfield. Buffalo might not necessarily find a featured 3-down back in this stage of the draft, but that shouldn’t deter them from adding to the position.
The Bills have some work to do here. As exciting as it is to watch Josh Allen run all over the field, he is probably best served leaving that job to someone else. Fans shouldn’t rule out the return of LeSean McCoy. Beane and McDermott have indicated several times that he remains a part of their plan. While expectations should be tempered a bit, there is hope that he can contribute in a complimentary role.
Editor’s babble: The running back position might be one of the more intriguing groups to watch during the off season. Also, keep your eyes on Wyoming’s RB Nico Evans as a later round possibility. Thanks, as always, to Joe Geniti for his insightful contributions to our blog. You can find Joe on Twitter @JoeGeniti.