The Draft’s Best Complement to Singletary and Wade (Updated 2/2/2020)

Photo of Boston College’s RB A.J. Dillon from bostonglobe.com.

Happy New Year! 

Pleasantries out of the way, let’s talk about the ideal complement to Devin Singletary and Christian Wade when Frank Gore finally hangs up his cleats.

I’ve heard more than once that A.J. Dillon out of Boston College is that guy, but I’m not a fan. Dillon has some nice moves now and then. He’s a good downhill runner, making people miss by sheer momentum, but these are not the moves you want. Dillon shows some undeveloped promise with receiving and when trying to reach the edge. Watch 2 plays here. Dillon’s contact balance gets some missed tackles for you. He has a spin move he (over) uses. He’s a load to bring down due to momentum, but lacks Gore’s savvy and patience, and Singletary, Gore, and Dillon all lack breakaway speed.

McBeane wants their RBs to be receivers out of the backfield. Dillon has the least number of receptions among the RBs that will be drafted. The ideal complement to Singletary would have high (40+) career receptions for a back who’s over 215 lbs.That’s Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin in RD1, J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State in RD1-2, Lamical Perine, Florida in RD3-5 (depending on your draft source), Tavien Feaster, South Carolina in RD3-UDFA (again, depending on your draft source), Michael Warren II, Cincinnati in RD6, or Patrick Taylor Jr., Memphis in RD7-UDFA.

Second, a ball-security offense is crucial with the run-heavy Bills. Dillon has fumbled 8 times in his career, which is one of the 5 worst (along with Jonathan Taylor, Chuba Hubbard, Cam Akers, and Zack Moss; please cross them off your Bills’ mocks). So which draftable RBs have fumbled only once in their career? They include 2 very-real possibilities: Alabama’s Najee Harris (a frequent RD2 resident in DraftTek mocks) and Georgia’s 6-0, 210 backup to Swift, Brian Herrien (RD5-6).

Photo of WVU RB Kennedy McKoy from bluegoldnews.com.

Side Note: WVU’s  Kennedy McKoy has also fumbled once, but his feather-light size doesn’t distinguish himself from Singletary and Wade. He runs behind an equally-undistinguished Mountaineers’ line, the FBS’ 128th-ranked rushing attack if you look at YPG. I’ve watched McKoy. It’s mainly his horrid OL, although he’s not explosive, either. McKoy has the best “Touches Per Fumble” ratio and the third-most number of career receptions in this draft class! His best option is to go to a team with lots of receptions out of the backfield –which the Bills wanted out of Yeldon and likely get from Christian Wade.

Additionally, four RBs fumbled only 2x in their careers, and I like them all: LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire (#54-71 in recent DraftTek mocks), South Carolina’s Tavien Feaster (RD7), Oregon State’s Artavis Pierce (RD7), and Appalachian State’s Darrynton Evans (RD7), who just declared as an underclassman –the only one that wasn’t scouted by the Bills in this group.  Feaster would be the biggest back who’s also blazing fast (5-11, 220, 4.34), and the Combine will definitely be his friend. I have Feaster a Bills consideration beginning at RD4#125.

Growth is part of McProcess. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, along with J.K. Dobbins, Perine, Feaster, and unscouted Stanford RB Cameron Scarlett made the most marked progress over their 2018 performances, so they’re likely going to require closer looks by teams, casual fans, and even draftniks late to the party. McDermott will want to see his playmakers on the upswing. Players who also deserve honorable mention for improving their YPC by more than a yard over 2019 include U. of Miami’s RB/KR/PR DeeJay Dallas (who just declared), redshirt senior JaMycal Hasty, and Houston senior Patrick Carr.

Speed is a factor in the Bills’ selection of the best complementary back, and Dillon’s hefty 245-lb. size comes at a hefty price. His forty speed is 13th-lowest of the draftables. Beane’s list of leaders in size-speed ratio must begin with Feaster, whose momentum (220 pounds at 4.34 timed forty) is impressive. The others in the top four would be Jonathan Taylor (221 at 4.42), and Cincinnati junior Michael Warren II (218 at 4.34), and Kylin Hill (215, 4.36). Runner-ups in order are Cameron Scarlett (216, 4.46) Perine (218, 4.48), DeAndre Swift (215, 4.43), Charlotte’s Benny LeMay (215, 4.42, who looked underwhelming vs Buffalo in the Bahamas Bowl), and Dobbins (214, 4.5).

Beane likely sent scouts to at least one of his bell-cow RB’s games. The Bills didn’t scout A.J. Dillon’s alma mater this year. They did go see Ohio State’s Dobbins (4x, GM/Asst), Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor (1x, GM) , SCAR’s Tavien Feaster (2x, GM), Memphis RB Patrick Taylor Jr., Utah’s Zack Moss (1x-Oct), and Ke’Shawn Vaughn (5-10, 205, 4.71) of Vanderbilt. Much more on The McBeane Team’s scout visits here.

Photo of LSU’s RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire from si.com.

Would the Bills draft another RB like Singletary? It’s less likely. The only sub-215-pound draftable running backs whose team received a Bills’ scout visit in 2019 were Clyde Edwards-Helaire (he’s 209 lbs.) and Artavis Pierce (202). Each has a claim to fame, though: Edwards-Helaire was 2nd in SEC (to 2021 draft’s Najee Harris) in percentage of carries resulting in first down or TD (36%). Pierce is top 3 in touches without a fumble and in receptions out of the backfield. Both are Kick Returners.

Going forward, McBeane will want the “thunder” back, like Gore, to have shown consistent effectiveness against the Top-25 teams. Dillon’s YPC versus AP-ranked teams was a meager 3.4 ypc in 2018 and 4.0 in 2019.  Only Minnesota RB/KR Rodney Smith (3.0, 3.0) was worse, and I’d actually prefer him due to his 798 kick-return yards and moves like these. Sorting 214+ pound backs in this class by 2019 yards per carry against AP-ranked teams, the best YPC is shared by J.K. Dobbins, Jonathan Taylor, and DeeJay Dallas (6.5), followed by Lamical Perine (5.9), Tavien Feaster (5.2), and DeAndre Swift (5.0).

Which over-212-lb. bell-cow backs did the Bills’ scouts NOT see this season? Cincinnati’s Michael “Truck” Warren II, Georgia’s Cam Akers, BC’s A.J. Dillon, and

As the draft season kicks in, we’ll take a deeper dive into what makes a Buffalo Bills back, with some looks at key plays to illustrate. Go Bills!

Editor’s babble: We can’t thank Dean Kindig for his terrific contributions to our blog. Learn so much from every post! If you’re looking for ‘The Dean’ on social media, you can find him on Twitter @TCBILLS_Astro. Happy New Year!