Fantasy Football 2020: Making Sense of the Bills Backfield

by Alex Kurpeski

 

The Buffalo Bills have been a historically run-heavy offense under coach Sean McDermott, having ranked 8th, 9th, and 6th in his three seasons as the team’s skipper. While the team allowed their second leading-rusher from last season (Frank Gore) to walk in free agency, they did invest a third-round pick in his replacement (former Utah standout Zack Moss) while electing not to cut 2019 free agency pickup T.J Yeldon (yet), suggesting that we may see the team deploy a three-man committee consisting of Moss, Yeldon, and second-year back Devin Singletary. 

 

Devin Singletary

 

The Singletary hype was quite real this offseason, as the former Florida Atlantic star saw his ADP shoot up to the third-round of many 12 team leagues prior to the 2020 NFL Draft. If you were to judge Singletary based solely off of his 2019 numbers, you may not quite understand the hype, as he totaled 969 total yards while scoring four touchdowns and averaging 5.1 yards per-carry, solid numbers for sure but nothing ground-breaking when compared to breakout backs of years past. At 5’7, 200 lbs, Singletary is not the bruising back you would expect a team like Buffalo to build their rushing attack around. While there are some parallels between him and former Bills star LeSean McCoy, McCoy was a slightly bigger back with elite receiving skills and generational elusiveness. The advanced metrics paint Singletary as more of a Dion Lewis type than a LeSean McCoy, although this is no slight to the former Florida Atlantic standout. Like Lewis, Singletary can use his lack of size to his advantage, as evidenced by his juke rate (33%, third-best mark in the league), big run rate (7.3%, also third-best), and true YPC (4.9, fifth-best among qualified players), all advanced measures (supplied by PlayerProfiler, thanks guys!) which speak to his dynamic abilities in the open field. Singletary also displayed some nice pass-catching chops, reeling in 29/41 targets, looking much more comfortable in this capacity than he did during his college days. There is absolutely a significant role for him in this offense, but he will never be the three-down back that many had drafted him as, based off of this impression. 

 

zack moss

 

Were any back on this roster to become the ‘bellcow’ for the Bills offense (an unlikely occurrence based on McDermott’s history), it would be the rookie Moss. Moss’s decorated career at the University of Utah led him to be ranked as one of the best running back prospects in this year’s class. The reigning Pac-12 OPOY set nearly every record imaginable for the Utes, while also tallying three consecutive 1,000+ yardage campaigns. At 5’9, 225 lbs, Moss is the perfect size you want in a lead back, as he is sturdy enough to absorb 20+ carries on a week-to-week basis, while also having a lower center of gravity that should make him a tough task for those who wish to tackle him. While he wasn’t an elite receiver by any means, Moss did catch 66 passes for 685 yards, which when compared to Singletary’s college receiving numbers (51 catches for 397 yards), makes us think he may usurp some work on passing downs. Moss checks virtually every box you like to see in a three-down back, having forced 89 missed tackles in his final season (second-best in the NCAA) while registering 1,042 YAC (eighth-best). He ran extremely well behind the left side of the line, tallying 54.6% of his yardage and seven of his touchdowns rushing behind his LG and LT. While his 40-yard dash time was underwhelming (4.65), there are very few flaws in Moss’s game, leading me to believe that he will have a very significant role in the Bills run-game. 

 

 

 

There is a third head in this backfield worth monitoring behind the two trendy backs at the top of the depth chart. Former Jaguars starter T.J Yeldon was signed to a two-year deal in 2019, with the expectation being that he would have a role in the team’s offense. Unfortunately, injuries and the presence of Gore and Singletary made Yeldon obsolete in fantasy, as he accounted for just 63 rushing yards and 124 receiving yards. The fact that the team decided to keep him around should speak to how they value him, as his contract could have easily been terminated in favor of cheaper and better options. His overall skill-set makes him a well-rounded option for the team to turn to, especially if Moss or Singletary get hurt or suffer from fumbling issues. I wouldn’t expect him to have a massive touch share, but he could be an effective handcuff at some point during the season. Here’s a rough estimate of what I would expect to see this committee’s distribution to look like:

 

Devin Singletary

 

  • 815 rushing yards
  • 180 ATT
  • 3 rushing TDs
  • 33 receptions
  • 2 receiving TDs
  • 234 receiving yards
  • 167.9 fantasy points (RB22-36)

 

Zack Moss

 

  • 687 rushing yards
  • 157 ATT
  • 6 rushing TDs
  • 24 receptions
  • 1 receiving TD
  • 208 receiving yards
  • 155.5 fantasy points (RB25-40)

 

T.J Yeldon

 

  • 218 rushing yards
  • 50 ATT
  • 1 rushing TD
  • 10 receptions
  • 0 receiving TD
  • 105 receiving yards
  • 48.3 fantasy points (RB67-80)

 

Taiwan Jones

 

  • 33 rushing yards
  • 15 ATT
  • 0 rushing TD
  • 3 receptions
  • 0 receiving TD
  • 11 receiving yards
  • 7.4 fantasy points (RB100+)

 

It should be a relatively close split between Singletary and Moss on passing and rushing downs alike, as both backs are capable of being effective in these roles. I think Moss may take a bit to be fully installed as the 1A to Singletary, as evidenced by the slight edge in my projection for the latter. Similarly to how the Bears used Tarik Cohen and David Montgomery last season, I believe that the Bills will deploy their backs as a close 50/50 split, with neither surpassing 1K yards on the ground in 2020. 

 

Looks like the AFC East won’t be great for fantasy owners this year.

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