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Bills running backs

Team poor bet for viable option

The Bills have a theoretical breakout candidate at running back in last year's second-rounder James Cook (pictured). They have a couple of capable veteran runners in Damien Harris and Latavius Murray, and another versatile guy in Nyheim Hines. But will they have a good fantasy back? That seems less likely.

For one thing, the team will probably favor a committee, with a main runner, a passing down specialist, and maybe an additional back who takes on a share of those opportunities. For another thing, Josh Allen will probably run in a healthy share of the touchdowns. Add up all the negatives, and it's not a recipe for fantasy success.

That's been the case throughout the Allen era. In the five years he's been in the league, Buffalo hasn't had a running back finish higher than 20th at the position (PPR) and only twice has it had one finisher higher than 30th. Looking at the top 100 running backs in fantasy leagues since 2018, the Bills have placed exactly one player in that group: 2021 Devin Singletary, who is the 89th-best PPR back since 2018.

Table shows every Buffalo running back to have a significant workload (200ish total yards) in a season over the past five years. Singletary, who's now in Houston, is the only guy with a top-150 (overall) performance in those seasons. (First ranking number is their performance at running back in that specific season, second overall since 2018.)

RUNNING BACK RANKINGS (PPR), 2018-2022
YearPlayerRunNoRecTDPPRRkOv
2021Devin Singletary870402288197.82089
2022Devin Singletary819382806183.923107
2019Devin Singletary775291944149.933157
2020Devin Singletary687382692145.632163
2018LeSean McCoy514342383127.239193
2022James Cook507211803107.744227
2021Zack Moss345231975107.251229
2020Zack Moss48114955101.649242
2019Frank Gore59913100294.950257
2018Chris Ivory38513205178.065302
2021Matt Breida125772344.786405
2018Marcus Murphy2501126038.688424

I think Harris, who scored 15 touchdowns two years ago, is a lot better than 33-year-old Murray; he should be the main runner. And the team would probably like Allen taking fewer hits, so maybe Harris scores a larger percentage of the rushing touchdowns than past Bills backs. Cook should be the main back in passing situations, so any positive talk about Hines can be largely dismissed. If there's a back on this roster who catches 60 balls, it should be Cook, giving him some appeal in PPR leagues.

But the Bills having a difference-maker at the position? That doesn't seem particularly likely. Cook or Harris will have to be available pretty late for me to take a chance on them. Cook will definitely be selected earlier than I'd take him. Harris has more of a shot to make it onto one of my teams as a late-round pick.

--Andy Richardson

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