The Buffalo Bills were abysmal on the ground in 2018, despite gaining the ninth-most rushing yards in the NFL (1,984) and 11th-most touchdowns (15). The team averaged just 4.2 yards-per-carry (21st) and it was quarterback Josh Allen who led the team in rushing, dashing for 631 yards and eight scores. Veteran running back LeSean McCoy had the worst statistical season of his illustrious 10-year career, earning just 514 yards and three touchdowns on 161 carries, an average of 3.2 yards-per-carry. Buffalo recognized this extreme area of weakness and selected Florida Atlantic running back Devin Singletary in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft after adding future Hall of Famer Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon during free agency.
Devin Singletary is undersized, standing 5-foot-7, 203-pounds and his athletic testing at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine left a lot to be desired. He ran a 4.66-second 40-yard dash, while posting a 7.32-second three-cone drill and a 4.4-second short shuttle. But his athleticism was far from an issue in college, as Singletary put up monstrous numbers for the Owls. In three years, the 21-year old carried the ball an astounding 714 times, gaining 4,287 yards (6.0 yards-per-carry) and found the end zone a whopping 66 times. He added 51 receptions for 397 receiving yards and one touchdown in the passing game.
Last month, Singletary was asked about how he feels his small stature will affect his impact in the pros, but the rookie doesn’t feel it will be an issue, pointing out that there are handfuls of successful running backs who didn’t have great size.
“I believe my size doesn’t matter because there’s multiple guys in the past who showed that size doesn’t matter in the league,” he said. “And I feel I’m going to be able to do the same thing. I’m going to be able to play in the league, and my size definitely won’t play a factor.”
Buffalo began mandatory minicamp Tuesday and head coach Sean McDermott noted that while Devin Singletary lacks size, he feels that the young runner is up to the task.
“He’s made an impact in terms of he’s a rookie and he’s got a lot to learn, but you do notice what we saw on tape,” McDermott told the media. “The vision, the balance, all be it without pads. He’s made progress, you notice a little bit of who he is as a young man and what he brings to the table, how driven he is. That’s where the size comes in. I think he’s probably been this size for at least the last couple months if not years, and so that’s not the first time he’s heard it. He knows that there is a challenge there with that, of being able to protect the quarterback and I expect him to rise to the challenge.”
During OTAs, Singletary showcased his great elusiveness, vision and agility that made general manager Brandon Beane to attracted to him during the pre-draft process and has already worked his way into the rotation with the starters.
“He didn’t get tackled a lot,” Beane said following the NFL Draft regarding Singletary. “Out of all the guys I watched, I still have a note on this little Surface where I write that, ‘This is the funnest guy I’ve watched all year.’ Even the guys I watched after him, I didn’t feel like I needed to erase it.
“The guy’s got some amazing vision, rare vision, lateral quickness, and his instincts, if this is 10 (singling upward), they’re up here (singling higher). And they’re very rare. Rare instincts, rare vision for the position. He’s a smaller guy. I wouldn’t call him a home run hitter, but he can make guys miss in a phone booth.”
While LeSean McCoy is the presumed starter and Frank Gore figures to have a significant role within the Bills’ offense during the 2019 NFL Season, you’d be hard-fought to find better mentors for a young ball-carrier than ‘Shady’ and ‘The Inconvenient Truth,’ who have a combined 24 years of NFL experience. Prior to the draft, many compared Singletary to a miniature version of McCoy, thanks to similar running styles. The FAU product noted that he models his game after the 30-year old superstar and that he was a bit starstruck upon meeting his running mates.
“First walking in, just seeing LeSean and Frank, those two guys I watched growing up,” Singletary said on One Bills Live. “Week in and week out I see those guys making plays. And then you got TJ and while I was in high school, he was in college doing his thing. Really, just [want to] come in and earn respect. Earn my place in there, and just coming to work every day and learning all that I can learn. So far it’s been going pretty well for me.”
While still early in the process, it’s clear that the Bills are pleased with Devin Singletary and hope that their rookie running back can find a way to elevate himself into a significant role for the 2019 NFL season and the future. And Singletary is ready for whatever opportunity he may receive.
“No anxiety. Like I said before, however it plays out, that’s the way it’s supposed to play out. Whatever my role is, I’m going to be ready to play my role,” Singletary said.