Looking at the Buffalo Bills’ roster, there doesn’t appear to be an immediate need at the running back position. LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore are expected to be at the top of the team’s depth chart.
But both McCoy and Gore are on the wrong side of 30, and while they could be productive during the 2019 season, the Bills would be wise to invest in a young running back during this year’s draft. While the Bills aren’t expected to select a running back in the first two rounds, don’t be surprised if the team addresses the position in the third or fourth.
There will be a lot of value at the running back position in the middle rounds, and one of the best running backs in the 2019 NFL Draft is Iowa State’s David Montgomery.
Last season for Iowa State, Montgomery rushed for 1,216 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also caught 22 receptions for 157 yards in 2018. Montgomery has an excellent blend of power, vision, and agility. In the Bills’ offensive system, Montgomery could potentially become a future starter and Pro Bowler in the league.
What an incredible play by Montgomery. Rolls over the top of the defender, places his off hand on the ground to bounce up, but then makes the defender miss as soon as he gains his footing… pic.twitter.com/zUTEvjIYh5
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) March 21, 2019
Montgomery isn’t the only running back that could be productive in the Bills’ backfield, though. Penn State’s Miles Sanders, Memphis’s Darrell Henderson, Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams, and Florida’s Jordan Scarlett are other names the Bills could potentially target.
Despite getting his opportunity to star in the Penn State backfield a year ago after Saquon Barkley departed, Sanders is still a relative unknown. He is a very talented receiving back with soft hands, who is an excellent route runner out of the backfield.
Last season for the Nittany Lions, Sanders rushed for 1,274 yards, and nine touchdowns on 220 carries. He also caught 24 receptions for 139 yards.
Sanders has great speed (4.49 40-yard dash), which allows him to get through holes quickly. He made a great impression at the NFL Scouting Combine, which ignited his rise up draft boards, as he recorded a 4.19 agility shuttle and a 36-inch vertical leap.
Fumbling was a bit of an issue last season, which is why he could slip to the second or third round. Another knock on Sanders is that he had significantly fewer carries than Barkley, only tallying 276 at Penn State. However, he averaged 6.0 yards per carry during his three seasons as a Nittany Lion.
Henderson is a fast, explosive runner, who has the excellent speed to run away from defenders. Another thing that stands out about Henderson is he can be a contributor on special teams; he played as a returner during his time as a Tiger.
In three seasons at Memphis, Henderson rushed for 3,545 yards and 36 touchdowns, while averaging 8.2 yards per carry. In 2018 for the Tigers, Henderson ran for 1,909 yards and 22 touchdowns, averaging 8.9 yards per carry. He also recorded 19 catches for 295 yards and three touchdowns.
If your offense is looking for chunk plays or some spark from the running back position, RB Darrell Henderson is your guy.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) February 11, 2019
Henderson’s biggest knock is his size (5-foot-8, 208 pounds). While he is small, he has superb explosion through the hole, great acceleration after contact, and he will make defenders look silly if they don’t take a good angle at him. As Phillip Lindsay showed with the Broncos last year, a smaller running back can make an impact in the league, even as a workhorse.
In the Bills’ scheme with McCoy and Gore, Henderson’s change-of-pace speed would work well in Brian Daboll’s offense.
Trayveon Williams is current Bills running back Keith Ford’s old running mate, and he would be great as a third-down back in the Bills’ system with his speed and quick vision, which allows him to find holes.
Love me some Trayveon Williams. pic.twitter.com/xG3SE57n5e
— Ty Wurth (@lostyhighway) September 4, 2017
In three seasons at College Station, Williams rushed for 3,615 yards and 34 touchdowns. He also caught 66 passes for 561 yards and a touchdown during the same span.
A second-team All-American and first-team All-SEC selection, Williams broke the Aggies’ school single-season records for rushing yards (1,760) and all-purpose yards (2,038) in 2018.
Williams has been projected anywhere from the middle to late rounds of the draft. He is a productive runner, who has the potential to be an every-down back in the league. Although he is undersized (5-foot-8, 206 pounds), Williams would bring a lot to the Bills’ backfield with his pass-catching ability and willingness to pass block.
Although Jordan Scarlett had his issues while at Florida, he definitely showed he can play in the NFL. In 2018, Scarlett averaged 5.9 yards per carry as he rushed for 776 yards and five touchdowns as the Gators’ co-starter. Teamed up with Lamical Perine, Scarlett’s bruising style made him Florida’s preferred running back in short-yardage situations.
Just like Chris Ivory, who the Bills recently released, Scarlett has a tough running style and is hard to bring down on initial contact. He also has enough ability to make defenders miss. Although Scarlett may not be a star in the league, his style could potentially work well with McCoy and Gore.
Oh my Jordan Scarlett 👀🔥😳 pic.twitter.com/X1njgSreU0
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) December 4, 2018
Out of all of the running backs mentioned above, Sanders and Henderson would make the most sense for the Bills. Running back isn’t a pressing need, but with two 30-year-olds in their backfield, the Bills would be wise to select a player who can at least play on third downs.