Position Fits: Running Back


Third in a series of articles that will attempt to match the Beane-McDermott positional archetype with the players who may declare for this year’s draft. 

Which running backs in the 2018 NFL Draft are the best fits for “The Process”? Shady probably has some mileage left on those tires, but according to the NFLPA, the average career span of a running back is 3.3 years. Kevin Seifert of NFL Nation and Brett Longdin, ESPN.com editor, have actually graphed the fall-off of running back performance, and McCoy is two years past the precipice of age 27. His 12 carries for 25 yards (2.1 ypc) with no receptions against the Jets, and his 68.3 ypg this year,  just pale in comparison to the young bell-cow backs outperforming McCoy in the top 8. With the exception of Le’Veon Bell and Shady, all RBs in the top 8 were drafted in 2016 or 2017. The trend is toward fresh legs.  This year, 6 first-year backs got 20+ carries for their respective teams. Think about the Jaguars’ Leonard Fournette (#4), the Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey (#8), the Vikings’ Dalvin Cook (#41), the Chiefs’ Kareem Hunt (#86), the Redskins’ Samaje Perine (#114), and the Seahawks’ Chris Carson (#249).

The Archetype: When head coach Sean McDermott spoke about Mike Tolbert coming to Buffalo, he revealed some of the qualities he’d like to see in his running backs. He mentioned toughness, hard worker, team player, experience, consistency, versatility, intensity. He said he wins big games…aaand “a solid dancer in the locker room”. McDermott has also extolled Travaris Cadet’s and Shady McCoy’s talents as a receiver, further adding to the RBs’ versatility and unpredictability on any given play. Except maybe for the solid dancing prowess, we ‘ll take these as a template for what we might look for in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Some Potential Fits:

Saquon Barkley, Penn State
5-11, 230, 4.49
Barkley is making his intensity and hard work pay off for the Nittany Lions. Despite one more year of eligibility, he has tallied up three years’ worth of stats, having played in 33 games and missing only 2 in his college career. Consistency is uneven (see Ohio State and Indiana this year), but he’s averaged 4+ yards per carry in 25 of his games, and he’s impressive as a receiver. Saquon even plays on special teams, having picked up nine career Player of the Week awards. Would the Bills trade up for the #1 RB in the draft? We’ve already seen Beane surprise us more than once. Especially if the Bills get DL and OG help in Free Agency, I’d be all over this move. Bills scouts have already been to two Penn State games, and owner Terry Pegula is a Penn State alumnus.
Position Fit For Bills: A+


Damien HarrisAlabama
5-11, 221, 4.55
Harris eclipsed 1,000 yards in 2016 (1,013) at a 7.1 ypc clip, but he was even more productive against teams ranked on the AP poll (8.1 ypc as of this writing). Watch his work vs future top-10 player Derwin James on multiple occasions. He shows receiving ability, keen vision and lateral cuts, and his ridiculous 5.32 Yards After Contact is #1 in FBS, a McCoy trait.  Bills scouts have seen Harris in two games now.
Position Fit For Bills: A


Bo Scarbrough, Alabama
6-2, 235, 4.59
Scarbrough has the athleticism and intensity, a tough, hard-working guy in the weight room and on the field. He’s bigger than Barkley and comes up close on athleticism. His stiff-arm move is reminiscent of Thurman Thomas and other Bills’ running backs of yesteryear. I see some Karlos Williams in Scarbrough. He needs work on looking up to see available opportunities to bend it or bounce it, and he sure needs a healthy year. Here’s a nice analysis DraftTek Analyst Austin Smith wrote on Scarbrough. His name is recently appearing in RD4 mocks with Sony Michel and Myles Gaskin. Bills scouts have been to two games now, and those middle rounds should be where they should realistically look at the position.
Position Fit For Bills: A-


Mike Weber, Ohio State
5-10, 214, 4.42
Weber has two more years of eligibility, so he lacks the college resume of Beane’s former draft picks. If he declares for the draft, though, Beane won’t find a tougher runner. Weber runs with authority, displaying a rare mix of agility and power. Weber has worked on his game, and it shows. He seems to have Shady’s lateral moves, allowing him success in the scheme. He’s not the most dynamic runner in Urban Meyer’s stable (Dobbins is), and that fact alone might cause Weber to declare early. A team that does their homework will snare a later-round catch similar in impact to Hunt, Perine, or Carson last year.  Bills scouts have seen two Ohio State games.
Position Fit For Bills: B+


Bryce Love Stanford
5-10, 196, 4.43
Love wouldn’t be the bell-cow RB that Buffalo would need going forward after Shady’s eventual retirement, but he’d be a nice change-of-pace back. He’s the guy who replaces McCaffrey. In his first five games this year, Love rushed for an FBS-best 1,088 yards, good for an insane 217.6 ypg. Love checks the “dynamic” box with his slippery, darting style. He’s tough, as well, showing relentlessness when defenders try to bring him down. I find Love to be confident without being cocky, and I think that’ll resonate with Beane and McDermott. Love needs to work on his blocking. Except for that, he’s a mini McCoy. He does have one more year of eligibility, so it’s not a slam-dunk he’ll be declaring. DraftTek mocks have had Love in the RD2#62-68 range, but I’ve seen him mocked as high as RD1#13, which I can’t see happening. Bills scouts have seen Love play once.
Position Fit For Bills: B+