Entering the 2010 regular season, the Buffalo Bills had Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson and then-rookie C.J. Spiller stockpiled at the running back position. After four weeks of not knowing what to do at the position - Jackson and Spiller logged four or fewer carries in a game three times each, and Lynch did it twice - Lynch was traded to the Seattle Seahawks, and the rushing situation began to sort itself out.
When Lynch was flipped, the team turned to the likes of street free agent acquisitions Quinton Ganther and Jehuu Caulcrick behind Jackson and Spiller. In doing so, they got players that could do more than stand on the sidelines when they weren't on the field - Ganther, in particular, is a good special teams player - but when Spiller missed two weeks due to injury, Jackson touched the ball 41 times, while Ganther and Caulcrick combined for just five. Clearly, the team wasn't comfortable relying on those two backs offensively, and it created a huge depth problem with Spiller out of the lineup.
That's why North Carolina running back Johnny White, the Bills' fifth-round pick last weekend, was such an important selection for the team.
White is exactly what the Bills needed in their third running back. He was a very productive back in the one season he was asked to carry the ball as his primary responsibility, averaging 5.5 yards per rush and scoring seven touchdowns on 130 carries in his senior season. He has a running style that, when he gets to show it off in Buffalo, will be well-received by Bills fans. He also comes into the league with a lot of tread on the tires, having logged just 246 carries in college. He has the ability to contribute as a runner at the NFL level, and do it early.
More importantly, White is versatile, having played several different positions in his four-year career with the Tar Heels, including defensive back. The epitome of the phrase "great teammate," White did what his coaches asked of him at UNC, and often times, that meant grunt work - swapping positions and playing special teams. He did both very well, becoming one of the team's most valuable players and a very stellar punt gunner.
White represents a middle ground between the two different situations the Bills had at running back last year. Gone are the days when the Bills' third running back will be a bench decoration, as White will immediately become a core special teams player in Buffalo. Gone, too, are the days where the idea of putting the Bills' third back into the offensive backfield is shunned by the coaches; White is a more naturally gifted runner than Ganther and Caulcrick, and will produce if called upon.
In short, White was the perfect third running back for the Bills to put behind Jackson and Spiller. He doesn't need to be integrated into the offensive game plan, but will be productive if he needs to play. He provides instant value as a special teams player, and won't be a guy that the Bills regret dressing on game day. It's the best of both worlds, and it'll be nice to finally see the Bills get value out of that third running back slot.