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Devin Singletary scheme fit: Patience will lead to a starting running back

By year two, Singletary could be setting the pace.

The Buffalo Bills made a commitment to their running game by selecting the talented Devin “Motor” Singletary in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. While Singletary is on the small side for a running back, he was insanely productive in college and is a handful to try and tackle in space. How does he fit with the Buffalo Bills? Let’s take a look.

Team Fit

We joke about Buffalo’s geriatric running-back room, but the fact is that Singletary was chosen to be a part of the future, not a player for today. Out of around 450 carries and 120 pass targets, LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore will be carrying the lion’s share of reps, while running back T.J. Yeldon, assuming he makes the roster, should expect to earn 50 to 100 touches in his own right. That leaves another 50 to 100 touches for Singletary, unless he can manufacture reps as a punt returner or kick returner. But that’s also a challenge, since he’s playing with All-Pro returner Andre Roberts on the team.

After 2019, both McCoy and Gore will be free agents, paving the way for Singletary to establish himself as the starter moving forward.

For what it’s worth, Singletary is primed to eventually be the lead back in an offense. Experienced navigating both gap and zone, playing with offensive whiz Lane Kiffin, he dominated his team’s production shares and has experience in pass protection and as a receiver. For now, he’s mostly been used as a screen receiver or on swing passes, but he shows enough natural skill to grow his role in that department.

Player Comparison

As an undersized running back who plays faster than he tests (4.66 forty, 35” vertical, 117” broad jump), Singletary maps closest to a running back like Dion Lewis. Lewis measured 5’7” and 193 lbs, with 28 1/8” arms and 8 3/4” hands. With a 4.56 forty-yard dash, 34.5” vertical, and 112” broad jump, Lewis is probably the closest match. Another match is Jacquizz Rodgers, 5’6” 196 lbs, had a 4.59 forty, 33” vertical, and 113” broad jump.

Stylistically, the 5’10 3/8” 204-lb McCoy is the best fit for Singletary. McCoy had terrible jumps at his pro day, but the rest of his athletic testing was better, including a 6.82 three-cone drill (Singletary only managed a 7.32). But both players have the same shifty style that leans on vision and jump cuts.

Sample Play: 0 Out Slot YAP Sprint 36 Gut

Singletary is at his best when he can read through the mess of player in front of him, calculate the path of least resistance, and duck between defenders for a cutback. That style will mesh well with this zone-running play. He aims for the right tackle, and needs to read the blocks as they develop in front of him. If the road ahead is clear, he continues behind his blocking, but he can jump against the grain if he thinks a bigger gain will be available.

While both Ed Oliver and Cody Ford are primed to start from year one, Buffalo’s third pick has a more difficult path to the field. It’s possible that age or injuries could take their toll on either McCoy or Gore and create an opening for Singletary, but that shouldn’t be the expectation in year one. When he does enter the lineup, though, Singletary’s versatility and vision should allow him to have an impact between the tackles for the Bills.