The Buffalo Bills’ offense stepped up in 2019, but still needs an X-Factor to lift them over a hurdle toward Super Bowl contention. That much is an accepted fact by anyone following the team. While the common wisdom is that the boost would come from a rookie wide receiver, could the Bills move in a different direction? ESPN’s Todd McShay argued that case in his latest mock draft, with Buffalo selecting Georgia running back D’Andre Swift with their first-round pick. McShay’s rationale: the Bills need a playmaker, and Swift has the swiftness (pun intended) to earn them more chunk plays.
Even with John Brown and Cole Beasley combining for 1,838 receiving yards in 2019, Buffalo could use an upgrade in the receiving corps (Clemson’s Tee Higgins could be an interesting fit). And with Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson both headed for free agency, no returning lineman had more than five sacks last season. But I just love Swift’s explosiveness, and adding a dynamic playmaker like him to a backfield that already includes Devin Singletary could really make this run-oriented offense pop in 2020. Plus, you can’t discount Swift’s pass-catching ability — he could be a great three-down back.
It’s fair to say that wide receiver isn’t the only offensive position that could be upgraded this year, but picking Swift here doesn’t make much sense.
To give him a fair shake, it’s worth pointing out that explosiveness—over three seasons and 440 rushing attempts, Swift has arrived a remarkable 6.6 yards per carry. With 73 career catches, he’s also demonstrated his own receiving bona fides. But Swift feels like a consolation prize for not being able to draft Clemson’s Travis Etienne, who will play another year in college. Etienne matches up as a receiver, but absolutely blows Swift’s rushing production away.
Furthermore, the issue with drafting any running back in the first round is the message sent to the backfield. The team had a successful rookie year out of Devin Singletary, who played well enough for the Bills to cut LeSean McCoy and largely bench Frank Gore. Bring in a first-round selection, and is Singletary moved to second fiddle? It’s the same situation that saw the Bills bring in C.J. Spiller just as Fred Jackson was hitting his stride.
This doesn’t even touch on the other issue with the pick—that using a premium pick on a running back is simply illogical in the NFL. Their careers are too short, their primary action is less valuable than ever before, and they don’t have enough touches to go around in a backfield committee. Swift might make sense for some NFL team in the first round of the draft, but not these Bills.