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Running backs the Bills may target via free agency or the NFL Draft

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Who fills the shoes of Frank Gore if it’s not Frank Gore?

While many wouldn’t consider running back to be atop the pecking order for the Buffalo Bills in the coming new league year, they are likely to address the position to find someone who will create the newest 1-2 punch at the position. Devin Singletary’s promising rookie season and the inevitable void left by veteran back Frank Gore have created a notable hole behind the rising sophomore back. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has gone on the record to express his willingness to run a running-back-by-committee approach. There will be options between free agency and the draft that will make a lot of sense for the Bills.

Free Agency

Chris Thompson (Washington)
Unrestricted Free Agent, 29 years 4 mo.
2019: 11 games played (GP), 138 rushing yards, 378 receiving yards

Thompson is an interesting name to keep an eye on for Buffalo. He is a process-type guy who is solid in the locker room and has battled through a multitude of injuries. Thompson’s best season came in 2017 when he had 510 yards receiving in only ten games played. He has only played a full season once in his seven-year career. However, if the Bills are looking for a speedy back who works primarily as a receiving threat, Thompson could be their guy on a low-cost budget deal due to his age and prior injury concerns.

Jordan Howard (Philadelphia Eagles)
Unrestricted Free Agent, 25 years 4 mo.
2019: 10 GP, 525 rushing yards, 6 TDs, 69 receiving yards, 1 TD

Howard came off a career year as a rookie in 2016 when he rushed for over 1,300 yards and followed that with another 1,000-plus yard performance in 2017. His performance since those two seasons has teetered off. After failing to hit the 1,000 yard mark, he was traded for pennies on the dollar to the Philadelphia Eagles. A mystery shoulder injury derailed his season midway through, and he finished the 2019 campaign with 525 yards rushing on just 119 carries. Howard would be a short-yardage back and a complement to Devin Singletary with different attributes than the Bills back. Howard is a between-the-tackles bruiser who would likely play a similar role to that of Frank Gore from the 2019 season. The Bills would likely be able to get him on a very team-friendly deal for a young player with multiple 1,000-yard seasons under his belt.

Kenyan Drake (Arizona Cardinals)
Unrestricted Free Agent, 26 years 1 mo.
2019: 14 GP, 817 rushing yards, 8 TDs, 345 receiving yards

Drake is one of the most underrated runners in the league who caught some more steam as a player after being traded to the Arizona Cardinals later in the 2019 season. Despite playing with some bad Miami Dolphins teams, Drake has never rushed for anything under 4.5 yards per carry in his four years in the league. Drake has an all-around game and had an uptick in rushing production and carries in 2019. He has over 140 receptions in four years as well. Drake would pair well with Singletary. His price, however, will likely be more costly than the other two free-agent running backs on the list.

Draft Targets

Cam Akers (Florida State)
Junior

Akers is a likely day-two pick in the NFL Draft. A former five-star recruit, Akers came into Florida State as a highly touted player to replace former back Dalvin Cook. Akers ran behind a putrid offensive line and with bad Florida State teams throughout his career. But he made the most of it and left after just three years with the Seminoles. He was also a noted combine winner by NFL.com.

Akers shows good burst and power on film and showed great ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. One catch in particular against Florida wowed me and surely did the same for NFL teams.

Akers offers a different flavor than Singletary does with a bigger frame and more experience as a pass catcher. If you’re looking for a budding star to complement another budding star in Devin Singletary, Akers is your man.

Eno Benjamin (Arizona State)
Junior

Benjamin is nearly a Devin Singletary clone. They have very similar styles of running and NFL.com Draft Writer Lance Zierlein went as far to draw the NFL comparison of Eno Benjamin to none other than Devin Singletary. A creative runner, Benjamin just finds ways to make plays. He finds ways to create at any given point (much like Singletary) on film. Benjamin found his way to the end zone 30 times over his final two seasons as a Sun Devil. If Bills fans want a running back who is very similar to Singletary, Benjamin would be the perfect counterpart. Benjamin may have snuck his way into being a round-three type of pick after an impressive combine performance.

Antonio Gibson (Memphis)
Senior

Antonio Gibson is a playmaking machine and a blur on the football field. He is what Bills general manager Brandon Beane likes to call a “touchdown maker.” In his career at Memphis, Gibson scored on 14 of his 77 touches. This is what makes Gibson so interesting. He did not take a carry at running back until his senior season where he exploded for 369 yards on 33 carries. He’s a big athlete at 6’0”and 228 lbs who ran 4.39 at the NFL Combine. His knock is that he has hardly any production and those 33 career carries as a running back. But that is where he projects at the next level after his impressive senior year showing. Prior to his run at running back, Gibson came to Memphis as a successful JUCO wide receiver. The combination of Gibson’s size and speed along with his ability to be a receiver and explosive playmaker make him one of the most intriguing backs in the 2020 running back draft class.