The Buffalo Bills went into the 2020 NFL Draft needing to solidify their running back room. With only second-year player Devin Singletary, T.J. Yeldon who couldn’t find the field in 2019, special teamer Taiwan Jones, and International Pathway Program player Christian Wade on the roster, general manager Brandon Beane needed to add another runner who could carry the load. They did that by taking Utah running back Zack Moss in the third round.
Moss replaces Frank Gore, who was not re-signed by the Bills this offseason following the expiration of his one-year deal. A steadying veteran influence, Gore played 35% of the snaps over the course of the season but saw his playing time greatly diminish over the course of the year as Singletary returned from injury and acclimated to the NFL.
Beane compared Moss to the strong and tough Gore when discussing him following the pick.
“Zack, I think he’s a very good complement to Devin. Devin has that shiftiness. Zack’s gonna be more of that banging in there. Not that he can’t dodge, but he’s going to lower that shoulder and try to, a little bit like Frank did at an older age for us,” said Beane, noting Moss can also catch the ball and play in pass protection. “He’s going to be more of the physical [type]. He’s not necessarily going to try to avoid contact. He can but I think his best thing is, in the end, [physicality].”
“So, you know I think more of the goal line and things like that as we did with Frank last year, you’ll see Zack do,” added Beane.
Another area where Gore was used was to wear down defenses and close out games, a role Beane thinks Moss is well-suited to take over in more ways than one. It wasn’t just being physical; Gore had zero fumbles in 2019 compared to Singletary’s four.
“Correct me if I’m wrong but I think [Moss] had zero fumbles [in his college career]. You like the ball security,” said Beane. “There were a couple guys in this draft that had some really good plays but were issues, we had concerns with the ball security. I love his physicality. I like that he takes care of the ball. And I think, while Devin may play more in the passing downs than him on paper, I think he can get out there and do it if that makes sense.”
That’s 778 touches without a single fumble in college. And it’s not just his toughness and his ball security that makes him special. Beane brought up his ability to make guys miss, something Singletary also does very effectively.
“He was one of the highest, I think, like 38 percentage runs or something he broke at least one tackle. There’s some stat out there,” said Beane, mentioning that while he doesn’t have home run speed, he can break some long runs when given the opportunity.
Beane also discussed the Bills’ third running back option unprompted, as he was asked about Singletary and Moss.
“T.J. Yeldon is right there. I’m glad that we have T.J. under contract for another year and he brings versatility as well,” mentioned Beane. “If he needs to start a few games, he can. He can catch it out of the backfield. We used him last year when Devin went down as more of that sub back and Frank was kind of first and second down back.”
As he was talking, you could see the running back rotation coming into focus; Moss and Singletary splitting first and second down runs with Singletary coming in for third down and Moss taking over at the goal line. Yeldon inactive on game days but able to step in if one of the top two guys goes down to injury. Not mentioned at all were Jones and Wade, despite some Bills fans swooning over Wade’s ability with the football in his hands.
The Bills had a running back in on 99% of their offensive plays a year ago with the split being Singletary (50%). Gore (35%), and Yeldon (14%). Yeldon only played more than three snaps in games Singletary was injured, so without injury, the numbers would have been even more skewed. That doesn’t mean you can expect a 65-35 split between Singletary and Moss in 2020. That number is going to be much closer to even now that they have a fresher running back to carry the load.
If Singletary is in for 55% of the snaps with Moss at 45%, that’s probably the right mix to keep everyone fresh and at peak production, especially in Moss’s first year (not to mention he won’t have the standard offseason program due to the coronavirus-related shutdowns). Ideally, it’d be close to a true 50-50 split down the line in subsequent seasons.
With two young backs, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will be able to change up his game plan week-to-week to take advantage of mismatches on the defense like the New England Patriots did when we was on their offensive staff. It may frustrate fantasy football owners, but it will also frustrate opposing coaches.