The 2023 NFL Scouting Combine positional review series continues with the play makers on offense, this time with an evaluation of the running backs. Remember, if you missed any of the previous articles in this series find them here:
The Buffalo Bills have invested three Day 2 draft picks in the last four years at the running back position.
- 2022: James Cook (Round 2)
- 2020: Zack Moss (Round 3)
- 2019: Devin Singletary (Round 3)
Currently, only James Cook remains on the roster among Buffalo’s draft selections. Moss was traded away in the Nyheim Hines deal with the Indianapolis Colts, and Singletary is an unrestricted free agent. With just Cook and Hines under contract, the Bills will need to add at the position in some capacity. I expect them to add via free agency, it just depends on how much money they’re willing to allocate to the position. There’s been some trade buzz swirling around Buffalo acquiring a running back, and that could also be an option. Follow along as I discuss some prospects the Bills should consider adding to the RB room by way of the 2023 NFL Draft.
- Day 1 = Round 1
- Day 2 = Rounds 2 & 3
- Day 3 = Rounds 4-7
Day 1 Considerations
Bijan Robinson, RB (Texas)
It’s no secret, Robinson is the best running back to come out of college football since Saquon Barkley. The Doak Walker Award winner brings a complete game to the table and is a top talent in the 2023 NFL draft, regardless of position. It’s amazing to see just how devalued the RB position has become in today’s NFL. Five years ago Robinson may have gone in the top five, but now he will likely be picked in the latter half of Round 1.
His combine numbers further paint the picture of a special player. Robinson (5’11”, 215 pounds) ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash, clocked a 10-yard split of 1.52 seconds, a vertical jump of 37”, and landed a 10’4” broad jump.
I would prefer that Buffalo not draft a running back in the first round, because I just don’t see the value for them. Ideally, you can get 80-90% of Robinson’s theoretical production from a player at a much cheaper price tag or lower draft pick. Additionally, if the Bills draft a running back in the first round, they may be inclined to give him the ball more to justify their pick — and that’s not something I want. I don’t want anything that takes the ball out of quarterback Josh Allen’s hands more often. Instead, have more production when Allen does hand the ball off.
Robinson is a do-it-all back who can break tackles, juke defenders, and take it to the house any time he touches the football. He is an aggressive runner who has elite contact balance and exceptional burst. His vision and awareness are uncanny — sometimes it seems like he has a sixth sense. His type of talent is rare to find at the end of Round 1, but with the running back position becoming less valuable in the modern NFL, the Bills might have an opportunity to pick him. As for me, I would head in a different direction in the first round, but if One Bills Drive did pick him, it wouldn’t stop me from being excited to watch him play in a Buffalo Bills uniform.
College Football star Texas RB Bijan Robinson is going to be special in the NFL. Just watch this run. My goodness.— JWP Sports (@JWPSports) February 25, 2023
“Looking like Reggie Bush” pic.twitter.com/0VMaTOrNzb
Bijan Robinson’s footwork is something ELSE— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) March 6, 2023
The Longhorns RB put on a CLINIC today at the NFL Combine. pic.twitter.com/NVtlOQfeby
Day 2 Considerations
I don’t think the Bills should consider any running backs on Day 2 of the NFL Draft. Two prospects I like who will likely be drafted in this range are Jahmyr Gibbs (Alabama) and Tyjae Spears (Tulane). Gibbs is likely to go early in Round 2 and Spears at the end of Round 3. It’s not that I don’t like these players, I just don’t like the value of the running back position in this range. Gibbs and Spears offer similar traits to RBs Buffalo already has on its roster, so I don’t see any reason the Bills should consider them in these rounds. I would rather see the team use the RB talent they currently have on the roster instead of spending another asset on more of the same, and for that reason, I will channel my inner Shark Tank and say, “I’m out.”
Day 3 Considerations
Kendre Miller, RB (TCU)
On Day 3, the RB value starts making more sense to me for the Bills. They can add a productive player with upside at a cheaper price tag than signing one in free agency. I’m higher than most on Kendre Miller, and he’s my favorite option for Buffalo if they are so inclined to draft a running back. In 2022, Miller racked up 1,399 rushing yards on 224 carries (6.2 average) for 17 touchdowns. Unfortunately, Miller didn’t participate in any combine drills because of the same knee injury that kept him out of the National Championship game. Hopefully, his pro day can bring some clarity to his testing numbers. Some draft analysts seem to be concerned about his speed and explosiveness, but I saw plenty on tape. I think those people may be getting fooled because he looks like he’s gliding across the field when he runs — he’s a silky-smooth runner. The 5’11”, 215-pound back can contort his body in an uncanny way to evade defenders and continue running. His contact balance is incredible and I think he shows an above-average burst when he sees “daylight.” Miller is a patient runner who sets up his blocks well and possesses the most important trait for the running back position — vision. Miller doesn’t have the pass-catching production you would like to see, but I think he’s more capable than given credit for. Besides, the Bills already have two “pass-catching” backs on the roster. Long story short, I think Miller has the potential to be that superstar running back three years from now, where people will scratch their heads saying, “how did we miss on him?”
Excited to see how RB - Kendre Miller from TCU tests today at #NFLCombine2023 . One of my favorite mid-round RBs in #NFLDraft. A natural at the position. Some seem worried about his speed, but he looks to have plenty in this clip. pic.twitter.com/DNyVarZBT0— B.J. Monacelli (@bjmonacelli) March 5, 2023
Kendre Miller made one cut and hit the paydirt pic.twitter.com/dcWoQfrxj4— ESPN (@espn) November 13, 2022
I just don’t see how anyone can say Kendre Miller isn’t explosive, especially after watching the two clips above.
DeWayne McBride, RB (UAB)
McBride measures in at 5’10” and 209 pounds and was invited to the NFL Combine, but didn’t participate in any drills because he had recently hurt his hamstring in a workout. This bruiser of a back rushed for 1,371 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2022. He has above-average vision and is comfortable running inside or outside. His toughness is top-notch and McBride always proves to be a difficult task to bring down. He’s also athletic enough to be evasive in the open field and has shown the ability to catch the ball in the passing game. His violent nature as a runner makes him an asset at the goalline and I think he could immediately step into that role for the Bills. McBride isn’t a burner, but that isn’t his play style. He’s also had some fumbling issues that need to be cleaned up. DeWayne McBride is a solid Day 3 consideration for Buffalo who offers them something different than they already have on the roster.
Roschon Johnson, RB (Texas)
I think Johnson is being overlooked because his running mate Bijan Robinson stole the show, which is understandable. But don’t be fooled, Johnson is no slouch. Let me tell you why One Bills Drive might like this guy: Physical runner, one career fumble, great at pass protection, and special teams experience on all four teams. I’m starting to think maybe the meeting the Bills had with the two Texas running backs at the combine was a cover-up for the Bills actually being really interested in Johnson. He’s a downhill runner who constantly breaks tackles, but his speed is subpar (4.58-second 40-yard dash). He doesn’t have explosive traits but he can get the job done in between the tackles. Johnson, at 6’ and 219 pounds, projects as a solid number-three back in the league, with some potential to grow into a more prominent role. Sounds like he’d fit right in with the Bills to me!
While I’m not sold on the idea of the Bills selecting a running back early in the draft, I wouldn’t mind if they drafted someone on Day 3. It’s clear that they need to add some depth to the RB room. But if Buffalo draft one at any time before my preference, it has to be Bijan Robinson — and even then I don’t really like the value of a first-round RB.
Up next, we put the wheels down to complete this series by reviewing offensive linemen.