Oct 19, 2014; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Minnesota Vikings middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley (54) tries to tackle Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller (28) during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Next up in the series, we have the Buffalo Bills’ running back situation!
While the hole at running back isn’t as large as the one under center, the Bills must add at least one more playmaker before the season begins. With deep draft and free agency classes, they’ll have many options to choose from.
On The Roster
The Bills have three running backs on the roster going into the off-season – Fred Jackson, Boobie Dixon and Bryce Brown. Each running back fills a specific role in the Buffalo offense, but none of the three are featured backs.
Jackson is a durable, pass-blocking running back who will get you the necessary yards in crunch time. But he’s the oldest running back in the league at 32-years old. Dixon is a back who will get you the tough yards, but has never been tested as an every down back. Dixon also showed that he can play the fullback position, allowing Buffalo to add two running backs this off-season. Brown is a speedster with ball handling problems. The second-year Buffalo running back is the reason the Bills can let Spiller walk. Both running backs have similar skill sets.
While each running back fills a role, Buffalo is still looking for that go-to guy.
With the next wave of cap casualties among us, an interesting pool of running backs have entered free agency. From C.J. Spiller, to DeMarco Murray, to DeAngelo Williams to Reggie Bush, the list goes on and on. There are plenty of options this off-season.
While it would be nice to resign Spiller, it doesn’t look feasible. Considering Spiller is only a couple of seasons removed from a Pro Bowl campaign and still has a lot of upside, there will be a big asking price. Sadly, if he wants to succeed, he should go to the Jets. With Chan Gailey as the team’s offensive coordinator, it’s an opportunity Spiller cannot pass up. Gailey is the man who knows how to get the best out of him.
In order to run Greg Roman’s offense to the fullest, the Bills need a bruising running back – a Frank Gore type. DeMarco Murray could fit the bill, but like Spiller he would come with a hefty price tag. Buffalo certainly won’ t be the only team seeking the former Dallas Cowboys running back’s talents this off-season. This means Murray will most likely choose the highest bidder, not the best situation. The question is, will Buffalo spend the money needed to acquire the star running back? The Pegulas have shown that they’re not afraid to make big splashes. Maybe this is the year?
While Spiller, Murray or even Bush would be nice to add this off-season, the guy to keep an eye on is Mark Ingram. The former New Orleans Saints running back had a bit of a breakout season in 2014. Ingram is the type of bruising running back that would be a perfect fit in Roman’s system. Not only is Ingram a schematic fit, but he’s a financial fit as well. Considering Ingram has yet to reach 1,000 yards, he shouldn’t command that have a of a price tag on the open market.
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The draft presents a cheaper option to find a running back, but there’s much more of a risk. This year’s class features two bright running back prospects – Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon. And aside from the dynamic duo, there are plenty of promising running backs to be had in the middle and later rounds.
With Buffalo’s top pic at No. 50, there’s a chance both Gordon and Gurley will be long gone, but if either one is there, the Bills should jump at the opportunity. If they’re not, guys like Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon, Boise State’s Jay Ajayi and Auburn’s Cameron-Artis-Payne come into the picture.
Yeldon and Ajayi are guys that Buffalo could look at, at pick No. 50. Both running backs are on the bigger side and have a lot of upside. However, depending on what Buffalo does in free agency, the front office may feel that they should use their second-round pick on a different position. If the Bills do that, Artis-Payne should be their guy.
The former Auburn running back has both size and speed, something Buffalo doesn’t currently have on their roster. Another bonus, Artis-Payne could still be there in the fifth round. After watching Artis-Payne throughout the season and at the Senior Bowl, the former Tiger shows a lot of promise. If Buffalo signs a free agent running back in the next couple of weeks, Artis Payne could be their guy on Day 2 or 3.
Projected Depth Chart: Fred Jackson, Mark Ingram, Boobie Dixon, Bryce Brown and Cameron Artis-Payne