Bills: Free Agent/Draft Options at RB and FB

Could the Buffalo Bills be in the market to add a running back or fullback? Buffalo has some options on their roster, but they may like some of the free agent/draft options that are available to them. Here are some players the Bills could add at RB and FB.

Even though the Buffalo Bills have three running backs on their roster, the team may bring in a free agent or draft a running back. Greg Roman, the team’s offensive coordinator, wants to bring a ground-and-pound attack to Buffalo. Fred Jackson and Anthony Dixon seem like decent options for Roman, but Jackson has had some durability issues and is the oldest back in the league. Dixon played under Roman in San Francisco and was buried on the team’s depth chart. If the Bills decide to add another back, who are some free agent and draft targets? Here’s a look at some of the better options available.

Best Fits

Frank Gore

You can’t find a better fit than the running back who’s thrived under Greg Roman. In Roman’s four seasons with the 49ers, Gore never ran for less than 1,106 yards. From 2011-2014, Gore ran for 4659 yards on 1,071 carries, a 4.35 YPC average. Gore is a tough runner and can be tough to bring down. The back is also a terrific blocker and can contribute as a pass catcher, although he didn’t do this as much under Roman. In their four seasons together, the most receptions that Gore had was 28. Another positive about Gore is his durability. He hasn’t missed a game since the 2010 season.

The biggest knock on Gore at this point is his age. The back will turn 32 in May and while he can still contribute in the short-term, Gore has seen a large workload in his career. Through the duration of his career, Gore has carried the ball 2,442 times.

Mark Ingram

Ingram finally had his breakout season with the New Orleans Saints in 2014. In his fourth season, New Orleans finally made Ingram their workhorse back. Leading up to the 2014 season, Ingram was given a total of 356 carries with the Saints. It’s tough to get into a groove when you’re not getting touches. In 2014, Ingram ran the ball 226 times in 13 games (17 carries per game on average) for 964 yards and nine touchdowns. This season, Ingram proved to be a bruising back who is hard to bring down. Pro Football Focus said he caused 33 missed tackles on the season. In addition to his ability to run, Ingram is a terrific blocker. Ingram is also terrific in terms of ball protection. In 582 career carries, Ingram has fumbled the ball twice. Ingram can catch the ball out of the backfield. This season, Ingram had 29 receptions on 36 targets for 145 yards. At 25 years old, Ingram has only just begun to produce as an NFL running back.

Ingram may be the best fit for Buffalo in free agency. Their decision to pursue him may come down to how many suitors he has and how much he’s looking to get on the free agent market.

Justin Forsett

Forsett had a career year in 2014 with the Baltimore Ravens. The back had a 5.4 YPC average in Baltimore after running for 1,266 on 235 attempts. Forsett added eight touchdowns on the ground and is a terrific blocker. Pro Football Focus graded Forsett as the second best blocking running back in the NFL this season behind only Jacquizz Rodgers. Forsett added 44 receptions for 263 yards this season and looked like a complete back.

While Forsett was unbelievable this season, it’ll be interesting to see how many teams pursue him in free agency. Forsett will turn 30 in October and has played on four teams in six seasons. Some teams will question why Forsett took so long to emerge as a productive back, but he was buried behind some talented backs. From 2010-2011, Forsett played behind Marshawn Lynch. In 2012, Arian Foster and Ben Tate kept Forsett buried. Then there was Jacksonville. You could argue that Forsett may have been better than any of the backs ahead of him, but he was never given an opportunity with the Jaguars. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jordan Todman and Denard Robinson all saw more carries than Forsett. Forsett’s age could lead to a team getting a pretty good deal in free agency, especially considering the fact that Forsett has only seen 582 career carries.

Second-Tier Options

Jacquizz Rodgers

As previously mentioned, Rodgers was Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 blocking running back in 2014. However, Rodgers hasn’t done much from a running perspective. In four seasons with the Falcons, Rodgers has never had more than 96 carries in a season. Over his entire career, Rodgers has 305 carries 1,116 yards (3.7 YPC). Rodgers can contribute as a receiver, but that’s not as important in Roman’s offense.

Rodgers would be a cheap option in free agency, but there’s no evidence that he’d emerge as a successful back under Roman.

Shane Vereen

Vereen is a more intriguing option as a “second-tier” option, but he’s also never carried the load as a running back. In 2014, Vereen saw the most carries of his career, 96, and rushed for 391 yards (4.1 YPC). He’s rushed for four yards or more in three consecutive seasons, but he only has 217 carries in his entire career. In New England, Vereen was more valuable as a receiving back. Vereen had 99 receptions between 2013 and 2014. He’s an adequate blocker as well.

One knock on Vereen is that 2014 was the first season in which he played in all 16 games. He’s battled wrist and foot injuries in the last two seasons.

Draft Options

Todd Gurley

Gurley would be a dream come true, but he’d have to fall to the Bills in Round 2. Gurley can do it all as a back and the Bills could sit Gurley in 2015 to let him fully heal from a torn ACL. Realistically, some team will probably take a flier on Gurley before he falls to Buffalo as he’s a guy who could be a true three-down back in the NFL.

Tevin Coleman

Coleman is another back who falls into the three-down back category in the draft. Coleman is a physical runner, good blocker and terrific overall athlete. Realistically, Buffalo would have to target Coleman in Round 2.

David Cobb

Cobb could be a third round option for Buffalo. The back from Minnesota is a physical back who showed the ability to block in college. He can also contribute as a receiving option.

Fullbacks

Greg Roman utilized Bruce Miller at fullback with the 49ers. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the team added a fullback in free agency. Here are three free agent options:

Henry Hynoski

Hynoski is the best blocking free agent fullback available on the market. PFF rated him as their No. 2 fullback behind Anthony Sherman of the Seahawks. Fullbacks won’t command big money in free agency and if Buffalo wants to add a fullback, Hynoski should be their top target.

John Conner

Rex Ryan is very familiar with Conner from his days with the Jets. Conner is a good run blocker and could be a realistic option for the team.

Jerome Felton

Felton is the biggest name on the market in free agency and he’ll be looking to join a team that utilizes fullbacks. He’s a terrific run blocker and a good fit for the Bills at fullback.

Is there a running back or fullback that I didn’t mention that you believe the Bills should pursue? Feel like one of the running backs/fullbacks above would thrive in Buffalo? Join the conversation in our forums to share your thoughts!


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