Fantasy Court: The Case For Devin Singletary in 2022
It’s been a busy summer for me examining running backs in Fantasy Court. After arguing FOR Saquon Barkley and AGAINST David Montgomery, I’m ready to close out court by defending the fantasy honor of Devin Singletary.
As of this writing, Singletary has an average draft position (ADP) of RB33, despite the fact that he’s never finished worse than RB34 in his three-year career and is coming off his most successful season ever, finishing as the RB20 in 2021.
Unwarranted anti-Singletary speculation gone wild, which my opponent will surely attempt to fuel in her attack on Singletary, has been running rampant for months. I’m here to help cooler heads prevail and come to the realization that he will be a trustworthy fantasy option for the 2022 season.
What a Finish!
Before we get into 2022, let me quickly remind you how Singletary vigorously finished the 2021 season.
He was in the midst of a middling fantasy campaign through the first 13 weeks of the season. He ranked as the RB39 to that point and only logged double-digit fantasy points twice through the first 12 games. Not an ideal start to his season, or my case.
Then everything changed in Week 14. Singletary was on the field for a season-high 82% of Buffalo’s offensive snaps. The Bills lost a tough game in Tampa, but it was clear they had found something that worked in trusting Singletary. Buffalo ended the season on a four-game win streak in which Singletary played an average of 79% of the offensive snaps and finished as a fantasy RB1 in all four games. He was the second-highest scoring fantasy running back over that stretch, putting up 18.3 fantasy points/game and trailing only Rashaad Penny in total fantasy points.
It didn’t stop in the NFL playoffs. He scored three touchdowns over two playoff games and rarely came off the field, playing 100% of Buffalo’s offensive snaps in the instant classic overtime shootout loss to Kansas City. Over Singletary’s final six games, including the playoffs, he averaged over 20 touches/game and scored eight touchdowns. Truly elite numbers.
Fade the Rookie Hype
Let me address the elephant in the room. Buffalo spent their second pick of the NFL Draft, number 63 overall, on running back James Cook. The Georgia product was touted by scouts and draft Twitter for his pass-catching ability out of the backfield. Still, Cook comes with plenty of red flags. For example, look at these excerpts from Cook’s rookie profile written by Matthew Betz earlier this spring.
“When compared to other backs in the class, there’s no question James Cook doesn’t profile as your typical bell-cow back we like to roster.”
“There’s really no way to sugarcoat this. James Cook’s production profile is among the worst in the class, at least when you look at it from an analytics perspective.”
To be completely fair, Betz does go on to say some positive things about Cook’s athleticism and pass-catching chops. He is likely to earn a role as a rotational player and catch some passes out of the backfield. This, however, should not be considered a death knell for Singletary’s fantasy value.
Of course, we prefer our fantasy running backs to catch passes, but that has never really been a part of Singletary’s game. Even during his red hot finish to the regular season, he only averaged 2.5 targets/game. A new pass-catcher in the backfield may limit his overall ceiling, but it shouldn’t affect the role that gave him so much success last season.
Now, that’s the level-headed approach to the Buffalo backfield. If you want the runaway hype-train, training camp overreaction, rookie fever side of the story, go type “James Cook” into the search bar on Twitter.com. You’ll be led to believe that Cook is the next coming of Marshall Faulk. What will be more difficult to find is the fact that Singletary is still the starting lead back in Buffalo, as evidenced by the following tweet that took a little more digging to come across.
Singletary easily got every 1st team rep.
— Greg Cover 1 🏈 (@GregTompsett) July 25, 2022
While it would have been ideal for Buffalo to ignore running backs in the draft, that isn’t the reality in today’s NFL. Singletary isn’t likely to see an increase in targets this season, but he will retain his job as the lead back in the high-powered Bills offense.
Is Josh Allen a Problem?
As I pointed out in my case against David Montgomery, a rushing quarterback can negatively impact the fantasy output of a running back. As true as that is, Josh Allen and his rushing production isn’t a new addition to the Buffalo offense. Singletary has been co-existing with Allen for three years.
While Allen leads all quarterbacks with 31 rushing touchdowns over the four seasons since he was drafted, those numbers have been trending down the past two years, opening the door to more goalline work for Singletary. The Bills gave Allen a massive six-year, 258 million dollar contract ahead of the 2021 season. He then went on to put up a career-low six rushing touchdowns, with just three of them coming from inside the five-yard line.
Conversely, Singletary set a career-high in red zone, 10-zone, and 5-zone carries and touchdowns. The table below shows the red zone rushing comparison between Allen and Singletary from 2021.
While a quarterback as dynamic as Allen is always going to be a threat to vulture touchdowns, there’s also reason to believe Buffalo will back off designing rush attempts near the goalline for their franchise quarterback, especially considering Singletary’s success in that area.
No, Singletary doesn’t check all the boxes. He isn’t an elite pass-catcher out of the backfield. He plays alongside a rushing quarterback. But he is the lead running back of what is projected to be one of the top-scoring offenses in the NFL, and that is exactly what we want to target in fantasy football.
I’m not proclaiming Singletary to be a top-ten fantasy running back. Where he’s being drafted, he doesn’t have to be. He’s being selected at his fantasy floor with room for upside. As the James Cook hype continues to spiral out of control, Singletary’s ADP could fall even further. Devin Singletary is a steal in the eighth round (or later) of drafts that can comfortably and consistently fill the RB2 or Flex role on your fantasy roster, providing tremendous fantasy value all season long.