There’s this really awkward period in between the offseason and the preseason that involves daily headline dumps from training camp. This is the time where fantasy analysts and fans alike pounce on every headline like a pack of wild hyenas who can only say the words “I told you so!”. Most of the time these victory laps come in the form of rookies who earned a shot at the starting gig or receivers who are poised to make the third-year leap. Thankfully once the preseason starts we at least have some actual football to watch to back up the data when we call our shots for draft day. The definitions of the term ‘league winner’ and ‘sleeper’ have significantly shifted in the last decade since we have so much information in front of us to guide us through the rough waters.
A true sleeper these days is tough to find since a lot of the time we didn’t even know who they were prior to a week one explosion. Phillip Lindsay and Alvin Kamara showed us this in the past few years, but even they had a little bit of hype before the season kicked off. Finding a late-round running back that can win you a league is a work of art that requires an open mind, some deep digging, and often times a little bit of luck. Our wonderful editor wrote up a great piece on attempting to find this season’s Nick Chubb, and one of the guys he mentioned deserves more attention. It’s not often I think to myself ‘why is no one talking about this guy?’ because more times than not, someone already is. Rookies get the hype where it’s deserved and they rarely fly under the radar unless there’s a significant injury. So the question remains: who do we turn to in the late rounds?
Enter Devin Singletary. You may have heard about him at some point this offseason but the buzz has been minimal. Let’s take a look at his 2019 outlook and what it could mean for your fantasy team.
Who is this kid?
Not too many FAU Owls have made waves on a national scale as Singletary did in 2017. He finished with a whopping 33 touchdowns which lead the nation while accumulating over 2000 yards from scrimmage. He followed up this All-American campaign with another dynamite season in 2018. Singletary finished his senior year in the top ten in attempts per game and total touchdowns, and just outside the top ten in rushing yards per game. He accomplished all of this behind an offensive line that ranked in the bottom third of the NCAA in nearly all of the major run block statistics according to Football Outsiders. Based on college production alone, it’s quite clear that Singletary can produce at a high level in a situation that might not be perfect. On that note, let’s examine his situation in Buffalo.
The Landing Spot
The Bills have arguably the least sexy offense in the history of football. Josh Allen had an intriguing impact on them last year and a lot of people are excited to see if he takes the second-year leap. Regardless of how much Allen improves, one thing remains constant for the Bills staff: they want to run the ball. They’ve finished the season in the top five in total rushing attempts every year since 2014, including a fifth overall finish in 2018. In that span, there have only been six running backs selected in the top three rounds of the NFL draft by teams that finished in the top ten for total rushing attempts. Those players were Christian McCaffery, Joe Mixon, Duke Johnson, D’Onta Foreman, and C.J. Prosise. Both Prosise and Foreman suffered a number of injuries, but the rest of the group has been phenomenal so far. The Bills will remain a run-first team in 2019 and the additions of Cole Beasley and John Brown should open up the deep parts of the field for their potential franchise quarterback. The Bills may see a decrease in total rush attempts but will likely have more goal-line opportunities for their backfield. If Singletary can find his way onto the field, there’s a good chance he can produce just like he has at every stage of his career. The backfield is crowded for now, but rising to the top of the pack isn’t as daunting of a task as it may seem. Which brings me to….
Pending any roster cuts in the next few weeks, it looks like Singletary will be competing with Frank Gore and LeSean McCoy for snaps. Yes, I just said that. And no, it’s not 2013. Both of those guys are surefire hall of fame running backs and Gore just carried a significant workload for the Dolphins a year ago. McCoy has been a staple in Buffalo for a long time, but he pretty much fell off of a cliff production-wise in 2018. He posted the worst YPC number of his career, and his performance grade from Pro Football Focus was by far his worst since he came into the league.
Franke Gore, on the other hand, continues to defy physics. He steamrolled his way to a surprisingly efficient season in Miami and fits the mold of what Buffalo wants to do. The sad reality is that Gore will have to drop off at some point, and father time is undefeated. This might seem like a joke but the cold weather in Buffalo could be a factor, even if it’s a small one. Gore should see a decent workload, but the lack of a pass-catching specialist on the Bills roster definitely matters (assuming Yeldon is the odd man out). The road to significant work isn’t a clean one, but it’s much less muddy than it might appear. The draft capital spent by the Bills indicates they see something special in him and the only people in his way are two running backs at the very tail end of their careers who have already shown signs of slowing down.
So, what’s the verdict?
I promise I’ll get to the point now. Devin Singletary has been a production monster since he first put on shoulder pads. The Bills invested serious draft equity in him and the rest of the backfield is one bunion away from the Shady Acres Retirement Home (pun intended). When you’re in the eleventh round of your fantasy draft and you’re debating options like Tyrell Williams, Kirk Cousins or a fantasy D/ST, consider taking a swing for the fences with someone like Singletary. The rookie ball carrier has the potential to return RB2 value by the end of the year if a few things go his way, and that’s not something that can be said for many players in this range.
Keep an eye on any depth chart moves between now and Week 1 because if the Bills cut someone besides Singletary it only enhances his value. Most people didn’t see Alvin Kamara coming in 2017, even fewer people saw Phillip Lindsay coming in 2018, and I’m telling you right now that you need to see Devin Singletary coming in 2019. Whether or not you make the smart decision to draft him is up to you.