The first time I ever saw a Devin Singletary play my jaw literally dropped. Since then, I have followed his progress closely, and can’t wait to see what he can do in the NFL. You might have seen the play, but here it is just in case you missed it:
This was one of his standout plays during his college career, but Singletary has plenty of substance to back up that style. Singletary had a strong college production profile overall during his three years at Florida Atlantic University:
In particular, 2017 was an incredible year for Singletary as he finished fourth in the nation in rushing yards, fourth in yards from scrimmage and first in rushing and total touchdowns.
What stands out from Singletary’s production is his lack of usage in the passing game and the concerning trend that his reception total decreased each year in college. His output in 2017 wasn’t awful, particularly at 10.4 yards per reception but six receptions in 2018 can’t be dressed up. It’s just plain bad.
This lack of receiving upside no doubt limits his ceiling in fantasy football, especially given that receptions are far more valuable than carries. Singletary has shown he has been able to catch the football previously, so he shouldn’t be a total liability in the passing game, but he is far from a dual-threat back.
The lack of receiving pedigree isn’t the only knock against his profile. Singletary’s measurements at the combine were terrible. For such a small-statured player, many were expecting him to at least run a 40-yard dash in the low 4.5’s. Unfortunately, what he produced fell short of expectations:
The Buffalo Bills were undeterred by this poor showing at the combine and selected him in the third round of the draft (74th overall).
Their scouting department saw something in Singletary which led them to select him over the likes of Damien Harris and Justice Hill. Both of those players had strong production profiles and superior athletic testing. What Singletary has shown consistently on film is remarkable vision, contact balance, and the ability to make would-be tacklers miss with regularity. Singletary isn’t all wiggle either. Sure, he is incredibly elusive, but despite his small stature, he is not afraid to put his head down, initiate contact and bounce off defenders as well.
So what does his landing spot in Buffalo mean for Devin in 2019 and beyond?
Last season was rough for Bills running backs, which was owed in part to the substandard offensive line play. They graded out as the 26th rated unit in the NFL according to PFF. The personnel department has made numerous acquisitions to the offensive line, making center Mitch Morse their first (and highest paid) free agent signing as well as the following offensive lineman:
- LaAdrian Waddle
- Jon Feliciano
- Spencer Long
- Ty Nsekhe
- Quinton Spain
The #Bills have now added 7 offensive linemen this offseason combining for $86M of total value contracts.
Mitch Morse: $44.5M
Spencer Long: $12.6M
Ty Nsekhe: $10M
Cody Ford: $7.5M
Jon Feliciano: $7.25M
Quinton Spain: $2.05M
LaAdrian Waddle: $2M
— Spotrac (@spotrac) April 26, 2019
They also invested the 38th overall selection in the 2019 NFL draft on Cody Ford, a highly rated offensive line prospect out of Oklahoma. Whilst it is uncertain how this new personnel grouping will play together, it is hard to imagine them performing worse than their 2018 predecessors. Not only should we see improvement with the starting five linemen, but these acquisitions add depth to a position grouping that endures plenty of physical contact throughout the season.
Competition for touches
I don’t expect Singletary to walk into a full workload starting Week 1 given the crowded depth chart he finds himself upon. Right now LeSean McCoy will return for 2019, and free-agent signings Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon represent the other competition for early season touches for Singletary.
McCoy’s contract expires at the conclusion of 2019 season, and the Bills could save approximately $8 million in cash if they were to terminate his contract early. With Frank Gore present to be the veteran leader of the running back group, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Bills move on from Shady by waiving him, or trading him to a playoff contender if the circumstance arises. Perhaps a reunion with Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn should Melvin Gordon sit out?
I believe that Singletary could be part of an effective duo in the Buffalo backfield. Yeldon is a proven pass catcher, who has never taken on a heavy early-down workload, and Singletary lacks proven experience in the passing game. This would limit Singletary’s upside, but this baked into his most recent DFF dynasty ADP of RB42.
In every evaluation of fantasy players who aren’t yet starters, you have to tell yourself a story of their path to relevance. Given the players around him, the story you can tell to see Devin Singletary taking meaningful snaps in 2019 is compelling.
I am excited to see what Devin can do in 2019. Are you? Let me know on Twitter @FF_DownUnder!
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