3 Buffalo Bills running back options in the 2021 NFL Draft

The Buffalo Bills have two running backs in Devin Singletary and Zack Moss, both of whom have shown flashes at times throughout their young careers.

Unfortunately, it has not translated to team-wide success on the ground or some sort of balance to go with stud quarterback Josh Allen. Buffalo finished last season 20th in the NFL in rushing yards. Allen actually led the club with eight rushing touchdowns.

Selecting 30th in the 2021 NFL Draft next week, Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane would not hesitate using said pick on a running back if said player has the traits he’s looking for.

“What does his skill set have in comparison to what we have on the roster?” Beane told reporters recently, via Syracuse.com. “Is this player going to do something … I don’t think either one of our backs are home run hitters, so is there an elite trait that this guy has.”

It’s an interesting dynamic to look at. Beane is certainly showing his hand here. He wants a home-run hitter to work with both Singletary and Moss moving forward. The two averaged a combined 4.3 yards per rush in 2020. As for Moss, he caught just 13 passes out of the backfield.

Given Beane’s description, we can pretty much eliminate reigning Heisman finalist Najee Harris from Alabama. He’s seen as a younger version of Tennessee Titans battering ram Derrick Henry and does not boast home-run hitting ability.

However, there are three other options that could make sense for the defending AFC East champs as they attempt to find more balance on offense. Here’s a look at them.

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Buffalo Bills draft Travis Etienne in the first round

2021 NFL Draft: Buffalo Bills draft Travis Etienne
Dec 19, 2020; Charlotte, NC, USA; Clemson Tigers running back Travis Etienne (9) runs in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Etienne’s dual-threat ability out of the backfield that could very well entice Buffalo. Last season, the dynamic back recorded 48 receptions for 588 yards en route to closing up shop on a brilliant four-year run with the Clemson Tigers. He also averaged a robust 7.2 yards per rush during his college career.

The 5-foot-10, 205-pound back isn’t necessarily a threat to take it the distance on every touch. With that said, he has the speed to turn the corner and make opposing defenses have to focus out on the perimeter. Again, that’s something the Bills seem to be missing. Right now, Etienne is the best fit at 30 should Buffalo go running back.

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Buffalo Bills use second-round pick on Kenneth Gainwell

Buffalo Bills select Kenneth Gainwell
Dec 28, 2019; Arlington, Texas, USA; Memphis Tigers running back Kenneth Gainwell (19) runs the ball against Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Cam Brown (6) in the first quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

This former Memphis star is ascending the draft rankings big time heading into next week’s annual event. He’s also perhaps the best fit for Buffalo. We’re talking about a 191-pound back who has flashed an ability to take it the distance every time he’s touched the ball. Prior to opting out of last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gainwell registered nearly 2,100 total yards and 16 touchdowns for Memphis in 2019. That included 51 receptions.

“Has a burst through the hole, immediately gets to top speed, and has enough speed to turn the corner. Quick-footed with a nice stutter step, deceptively strong, and runs with excellent lean,” NFL Draft guru Tony Pauline noted in his scouting report. “Possesses good vision, uses blocks everywhere on the field, and consistently finds the running lanes. Terrific receiver out of the backfield and also effectively lined up in the slot.”

That certainly does fit the description of what Beane is looking for in a running back. It’s also important to note that Gainwell would work well in offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s system.

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Buffalo Bills strike gold with Chuba Hubbard in the mid rounds

New England Patriots draft picks: Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State
Oct 31, 2020; Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys running back Chuba Hubbard (30) runs the ball during the second quarter in the game agains the Texas Longhorns at Boone Pickens Stadium. Texas won 41-34. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to some struggles with Oklahoma State last season, Hubbard was seen as a potential early Day 2 draft pick. That changed after he averaged a mere 4.7 yards per rush following a 2019 campaign in which the 210-pound ball-carrier averaged a robust 6.4 yards per tote while tallying over 2,000 yards on the ground.

With that said, some team is going to take a chance on Hubbard as a mid-round pick in hopes that he returns to 2019 form. It might as well be these Buffalo Bills. He boasts top-end speed, elite vision in the backfield and overwhelming patience to let the blocking develop in front of him. In addition to this, Hubbard is a receiving threat out of the backfield. He’d make a lot of sense for Buffalo.