NFL 2020 Breakout Players: Devin Singletary

Introduction

Devin SingletaryLittle was expected out of Devin Singletary, the former third-round pick out of Florida Atlantic. However, Singletary impressed becoming the focal point of the Bills running game during their playoff push. With Frank Gore leaving in free agency, expectations are high for the Bills and Singletary. Also, with the Bills drafting running-back Zach Moss in the third-round, expect Singletary to have even more pressure to contribute. Despite the pressure, Singletary has all the tools to have a breakout season.

2019 Stats

RUSH YDSRUSH TDSRECREC YDSREC TDS
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Devin Singletary exceeded expectations in his rookie season. The Bills struggled without a true number one receiving threat and, as a result, relied on the run game. Singletary filled this void. As a rookie, Singletary finished with 151 rushes for 775 rushing yards at an average of 5.1 yards per carry. His rushing touchdowns were low, but more because of Frank Gore’s presence than anything else. On the receiving side of the ball, Singletary impressed. Finishing with 29 receptions for 194 yards and 2 receiving touchdowns, Singletary was explosive off of half-back screens and wheel routes. His small 5-7 frame made it hard for defenders to see him behind taller offensive lineman. Also, his size proved useful in getting leverage to break tackles, despite being only 203 pounds.

More impressive is that these stats came at the result of only playing in 12 games and starting 8. If he played the entire season, you could reasonably assume he’d get close to, if not, 1000 rushing yards. Furthermore, he received more than 10 carries in only 7 games. An increased workload and status as the number one back should boost his productivity even more.

Player Skillset

As displayed in college and in the NFL, Singletary is so difficult to bring down. One of his strengths noted in the draft process was his quick-twitch and start and stop acceleration. These traits continue to be valuable to NFL running backs and is why Singletary shined his rookie season and will remain a threat in the NFL for a long-time. His first-step and instant acceleration are eerily similar to Darren Sproles. However, Singletary is a better runner between the tackles. Singletary could truly become elite and I think this season will be the starting point.

Also, Singletary is excellent at playing low to the ground. Again, at 5-7, Singletary is a small back. But his ability to play lower to the ground allows him to sneak between tackles, evade defenders, and gain leverage to break tackles. He’s surprisingly strong and hearing that he’s put on nearly 8 pounds of muscle makes him an even bigger threat to break tackles. The speed, explosive ability, stealth between the tackles, and natural strength makes Singletary a tremendous all-around running back.

Lastly, Singletary’s catching ability was underrated. He established great chemistry with Josh Allen on screens and half-back wheel routes. In the open field, his quick-twitch and shifty agility helped him beat cornerback’s to the edge and/or break their tackles. I expect the Bills to utilize the passing game more as Josh Allen progresses and with the addition of Stefon Diggs. This will only enhance Singletary’s production.

Depth Chart

Despite being behind Frank Gore in the depth chart his rookie season, Devin Singletary produced well statistically. This year, Singletary enters the season as the Bills number one back. Critics may be more pessimistic of Singletary’s chances given the addition of third-round draft pick Zach Moss. At 5-9, 223 Lbs., Moss is a bruising back that should make his bread and butter as a third-down/goal line running back. The fit is perfect as Singletary is not the best short-yardage back. They each makeup for one another’s weaknesses which makes this a tantalizing duo. I have little concerns of Moss severely impacting Singletary’s production.

TJ Yeldon is the third back in the rotation. A quality receiving back, Yeldon can provide some assistance in the passing game, especially on two-back looks. However, he’s often injured and isn’t a great downfield or sideline running back. He was a healthy scratch at the end of the season which says everything you need to know about how the Bills view Yeldon. Overall, Singletary will be the focal point for this running back core.

Buffalo Bills Offense

The rest of the Buffalo Bills offense looks stout. As mentioned earlier, Josh Allen developed great chemistry with Singletary on screens and wheel routes. I only see this chemistry improving as the season progresses, especially on intermediate routes.

The receiving group has improved tremendously with the addition of Stefon Diggs. A true number one receiver and top-ten receiver in the NFL, Diggs will showcase elite route running and on intermediate and deep routes. Coupled with slot receiver Cole Beasley, speedster John Brown, possession tight end Dawson Knox, the Bills receiving group is underrated. Expect the improved receiving core to take the pressure off the run game. Doing so will turn this offense from a one-dimensional run-heavy team to a more balanced offense. This won’t hurt Singletary. Instead, it will keep defenders from stacking the box as they did last season.

Schedule

The only thing that could limit Singletary’s production is the Bills schedule. Few easy games exist on this schedule. The Bills certainly got the short end of the stick having to play the Broncos, Chargers, 49ers, and Steelers on top of their division rivals Jets and Patriots. However, Singletary played great against some of the league’s best defenses last year. Against the Broncos, Singletary ran for 106 yards on 5.1 yards per carry. Against the Ravens, Singletary ran for 89 yards on 5.2 yards per carry. Lastly, Singletary ran for 87 yards on 4.2 yards per carry against the Steelers. While the schedule looks menacing, Singletary should be able to overcome it.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Singletary’s strengths pair well with the modern NFL. He’s got great potential to be a dual-threat back, meaning he can catch balls out of the backfilled and play in-between the tackles. He has a certain moxie that I love – he’s always had to prove himself with his height, going to a small school, and being drafted in the middle rounds.

Furthermore, the Bills offense looks truly balanced, something it has struggled with over the past few years. They’ve relied too much on the run which made their offense very one dimensional. Opposing defenses would simply crowd the box and prevent big rushing gains. A more balanced offense will keep the defense guessing which will ultimately improve opportunities for Singletary.

Lastly, Singletary no longer has to play in Frank Gore’s shadows. As the number one rushing option, I’m sure Singletary will get plenty of opportunities. With his explosive ability, quick first step, and frame, expect Singletary to do real damage as a rusher. I project Singletary to have a 1000+ yard rushing season with nearly 400 receiving yards.

  
Miles Jasper is an incoming law student studying employment and labor law. Miles’ passions lie within the salary cap, collective bargaining, and labor relations between leagues and their players. He also likes to analyze college prospects and participate in fantasy sports. In his free time, Miles is an avid runner who also enjoys poker, cooking, and watching movies.

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