Devin Singletary’s Fantasy Ceiling Is Capped in 2020

When the Buffalo Bills surprised the NFL world last August by releasing LeSean McCoy, it put a large target on the team's fifth-round pick the previous April: running back Devin Singletary.

All the Florida Atlantic product did in his first two games was perfectly fill the complementary role to Frank Gore as a change-of-pace back before emerging as a fantasy threat in the second half of the 2019 season.

As a result, Singletary is ranked as the RB24 in half-PPR formats by FantasyPros' consensus ranks and 52nd overall. Can he carry a big enough workload in the Bills' offense to outperform that price?

Up-and-Down 2019 Season

Singletary averaged 12.7 yards per carry on 10 rushes and caught five passes before injuring himself early in the Bills' second game of the year against the New York Giants. Buffalo wisely eased Singletary back into action once the running back recovered, hiding the potential Singletary showed in the final months of the season.

Starting with the Bills' Week 11 win over the Miami Dolphins, Singletary had at least 17 touches in every game and was a major cog in powering Buffalo back into the playoffs. Although he had a very productive final two months of the season for the Bills, Singletary was not a consistent fantasy player for most users.

He eclipsed 12 points just once in those final seven weeks of the season -- a 16.1 point outbreak against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving. The biggest culprit was that Singletary did not find the end zone much while gaining those yards as Buffalo deferred to Gore or quarterback Josh Allen when it was closer to the goal line.

Singletary Work Horse?

Singletary proved in college he could be a workhorse running back after toting the ball 562 times in 26 games over the course of his final two seasons with the Owls. But being a 30-carry running back for Lane Kiffin at Florida Atlantic in Conference USA is a far cry from what will be expected from him in the NFL.

In his rookie year, Singletary ranked 11th among the top 100 running backs in Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) at 10.76 but he had the third-fewest carries among the top 11. He accomplished this while facing at least eight men in the box on just 5.3 percent of his carries, the lowest percentage of those with at least 85 rushes last season. Compare that to Gore, who faced stacked fronts on 37.35 percent of his carries, the third-most in that same group.

However, the Bills offense under offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has not been one that has overly relied on a single running back. In his two years running the offense, the carries have been close to an even split both seasons -- even in 2018 when McCoy was the star in the backfield.

As a result, it's unlikely Singletary will see a dramatic uptick in production even if he is the featured running back. This should suit the Bills and Singletary, who clearly thrived in his 15-20 touches per game role over the last half of the season.

Offseason Effect

The Bills made two key moves this offseason that will have a dramatic impact on Singletary's production this season for Buffalo. The first was the big, splashy trade for Stefon Diggs that gave the Bills their first true number-one receiver since Sammy Watkins five years ago.

The addition to the receiving corps means fewer targets for Singletary out of the backfield and perhaps fewer rushing attempts in general for the back. Daboll loves being creative with his offense -- as everyone saw on the opening drive of the Wild Card round game last season -- and the addition of Diggs gives Daboll another tool to use in a variety of situations.

Buffalo's other big move was drafting running back Zack Moss out of Utah in the third round this year. Moss is almost assuredly the Bills answer for replacing Gore with a younger, more explosive running back. Once Singletary became the Bills' featured back in Week 11, Buffalo only ran the ball 44 percent of the time inside the red zone and almost all of the touches inside the goal line went to Gore and Allen.

Despite being a muscular 203 pounds, Singletary is only 5-foot-7 and he had a 17 percent success rate inside the red zone on 12 rushes over the final seven games of the season.

Final Review

It's really hard to project how Singletary will do as Buffalo's first-team running back for an entire season, but based on the moves the Bills have made this offseason, it's clear that Singletary is just a medium-sized cog in the larger gameplan. He's a solid choice as a flex spot or as a second running back for your team, with his explosiveness and ability to rip off long touchdown runs.

numberFire projections have him going for 184 rushing attempts, 819 yards, and 5.3 touchdowns as well as 38 receptions, 279 receiving yards, and 1.7 receiving touchdowns this season. That pegs him as the RB25.

Singletary's role in the offense may not expand enough for him to reach RB1 status. The ceiling could be capped, although he might happen to reach the end zone a few more times this season.