OPINION: Stay the course at running back

The worst thing the Bills could do this offseason is invest big in a running back

It seemed to be destiny that whenever the Buffalo Bills' season came to an end, unless it ended with a Lombardi Trophy in Sean McDermott's hands, a conversation about the team's non-existent run game was going to come up.

The Bills use their running backs less than anyone in the sport. In neutral game script situations, the Bills chose to run the ball less than everyone in the NFL, except for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Josh Allen, for the second year in a row, had the lowest rate of dump-offs to the running back of any starting quarterback.

The Bills didn't run the ball with their running backs, nor did they throw the ball to their running backs. It's not a coincidence they had their best season in over 25 years.

In the AFC Championship Game, McDermott's Bills turned into the drought Bills on offense. More of a commitment to running the ball, especially inside. They never had a chance to beat the Kansas City Chiefs with that mindset.

The worst thing the Bills could do this offseason is invest big in a running back. That could mean either a big free agent contract to an Aaron Jones, or it could mean using the 30th overall pick in the NFL Draft on the position.

It comes down to two things: Cap space and other, more important needs.

The Bills badly need a franchise pass rusher. The only player that can consistently get pressure on the quarterback is Jerry Hughes, who will be 33-years-old in August.

The Bills could use a dynamic, pass-catching tight end. Dawson Knox is a nice player, but his hands are way too inconsistent to be this team's starter.

There could also be additional needs on the offensive line or on defense if players like linebacker Matt Milano or offensive tackle Daryl Williams walk in free agency.

The Bills have the 30th pick and $2.65 million in cap space. Using the bulk of your assets on a position that is the easiest to find talent in the NFL, and is almost useless towards helping the Bills beat the Chiefs, makes absolutely no sense.

Drafting running backs is a crap shoot in the first place, not to mention the extra few million dollars the Bills would have to pay to the position by drafting one in the first round versus later rounds.

In the last three drafts, five running backs have been drafted in the first round - Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley, Rashaad Penny, and Sony Michel.

In the same time frame, 10 running backs have went in Round 2 - D'Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor, Cam Akers, A.J. Dillon, Miles Sanders, Nick Chubb, Ronald Jones, Kerryon Johnson, and Derrius Guice.

The success rate for the teams that drafted backs in the second round, instead of the first, is higher, and those teams had more affordable contracts to deal with.

The two running backs that are in line to be selected around the 30th pick in the draft are Clemson's Travis Etienne and Alabama's Najee Harris. Neither is an idea I like, but one is way better than the other.

Najee Harris is a big, athletic, bruising running back. His closest comparison is Derrick Henry.

No. Thank. You.

The Bills do not need any reason to run the ball more than they did last season. Drafting Derrick Henry 2.0 in the first round would give them every excuse to do so.

Etienne, on the other hand, is a burner. A true modern day running back that can take any play to the house. Etienne possesses the ability to line up anywhere on the field, including at wide receiver.

The problem with the Etienne idea is that it's likely that three or more running backs with the same skillset will be selected in the later rounds and find success in the NFL.

Zack Moss is fine. He's an all-around running back that can do a bit of everything, and he's an elite pass blocker for the position.

I have no issue moving on from Devin Singletary for a cheap, more accomplished pass-catching running back that can be a more natural complement to Moss.

James White is a free agent out of New England, as is Jerick McKinnon in San Francisco and Boston Scott in Philadelphia.

Those three players are just a few that provide an upgrade in the receiving game, come with no real commitment financially, give the Bills maximum assets to address the pass rush, and ensure that they will remain one of the pass-happiest offenses in the NFL.

You don't beat the Chiefs without the pass-happiest offense in the league.

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