by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Buffalo running back corps was once viewed as a depth for the team. After Week 7, however, that’s no longer the case. C.J. Spiller broke his collarbone and is out for the season (likely ending his career in Buffalo). Fred Jackson suffered a groin injury and, while he’s going to be back, has already been ruled out for Week 8 and is going to miss a few weeks.
That leaves Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown left standing, but who has the best chance at emerging? Let’s take a look:
The former 49er has been operating as the third back this season, though there had been rumblings that he could soon leapfrog Spiller on the depth chart. He had a solid performance on Sunday, rushing the ball 13 times for 51 yards. It’s hardly impressive, as the Vikings are allowing 4.4 YPC on the season, but he was thrust into a role he wasn’t prepared for.
Dixon has never shown much in his five year career, with 175 rushes for 595 yards. However, he feels like he’s never really been given the chance to show is stuff. He was quoted by Tim Graham of The Buffalo News (click here for the article) after the game as saying:
“This is opportunity I’ve been waiting for, to get back in that workhorse role and show people what I can do,” Dixon said. “I want to show people what I could do in college and high school.
“I feel like I really didn’t get labeled right coming out of college. People tried to do something else with me, make me somebody that I really wasn’t. … Put me in short-yardage, say I couldn’t run routes or I ain’t got hands.
“I don’t see what they’re seeing. I’m ready for the opportunity.”
Dixon rushed for over 1,000 yards twice at Mississippi State, including a 1,391 yard senior season. There’s definitely upside and an intriguing option. He clearly feels like he has a lot to prove, but he’s been labeled more as a “big” back and potentially not suited for the every down role.
The Bills likely acquired him in the offseason with an eye towards him replacing C.J. Spiller/Fred Jackson in 2015. Now he’s going to get an opportunity to fill a significant role sooner.
Brown was impressive in backing up Lesean McCoy the previous two seasons in Philadelphia, with 878 yards on 190 carries (4.6 YPC). A former seventh round draft pick prior to the season Mike Rodak of ESPN (click here for the article) said:
“I think the Bills would like Brown to develop into one of their lead backs”
While it’s worrisome that he hasn’t been active over the first seven weeks, he’ll now get the opportunity to show his stuff. There’s definitely upside and ability. A top recruit out of high school, he had a rocky college career that included sitting out a year after transferring and ultimately quitting the Kansas State team. However, CBS Sports (click here for his draft profile) had the following quote from Andy Reid at the time he was drafted:
“You’re talking tremendous, tremendous skill here. He catches the ball effortlessly and is a smooth, smooth runner. He has all the talent in the world, but it’s just a matter of tying things down here.”
From a dynasty perspective, he could be the best player to emerge as the long-term answer at running back. He’ll may to work his way into the role, but he also could quickly outproduce Dixon and claim the starting role.
While Dixon could get the first shot, Brown’s upside is far more intriguing. If you can afford to potentially wait on him, he has the potential to be a must use running back even once Fred Jackson returns. Given what they gave up to acquire him (a fourth round draft pick), there’s a good chance he gets his shot to thrive before very long. There’s just too much talent there and he’s already shown what he can do (as opposed to Dixon, who has repeatedly struggled).
Sources – ESPN, CBS Sports, NFL.com, The Buffalo News
Make sure to check out all of our Week 8 rankings: