Most lists summarizing the Buffalo Bills' offensive needs heading into next week's draft include the running back position.
The Bills' run game was a mediocre operation averaging 4.2 yards per carry (23rd in NFL) for 1,723 yards (20th) last year. There was no question that Buffalo's potent offense rested on the arm of Josh Allen.
Despite the desire to improve that rushing attack in 2021, GM Brandon Beane told reporters Wednesday that he likes his current group of backs and isn't going to press to snag a running back early in the draft, including with the No. 30 overall pick.
"I'm not going into this draft going, 'Man we got to find some back here in the top few rounds or anything like that,'" Beane said, via New York Upstate.
The GM's statement came with a caveat: He'd pull the trigger on a running back that would bring an added home-run element to the Bills backfield.
Beane has used third-round picks in back-to-back drafts on running backs, snagging Devin Singletary in 2019 and Zack Moss in 2020. Both have proven to be solid runners, but neither stands out as a game-breaker. This offseason, the Bills brought in Matt Breida, who is the closest back on the roster to owning a home-run skillset.
"What does his skill set have in comparison to what we have on the roster?" Beane said of potentially drafting an RB. "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 and says, 'Man, he's got something we don't have.' That's probably the conversation, versus, 'OK, are we going to take the same type of back as Devin, are we gonna take the same type of back as Zack? Because even those two guys have different skill sets."
The top three running backs heading into the 2021 NFL Draft are Clemson's Travis Etienne, Alabama's Najee Harris and North Carolina's Javonte Williams. Team preference in skillset likely differentiates which player they have ranked higher.
Etienne seems to fit Beane's definition of a home-run hitter with his explosive ability and game-changing gear that few can match. A dual-threat force, Etienne had 2,571 rush yards after contact over the last three seasons (most in FBS), per Pro Football Focus.
Last year, the Bills earned just 10 rushes of 20-plus yards and one of more than 40 yards (a Singletary 51-yard TD). If Beane adds to the backfield during the draft, it will be a player he believes can improve those explosive numbers.