For the past few seasons, the Buffalo Bills’ bread and butter has been their running game, led by the duo of Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller.
While they may not quite be ready to mess with success, it appears the Bills have found an heir apparent in the form of Bryce Brown. Brown will provide backfield depth this season and could be next in line in future seasons for the aging Jackson, 33, and Spiller, 26, who are both in the final year of their contracts.
Brown, formerly the backup for LeSean McCoy in Philadelphia, brings a combination of power and speed and at 23 is ten years younger than Jackson.
Spiller, who still looks to have several productive seasons in front of him, may not be back in Orchard Park next year as the Bills have been reluctant to give him the extension he has been looking for, and has prepared for his pending free agency.
With the reign of Jackson and Spiller possibly coming to a close after 2014, the brunt of the backfield workload could fall into the hands of Brown after the Bills were unable to trade up to draft Carlos Hyde in last week’s draft.
It looks like Brown will likely have to wait his turn to lead the Bills’ ground game, but some think Brown could step in and start right away. Leading that argument is McCoy, who thinks pretty highly of his former teammate.
Though it was said in a joking manner, and has since been deleted, McCoy tweeted that Brown will be the “starter day 1.” While I’m not ready to see the duo of Jackson and Spiller go down quite yet – Jackson is a better blocker and pass catcher, while Spiller has more speed – I hope the Bills will be able to implement Brown into their system in preparation for the larger role he will likely have next season.
Brown, a third year-player that was on Buffalo’s radar for several months leading up to the trade, has averaged nearly five yards per carry in his two seasons as an Eagle. At 6-foot-0 and 220 pounds, Brown has the physique to run between the tackles while also possessing uncanny speed for his size, often stretching out the defense on the outside.
In 2012, he was a fantasy football flavor of the month when he ran for 347 combined yards and four touchdowns against Carolina and Dallas while McCoy was on the shelf. Though he failed to rack up double digit carries in a game 2013 under new coach Chip Kelly (McCoy was also able to remain relatively healthy) he has demonstrated that he can carry the load if Jackson or Spiller were to go down.
Some critics insist he tries to stretch too many runs to the outside, but that is very correctable and his upside is too high to ignore. He lost four fumbles in 2012, but his ball control shored up in 2013 en route to zero fumbles lost. His skill set is a combination of what both Jackson and Spiller already have to offer and he came as a bargain for the Bills.
For the next two seasons combined, the Bills will owe Brown just a shade over $1.2 million remaining on his rookie contract. They will lose a conditional pick in the 2015 Draft, but Brown’s current contract pales in comparison to Jackson’s ($4.35 million/season) and Spiller’s ($5 million).
While Brown might be a bargain for the next two seasons, he’ll be in line to get paid just like his new teammates if things go to plan.