Houston signed Devin Singletary on Tuesday afternoon. Mere hours later, the Bills signed Damien Harris to complement James Cook in their backfield. Buffalo was transparent in their desire to add a bigger back, as GM Brandon Beane outright said they were going to sign someone in that mold because Cook and Nyheim Hines are both smaller backs.
Brandon Beane says #Bills will add another RB to roster and with James Cook and Nyheim Hines on the lighter side (200 lbs or so), that player likely heavier, power style.
— Jon Scott (@JonScottTV) March 16, 2023
Harris fits that mold to a tee and should immediately challenge Cook for the primary early-down role. He’ll also likely be the goal-line back, which is an important distinction but also easy to overrate considering Josh Allen siphons so many looks in tight. With all that in mind, let’s dig into how these moves affected the ETR projections.
Old projection: N/A
New projection: 155.4 carries for 652.9 yards and 6.1 TDs, 19.5 catches on 25.9 targets for 147.7 yards and 0.7 TDs
- We were previously projecting Harris as a free agent.
- Cook out-carried Singletary three times over the second half of the year as the Bills showed more faith in their second-round rookie down the stretch. However, he still profiles as more of a pass catcher who works best in tandem with a bigger back. Enter Harris, who has a strong chance to lead the Bills in carries and should be the primary back at the goal line. He likely won’t factor in much in the receiving game with Cook and Hines in town, similar to his utilization in New England. On the whole, Harris will probably do much of the same things he did in New England — he’ll just now do them for the Bills. His path to a high-end fantasy season requires a lot of TDs, similar to what he did in 2021 when he hit paydirt 15 times for the Patriots.
Old projection: 141.7 carries for 623.6 yards and 4.1 TDs, 33.2 catches on 45.4 targets for 299.0 yards and 1.8 TDs
New projection: 125.2 carries for 550.8 yards and 3.6 TDs, 35.8 catches on 49.0 targets for 322.3 yards and 2.0 TDs
- The decision to sign Harris — and the fact that Brandon Beane said they were looking to add a big back — shows the Bills don’t want to rely on Cook for a big rushing workload, which isn’t surprising after he hit double-digit carries just five times in 2022 and never topped 113 carries in a college season.
- Cook should get all the passing downs in his second professional season — a significant upgrade after he split that work with Singletary last year. Buffalo should have far more defined roles for their RBs in 2023 after rotating Cook and Singletary pretty evenly last season.
- Cook could become interesting in PPR formats, but he probably won’t score many TDs despite his status as a major contributor for one of the best offenses in the league.
- Nyheim Hines was barely a factor on offense after getting traded to Buffalo, never getting more than 31% of snaps or two targets in a single game. We’ll monitor reports throughout the summer to see if they plan to use him more in 2023. He could push Cook for some third-down snaps if they use him more, which would be a sizable hit to the Georgia product’s fantasy value considering he’d then be giving up work on both passing downs and at the goal line.