Bills Rookie Will Be Team’s Best RB Since LeSean McCoy: Insider

James Cook

Getty James Cook makes a catch during Buffalo Bills minicamp.

The Buffalo Bills may have found their most impactful running back since the departure of LeSean McCoy, an insider is predicting.

The Bills earned plenty of praise for their second-round selection of Georgia running back James Cook, a versatile weapon who is expected to be an asset both to the running and passing games in Buffalo. Bills general manager Brandon Beane gushed about the impact Cook is expected to have in the offense.

“This was a guy that really stood out to us with the ball in his hands,” Beane said after the draft. “You can split him out, he can run routes similar to a receiver, obviously he’s a good guy to hand the ball to in the backfield.”

Chad Reuter of predicted that not only will Cook become one of the league’s best rookie backs this season, he will also reach numbers that no Bills running back has seen in at least five years.

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Big Season for Cook

Reuter made an early projection at the 2022 Offensive All-Rookie Team, putting Cook on the list at running back. He noted that the Bills have drafted a pair of running backs over the last three seasons, but believes Cook’s ability made him too good to pass up this year.

“Buffalo selected a running back in the third round of the draft in 2019 and 2020 (Devin Singletary, ‘19; Zack Moss, ‘20), but I thought they would have interest in Cook late in the second round this year because of his all-purpose value,” he wrote. “Expect Cook to approach 1,500 total yards from scrimmage in 2022, taking handoffs when he isn’t catching the ball out of the backfield or from the slot.”

If Cook can hit those numbers, it would make him the team’s most productive running back since McCoy’s 2017 season, when he had 1,138 rushing yards and another 448 receiving yards for 1,586 yards from scrimmage. The closest that Singletary has come to that level of production was last season, when he had 1,098 yards from scrimmage. Moss’s best season came as a rookie, when he had 576 yards from scrimmage.

Veteran Helping to Mentor Cook

Cook has had some help from another new addition to the Bills, veteran running back Duke Johnson. Though the two are competing for a spot on the roster and carries this season, Johnson said he wants to help Cook learn the ropes in the NFL.

“You look at it as competition, but we also look at it – the older guys – as being able to mentor,” Johnson told the Buffalo News. “We get it. We know it’s a numbers game. We all know that, but it doesn’t stop us from helping each other out, because at the end of the day, we want this team to be successful, because this team gave all of us an opportunity to play football and we want to make sure that whoever they do choose is the right guy.”

Cook will have plenty of competition this season. Though Singletary and Moss split carries over the course of the last two years, Singletary emerged as the primary back down the stretch as he averaged 97 yards from scrimmage over the last five weeks of the season, helping the Bills clinch their second straight AFC East title.

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