The Buffalo Bills tried to secure a solid pass-catching back when they “signed” J.D. McKissic away from the Washington Commanders, only to have him later recant that decision and returned to Washington. The Bills would later sign another pass-catching back in Duke Johnson. The Bills made it very clear this off-season they wanted to upgrade the third-down back role, so in addition to signing Johnson, they would add another via the 2022 NFL Draft.
Enter James Cook into the equation. The Buffalo Bills selected Cook in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft, the 63rd overall selection. During his time with the Bulldogs, he amassed 1,503 yards rushing, averaging an impressive 6.5 yards per carry. More importantly and what Buffalo was looking for, he totaled 67 receptions and 730 receiving yards, for a career average of 10.9 yards per reception. All this, yet he split the workload with a fellow draft pick, Zamir White, who was taken two rounds later by the Las Vegas Raiders.
Some question Cook’s size and if he can be an every-down back. He stands 5’11”, 190 and by NFL running back standards, that is a little on the lighter side; however, the Buffalo Bills will not be asking him to be an every-down back. They need him to be an occasional breather for Buffalo’s number one back, Devin Singletary and more importantly, the primary back on third downs and obvious passing situations.
Bills Other Running Backs
It’ll be interesting to see the battle in camp this year though since they signed Duke Johnson, who’s known in the NFL as one of the better pass catching backs in the game. According to Pro Football Focus, Johnson has 311 career receptions and 2,870 yards, which is more than his career rushing yards, 2,261. Then of course Zach Moss is still around, and so will the Buffalo Bills carry four running backs throughout the season. Maybe, maybe not but either way, Cook I believe will be the primary third down back and provide an explosive that neither Singletary or Moss bring to the position.
So, what does this mean for the Buffalo Bills’ offense? Well for starters, it gives star quarterback Josh Allen a weapon he’s never had since coming into the league. I know LeSean McCoy was the starting back during Allen’s rookie season but that was not the same McCoy we grew accustomed to seeing in previous years. Additionally, Singletary chipped in with 40 receptions in 2021 but managed a meager 5.7 yards per reception, second lowest only to Tommy Sweeney. In his career, he’s totaled 107 receptions for a 6.5 yards per reception and a total of three career touchdowns. Cook had four touchdowns a season ago on just 27 receptions.
Cook was not only running routes out of the backfield but he would at times line up outside like a traditional wide receiver as well. Cook had a total of 67 receptions in four years at Georgia but it’s not the number of receptions that stand out, it’s the quality of the receptions. In four years, Cook averaged less than 10.5 yards per reception only once, 8.3 yards per in 2019.
Cook gives this offense the flexibility to be very creative and is a major home run threat when he makes those catches. So, while the total receptions may not increase much, those receptions have the potential to become touchdowns. When Cook is on the field, he forces defenses to pay attention, which will make things that much easier for Allen and the rest of the Buffalo Bills’ offense.