Ranking the AFC East RB rooms: Where do Breece Hall and the NY Jets stand?

Do the Jets have the best RB room in the AFC East?
Breece Hall
Breece Hall / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
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3. The Buffalo Bills rushing attack led by James Cook

The depth chart: 2023 Pro Bowler James Cook leads the unit while rookie fourth-round pick Ray Davis seems poised to be the No. 2 back. Rounding out the depth chart is former NY Jets running back Ty Johnson and former Tennessee Titans and Chicago Bears running back Darrynton Evans.

Buffalo's total rushing attack, if we included Josh Allen's contributions on the ground, would probably rank higher than third. That said, we've already given Allen his due in the QB rankings, and in the interest of this exercise, we're focusing strictly on the positional groupings. Even without Allen, this Bills rushing attack has the potential to be potent.

Cook, the younger brother of the much-maligned Dalvin Cook, was a second-round pick in 2022. In his rookie season, he was primarily the third-down back playing second fiddle to former Bills running back Devin Singletary. This made sense given his pass-catching prowess coming out of Georgia and concerns about his durability given his lean frame, tipping the scales at just 190 pounds.

After the 2022 season, the Bills let Singletary walk and handed the reigns over to Cook in 2023. He responded in a big way, rushing for 1122 yards on a 4.7 average while also hauling in 44 passes for 445 yards. His 10.1 yards per reception are nearly unheard of for a running back and speak to his explosiveness in the passing game.

This offensive eruption made him a Pro Bowl selection, and his dynamic two-way production led to him finishing sixth in the NFL in total yards from scrimmage. With his tantalizing combination of speed, agility, toughness, and receiving prowess Cook could be just scratching the surface of his potential.

The only question is whether he'll be durable enough to continue shouldering such a heavy workload.

Last season the Bills struggled to find a consistent complement to Cook. They ran out veteran retreads like Latavius Murray, Leonard Fournette, Damien Harris, and Ty Johnson to varying degrees of failure.

Enter fourth-round pick Ray Davis out of the University of Kentucky. After playing in relative obscurity at Temple and then Vanderbilt, Davis transferred to Kentucky for his final season.

He finished the year rushing for 1129 yards on 199 carries, good for a 5.7 average yards per attempt while adding 33 catches for 329 yards. He scored 21 combined touchdowns, 14 on the ground and seven through the air.

A compact player listed at 5-foot-8, 211 pounds at the NFL combine, he boosts a skillset similar to that of Cook. Some scouts believe Davis can develop into a starting-caliber back in time, citing his ability to run with power and produce as a receiver out of the backfield. On the flip side, Davis lacks speed and explosiveness while also struggling as a pass protector.

That makes the fit next to Cook somewhat clunky. Davis does well what Cook does well but to a lesser degree. That makes him a nice backup insofar as no scheme adjustments are necessary should Cook miss time, but he doesn't add much as a compliment.

There's also the question of who will handle third-downs, as both are good receivers but neither is a solid pass protector, which is a key trait for a third-down back. All said, Davis is mostly a question mark until we see him in live game action, though the potential to be a good player is there.

Ty Johnson was one of Buffalo's most effective reserves last season, in limited action. He only logged 30 carries but recorded a very respectable 4.4 yards per attempt. He also chipped in seven catches for 62 yards and a touchdown.

Jets fans are very familiar with Ty Johnson as the speedy Maryland product tantalized at times with his playmaking ability and frustrated with his mental errors which often led to dropped passes and missed blocking assignments. All in all, he's a solid third running back on the depth chart, but don't expect much more.

Rounding out the room is Darrynton Evans who's struggling to hold on to a spot in the league. Billed as a speedy and elusive outside zone runner coming out of Appalachian State, Evans has struggled with the increased level of competition in the NFL.

Now on his fourth team, the fourth-year veteran has only logged 64 carries in his entire career. Unless he has a big training camp, it's hard to see him actually making the final roster.

The Bills can't rank higher than third until Ray Davis proves his worth. If he proves he can be a productive back alongside Cook, the Bills could have a fearsome two-headed monster in the backfield. If not, the likes of Johnson and Evans don't inspire much confidence to step up.