2019 NFL Draft Preview: Devin Singletary – RB, Florida Atlantic
There’s little question among draftniks that Alabama tailback Josh Jacobs is the No. 1 running back prospect in the 2019 draft. But there are a number of young ball-carriers vying for the No. 2 spot—including at least one back who believes himself Jacobs’ equal. As Hal Habib wrote for the Palm Beach Post, Devin Singletary of Florida Atlantic isn’t taking a back seat to anyone—just as the 5’7″, 203-pounder isn’t hearing the doubters who say he’s too small to be a successful banger at the professional level.
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Is Devon Singletary Too Small?
“Of course, I want to be No. 1,” Singletary said during the NFL Scouting Combine. “That’s why I’m here — to showcase my talents. “They (NFL teams) like a lot of things that I do as far as making people miss in the open field, the way I run the ball, my running style. And they like my character as well. If Barry Sanders can do it, I feel I can do it. We’re the same size.”
Singletary certainly didn’t have any problems racking up the yardage at Florida Atlantic. In 2018, Singletary carried the ball a whopping 261 times for 1,348 yards, finding the end zone 22 times. The year before that was even better—a jaw-dropping 301 carries for 1,920 yards and 32 scores. Singletary also topped 1,000 yards on the ground back in 2016.
Benjamin Solak of the Draft Network came away from film study of Singletary intrigued by his short-area quickness—but concerned about his size and top-end speed.
“Singletary is a mighty tricky eval — one of the toughest I’ve hit this season,” he wrote. “You’d like to project him to a zone style of play at the next level for his foot speed, change of direction, and vision — but his lack of elite burst and NFL level long speed limit his role here. Again, he’s strong on power concepts — but his lack of elite burst and speed again give me a nagging doubt as to his NFL transition.”
“If Singletary had been more involved in the passing game for the Owls,” Solak continued, “then I’d feel better about him as a change-of-pace scatback in Year 1 — and if you’re comfortable projecting that role for him by working him out in the passing game, then go for it. But as it stands, Singletary just seems to be missing that ideal home run piece to his eval. His testing interests me tremendously.”
Unfortunately, as Mike Kaye pointed out for NJ.com, that testing at the combine did not go well for Singletary. “Well, Singletary’s LeSean McCoy comparisons can take a hike,” Kaye said. “While McCoy has never been known for blazing speed, he is certainly faster than Singletary, who timed out at 4.66 seconds during the 40-yard dash. His 7.32-second 3-scone drill was also disappointing given his reputation as a shifty tailback. Singletary’s game film is impressive, so this performance may not matter all that much.”
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com was in agreement that Singletary’s poor combine workout wasn’t a death knell. “Undersized, three-down back with rare improvisational skill and toughness through contact to squeeze every yard he can from each carry,” Zierlein said. “Singletary was asked to catch it less in 2018, but he’s a tough cover out of the backfield and has the dog in him to step up and deliver a lick in blitz pickup. He ran poorly and did not test well in short-area quickness events at the combine, which could hurt his draft standing, but might not deter him from NFL success as a complementary runner.”
There are those who see more in Singletary than just a complementary back, though. In fact, Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports believes that Singletary could wind up being the biggest steal of the 2019 draft at his position.
“I haven’t settled on an NFL comparison for Singletary,” Trapasso said, “but the strengths of his game remind me of Packers running back Aaron Jones, a super-productive but overlooked ball-carrier from a Group of 5 college who’s been one of the most efficient runners in the NFL (in 2018). Jones was picked in the fifth round of the 2017 Draft, and with a little more juice and balance, I see the Florida Atlantic star being selected somewhere on Day Two or the early stages of Day Three. But like Jones, don’t be surprised when Singletary ultimately outplays his draft position in the NFL.”
Trapasso also went so far as to rank Singletary as the best back in his class—ahead of Jacobs. “Singletary has it all,” he said. “Really. He’s a light-footed, hard-nosed runner with top-level burst and downfield speed. He has upper-level balance when absorbing contact or when he has to make a variety of cuts to get through a running lane. Singletary is electric in space and can be efficient between the tackles.”
That’s a lofty ranking—but one Trapasso’s just about alone in. The general consensus appears to be that Singletary’s a top-five talent in a less-than-stellar class who will be taken some time on Day 2.
And from a fantasy perspective, I have to admit I’m not especially high on him.
There’s a lot to like about Singletary. He crams a lot of hard running into a small package, he’s shiftier on film than his combine numbers indicate, and while he wasn’t used that much in the passing game at FAU when he was, he displayed pretty good passing-game chops.
But I worry about his size (or lack thereof). I worry about his lack of long speed. I worry about over 560 carries the past two years in Boca Raton. And I worry that he “jitterbugs” too much—he has a tendency to make more cuts than you’re going to get away with in the NFL.
It’s certainly possible that in an ideal landing spot Singletary could seize an opportunity and become a featured back and valuable fantasy asset. But to my mind he’s more likely to be drafted as a change-of-pace/committee back.
And that could make him a prime candidate to be overdrafted in fantasy leagues this summer.
A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America who resides in Columbus, Ohio, Gary Davenport has been featured on a number of fantasy websites and in nationally circulated publications, including the USA Today Fantasy Football Preview and the magazines distributed by Fantasy Sports Publications Inc., for whom Gary is both a contributing author and associate editor. Gary is an eight-time FSWA Award finalist and two-time winner who has been a finalist for that organization’s Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award each of the last three years. He won the honor in 2017. Gary also appears regularly on Sirius XM Radio (including live from Radio Row at Super Bowl XLIX) and over-the-air stations across the country. He knows football. Or so he’s heard.
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