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Offseason Lowdown

Bills Fantasy Preview

by Evan Silva
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Bills Offensive Profile With Tyrod Taylor

2015-2016 Pass Attempts Rank: 31st, 32nd
2015-2016 Rush Attempts Rank: 2nd, 2nd
2015-2016 Total Offensive Plays Rank: 20th, 18th
2015-2016 Yards Per Play Rank: 8th, 15th
Unaccounted for Targets from 2016 (Rank): 209 (6th)
Unaccounted for Carries from 2016 (Rank): 131 (9th)

Projected Starting Lineup

QB: Tyrod Taylor
RB: LeSean McCoy
WR: Sammy Watkins
WR: Zay Jones
WR: Andre Holmes
TE: Charles Clay
LT: Cordy Glenn
LG: Richie Incognito
C: Eric Wood
RG: John Miller
RT: Jordan Mills

Passing Game Outlook

Weekly volatility has rendered it a rocky road, but Tyrod Taylor has finished each of his two years in Buffalo top ten in per-game fantasy scoring while quarterbacking offenses that ranked 12th (2015) and 10th (2016) in the NFL in points. Taylor frequently frustrates due to his inconsistent field reading, out-of-structure playmaker mentality, and tendency to take unnecessary sacks, but his end-of-year results are tough to quibble with in both fantasy and reality. Among quarterbacks, Taylor has finished top two in rushing yards and top four in rushing TDs in each of his two seasons as a starter. It is important to note that Taylor has averaged 26.4 more passing yards and 0.6 more passing touchdowns per game with Sammy Watkins in the lineup -- a nearly five-point differential in fantasy scoring. As a best-ball league “stack” this year, I think drafting Taylor and Watkins on the same team is a high-upside (and, of course, high-risk) approach with league-winning potential if Watkins finally encounters better injury fortune. At ADPs of QB18 (MFL10s) and QB19 (FF Calculator), Taylor is once again a no-brainer late-round quarterback value.

Sammy Watkins battled a slew of injuries his first three seasons in the league, none more troublesome than “stress fractures” in Watkins’ left foot he had surgically repaired in April of 2016. Watkins had a setback early last season and was never the same, managing career lows in yards per game (53.8) and touchdowns (2) in what amounted to a lost year. Watkins had the foot re-repaired on January 20, then had his fifth-year option declined by the Bills. Watkins enters his contract season having missed 11 of Buffalo’s last 29 games. At the same time, he has posted a 69/1,162/16.8/8 receiving line over his last 16 appearances, numbers that would have made Watkins last year’s WR13 in PPR formats and the WR9 in non-PPR. Drafting Watkins is not for the faint of heart, but his ceiling is sky high as the clear-cut go-to wideout in a passing game missing the NFL’s sixth-most targets from 2016. At ADPs of WR16 (MFL10s) and WR22 (FF Calculator), I find myself willing to gamble on Watkins anywhere in the third round.

With Robert Woods gone to L.A., Bills complementary receiver roles are up for grabs with rookie Zay Jones battling ex-Raider Andre Holmes and ex-Panther Corey Brown for Nos. 2 and 3 wideout snaps. Buffalo gave up a third-round pick to trade up for Jones at No. 37 overall after he set a single-season NCAA record for receptions (158) his final year at East Carolina, then recorded 94th-percentile SPARQ results with 4.45 speed at 6-foot-2, 201. A plus-sized interior receiver with standout production and athleticism profiles, Jones projects as a Jordan Matthews type with better hands. Jones’ minicamp play was reportedly spotty, however, and his ceiling barring another Watkins injury is a role-playing secondary pass catcher on a run-first team making a huge competition leap coming out of Conference USA. Holmes has long intrigued based on raw size (6’4/210) and speed (4.45), but he topped out as a special teamer and package-specific rotational receiver in Oakland. Brown has the lowest ceiling of the group. He played 80% of his snaps in the slot with Carolina last year. The Bills’ failed pursuit of Jeremy Maclin and July flirtation with Anquan Boldin suggest they aren’t satisfied with their receiver corps entering Week 1.

The Bills also flirted with free agent Gary Barnidge following the draft, before coach Sean McDermott openly admitted the team is “concerned with Charles Clay’s knee situation.” Although Clay has missed only 6-of-48 games over the past three seasons, he has battled chronic knee problems since August of 2014, persistently missing or being “limited” in practices and having the knee repeatedly drained. In 2015, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported doctors were worried about Clay’s NFL “longevity.” In two years with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback, Clay has posted per-game PPR finishes of TE18 (2015) and TE17 (2016). While obviously capable of outscoring his TE27 (MFL10s) ADP, Clay’s low floor-ceiling combination renders him one of this year’s least desirable late-round tight ends.

Running Game Outlook

LeSean McCoy reestablished himself as a top-five NFL back in his second year with Buffalo, averaging a career-high 5.41 yards per carry and scoring the second most touchdowns of his career (14) despite losing nine TDs to sometimes goal-line vulture Mike Gillislee. Next Gen Stats charted McCoy with the NFL’s third-highest YPC average (5.48) against eight-man boxes, while Pro Football Focus credited the Bills’ offensive line with an NFL-best 2.88 yards created before contact per rushing attempt. With Gillislee gone to Foxboro, McCoy’s grip on full-time bellcow work is as secure as it’s ever been. Under new OC Rick Dennison, the Bills will implement an outside-zone running game and stay committed to running voluminously, a notion supported by their four-year, $8.4 million investment into ex-Falcons FB Patrick DiMarco, who earned PFF’s Nos. 1 and 3 run-blocking grades among fullbacks the past two years. Buffalo returns all five offensive line starters and traded up for power-blocking RT Dion Dawkins in the second round. McCoy also benefits from Tyrod’s dual threat, which creates additional running room. Deservedly, McCoy currently holds an ADP of RB4 behind David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell, and Ezekiel Elliott.

Jonathan Williams is the favorite for No. 2 running back duties following Gillislee’s departure. A 2016 fifth-round pick out of Arkansas, Williams stands 5-foot-11, 220 with adequate speed (4.59-4.63) and plus agility for his size, posting an impressive 6.97 three-cone time at the Razorbacks’ Pro Day. Under ex-coach Rex Ryan, the Bills ran the ball enough that 2015 and 2016 No. 2 backs Karlos Williams and Gillislee both finished as top-45 PPR scorers. This year’s Bills face the NFL’s fifth-softest running back strength of schedule based on 2016 fantasy points allowed. Assuming he holds off 31-year-old FB/RB Mike Tolbert and roster fillers Joe Banyard and Cedric O’Neal, Williams stands a chance at accruing RB4 standalone value and could become a legitimate RB2 if Shady goes down.

2017 Vegas Win Total

Having fired GM Doug Whaley and given Sean McDermott rare power for a rookie coach, the Bills’ organization has embraced a transitional phase in which they figure to do more 2017 evaluating than winning, beginning with year-to-year quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Buffalo’s Win Total is 6.0 with a lean (-130) toward the over. Last year’s Bills eked out a 7-9 finish, underachieving relative to their 8.5-8.7 Pythagorean Win Expectation. Working against this year’s club is a brutal schedule comprised of the NFC South and AFC West, Bengals (away), and Colts (home). Rotoworld SOS analyst Warren Sharp identified Buffalo has having the NFL's third toughest 2017 slate. The Bills have an underrated offense, but their defense was gashed by running games all last year and will field makeshift linebacker and secondary corps this season. While I do not believe the Bills have one of the NFL’s worst rosters, I do think they’ll have a tough time avoiding finishing with one of the NFL’s worst records. I’m taking the under on 6.0.

Evan Silva
Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .