Buffalo Bills 2022 Fantasy Football Preview
2021 Stats (Rank)
Total Offense: 6,493 (5th)
Offensive Touchdowns: 56 (2nd)
Offensive Plays: 1,143 (3rd)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 682 (4th)
Rush Attempts: 461 (13th)
Unaccounted for Carries: 43 (21st)
Over the last few years, the Bills have made a monumental leap to become the powerhouse of the AFC East -- spearheaded by head coach Sean McDermott and quarterback Josh Allen. McDermott, along with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll took a steady approach to develop Buffalo’s offense, becoming more aggressive by the season with Allen’s growth. Things finally came to a head in 2021, as the Bills ranked first in early-down pass rate (64.3%) and fourth in drop back success rate (51.1%). Since taking over as the Bills’ head coach in 2017, McDermott has led Buffalo to a 49-32 record and four postseason appearances in five years. The Bills have won back-to-back division titles but will need to adjust to life without Brian Daboll, who is now with the Giants, this upcoming season. New offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey has been with the Bills since 2019, serving as the team’s quarterback coach, and was almost hired as the team’s OC in 2017. Familiarity with Allen and the Bills’ offense should bode well for Dorsey as he looks to take the Bills to new heights. Anchored by Allen and McDermott, Buffalo spent this offseason adding to an offense that ranked third in points per game last season (28.4). With this explosive offense comes a buffet of fantasy contributors who could power your team to a fantasy championship.
Early-Down Pass Rate
EPA Per Drop Back
Points Per Game
Buffalo’s offense runs through one thing and one thing alone -- the passing game. As shown above, Buffalo has grown more aggressive with its passing attack in each of the last four years. In addition to their early-down pass rate, the Bills ranked ninth in league passing yards (4,284) and had a pass frequency over expected of 5.0%. Allen has been impressive on multiple fronts as one of the more high-volume quarterbacks in league history. He has joined a rare group of quarterbacks since 2000 to total in a single season:
- 100+ rush attempts
- 400+ pass attempts
- 30+ passing touchdowns
Last season, Allen threw for 4,407-36-15, while ranking eighth in EPA per play at 0.169 and was 13th in deep ball completion percent (41.6%). Allen aired the ball out often, totaling 77 deep ball attempts on the year, the third-most of any quarterback. Buffalo’s aggression in the passing game can be found in several ways, including Allen’s 2021 ADOT of 9.0. Between Allen’s historic volume and willingness to push the ball downfield there’s a good chance Allen finishes 2022 as the overall QB1 in points per game -- just as he did last season.
Leading the way at receiver is Stefon Diggs. Diggs was traded to the Bills before the 2020 season in exchange for a bevy of picks and immediately became Allen’s favorite target. During his first season with the team, he posted a receiving line of 127-1535-8 on 166 targets -- leading the league in both receptions and receiving yards. In 2021, despite seeing just two fewer targets, Diggs’ receiving totals dipped to 103-1225-10. While he remained Allen’s No. 1 target, the target quality from Allen to Diggs dropped in 2021. During the 2020 season, Diggs benefitted from an 83% catchable target rate -- the fourth-best in the league (min. 80 targets). Last season, his catchable target rate dropped to 72%, ranking 43rd in the league among 47 qualified receivers. If you’re taking an optimistic approach to his fantasy stock this season, you’re drafting Diggs in hopes of a rebound in target quality. He’s being drafted as a top-five receiver once again in 2022, and deservedly so. Playing in a high-volume attack led by one of the league’s best passers, there’s no reason to think Diggs can’t return value at his high ADP.
Buffalo’s perceived WR2 heading into this season is none other than Gabriel Davis, who cemented himself as a postseason legend when he went for 8-201-4 in the AFC Divisional round loss to Kansas City. Buffalo opted to not re-sign veteran Emmanuel Sanders (42-626-4) and didn’t draft a receiver until the fifth round (Khalil Shakir, 148th overall). Sanders’ 2021 was the most productive season of any WR2 on Buffalo since 2018, but there’s hope Davis can turn the position into a viable fantasy option in 2022. To get this done, he will need either a highly-efficient season or increased volume. Davis was targeted on just 18% of his routes run last season, ranking third on the team behind Diggs and Beasley. Sanders, for what it’s worth, was targeted on 13.4% of his routes. Drafters may be taking Davis close to his ceiling by drafting him as a high-end WR2 or low-end WR3, but there’s reason to believe he could offer more after going for 35-549-6 on a 51% snap share.
If there’s a player who could threaten Davis for target share in 2022, look no further than bona fide slot man Jamison Crowder. The Bills replaced veteran Cole Beasley with Crowder this offseason as he now steps into a role that has been valuable for both real-life and fantasy purposes. In his final season with the Jets, Crowder appeared in 12 games while catching 51 passes for 447 yards and two touchdowns on 71 targets. Buffalo has prioritized its slot receivers heavily over the last three seasons, with Beasley ranking ninth, third and second in slot targets since 2019. Having spent 75.7% of his career snaps in the slot, Crowder will revive that same role with the Bills this season. He has shown an ability to produce as a low-end WR3 from the slot at various points in his career but has spent most of the offseason being drafted outside of the top-50 receivers in PPR leagues. Crowder could turn into a tremendous value for drafters this season.
One of last year’s breakout tight ends, Dawson Knox will look to salvage what’s left on the target tree from Diggs, Davis and Crowder. Last season, Knox totaled 49 receptions for 587 yards and nine touchdowns, finishing as the TE9 in points per game (10.9). If there’s one red flag for Knox heading into 2022 it’s the potential for touchdown regression. His nine touchdowns ranked second among all tight ends in 2021, but Knox ranked 15th in receiving yards, 18th in receptions and 20th in targets. Buffalo utilized Knox heavily in valuable areas of the field, with 26 of his targets (36.6%) coming in the red zone. His 10 end zone targets tied for third-most among tight ends. If the Bills maintain conscious use of Knox in the red zone in 2022, his touchdown production from last year could be sustained. Drafters have been taking Knox as a low-end TE1 this offseason in PPR leagues, which may prove to be his ceiling in 2022.
Backups like wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie and tight end O.J. Howard could find paths to fantasy success in 2022, but those won’t come without injuries. McKenzie was signed to a two-year $8 million contract this offseason after going for 27-254-1 last season. Once thought to be the future slot guy, those dreams were quickly dashed with the signing of Crowder. Howard, a former first-round pick from the 2017 NFL Draft hasn’t gone for more than 146 yards in either of his last two seasons but started his career with 94-1456-12 in his first three years -- averaging a ridiculous 15.5 yards per reception. A torn Achilles brought his 2020 season to an end in Week 4, but he could have something to offer this season now two years removed from recovery.
We’ve already established that Buffalo is one of the most pass-heavy teams in the league, but they still run the ball -- occasionally. Josh Allen rushed for 122-753-6 last season, but when he isn’t taking off for big gains, the rushing duties were left to Devin Singletary. Singletary led the Bills with a rushing line of 188-870-7 and hauled in 40 receptions for 228 yards and another score. For the majority of last season, Singletary’s fantasy production was underwhelming, but he averaged 20.9 points per game in the final four weeks of the season. When given the opportunity, Singletary made the most of his touches. He ranked 22nd in yards after contact per attempt (3.04) and was seventh in missed tackles forced (51). Singletary is the favorite to receive early-down work this season, but Buffalo’s aggressiveness in the passing game could limit his rushing upside as a low-volume, early-down grinder. His receiving upside in 2022 could also take a hit after the Bills drafted James Cook in the second round of this year’s draft.
The Bills reportedly wanted to add a better receiving threat to their running back room this offseason. They agreed to a deal with J.D. McKissic earlier this offseason, only to see Washington undercut them with a late deal of their own which McKissic ultimately accepted. In response to the loss of McKissic, Buffalo went out and drafted pass-catching extraordinaire James Cook out of Georgia with the 63rd overall pick. Viewed by many as the best pass-catching back in the draft, Cook totaled 67 receptions for 730 yards and six touchdowns in four collegiate seasons, while also posting a career rushing line of 230-1503-14. Whether or not the Bills truly want to incorporate running backs in their passing game is to be determined. Since 2018, Buffalo has never ranked higher than 23rd in running back targets per game. While some of this could be attributed to a lack of impressive pass-catchers at running back, Josh Allen’s rushing could also vulture what would be dump-off targets for a less-mobile quarterback. Both Singletary and Cook have been drafted in the top-10 rounds of most fantasy drafts this season, with Cook being the later-drafted of the two. Any upside Cook possesses may be limited with a healthy Singletary ahead of him on the depth chart. However, if Cook is to unlock a significant portion of Buffalo’s target share, there could be a path for the occasional spike week in one of the league’s best offenses.
In regards to Zack Moss and Duke Johnson, the two are likely to be locked in a battle for the team’s third running back role. Moss has lost significant steam since joining the team as a third-round pick in 2020, while Johnson is now a career journeyman set to turn 29 in September. In two seasons with the team, Moss has totaled 208 carries for 826 yards and eight touchdowns. Well-renowned for his abilities after contact during his college days at Utah, Moss has done little to impress as a playmaker thus far. Johnson came on late in 2021 with the Dolphins and capped his season with two 100-yard performances in his final four games. He would go on to finish his year with a rushing line of 71-330-3. Both Moss and Johnson can be left off draft boards barring training camp injuries to Singletary or Cook.
PointsBet Over/Under: 11.5
Buffalo’s projected win total at PointsBet is tied for the most in 2022 with the likes of Tampa Bay and Green Bay. Buffalo went 11-6 last season, which included a Week 1 loss to Pittsburgh and a surprising Week 9 road loss to the Jaguars. Outside of divisional games against three improved teams in the Jets, Dolphins and Patriots, Buffalo also has tilts with both the AFC and NFC North. They also face the Rams and Chiefs on the road. Sharp Football Analysis projects Buffalo as having the 18th-easiest schedule based on 2022 projected win totals. While Josh Allen coupled with an elite defense will always give Buffalo a winning chance, getting the requisite 12 wins needed to hit this over could prove a tall task. Assuming one or two upsets coupled with difficult matchups against the likes of Baltimore, Green Bay, Cincinnati, Kansas City and the Rams, I’ll take the under here.