Fantasy Football Offensive Evaluation: Buffalo Bills

I started getting into football really seriously around the late 90's.  So in my mind, the Bills have always stunk.  Since 2000 their best record was 9-7 in 2004 and that was also the only time they outscored their opponents in the last 10 years.  

They've been devoid of much in the way of fantasy studs, their best fantasy players being guys like Willis McGahee, Travis Henry, Eric Moulds, and Drew Bledsoe.  But for the most part, their stars weren't big stars, and mostly second tier fantasy options.  They've been in the bottom third in the NFL in scoring for the last 6 seasons thanks to never finding a real QB and so far that hasn't changed, depending on how you feel about Ryan Fitzpatrick.  

Will the Bills offense build off of a couple of surprisingly good offensive efforts last season, or continue to go backwards?  Let's take a look at the key players after the jump...

Quarterback

Ryan Fitzpatrick

It's always cool to see a player go from absolute obscurity to national relevance, especially at quarterback.  Fitzpatrick was a 7th round pick by the Rams out of Harvard who managed to climb to the top of the depth chart in Buffalo last season after a disappointing performance by fellow smart school alum, Trent Edwards of Stanford.  I mean, Fitzpatrick doesn't need the NFL to find a good job and if he loses his spot tomorrow, he'll probably be okay.  So should we root for him or root for some guy that could only get a scholarship to a JC and would be bagging groceries tomorrow if he got cut?  Hmmm... maybe it's no longer a cool story!  

Seriously though, Fitzpatrick was shockingly efficient especially in his first four starts last year: 102.2 QB rating, 977 yards, 11 TD and 4 INT.  Of course, the Bills still went 0-4 in those games, but Fitz did what he could.  He didn't do as much over the next 9 games however, completing 55% of his passes with 12 TD and 11 INT.  He's a 2nd tier option in fantasy and shouldn't be counted on as a starter, even in deep 14 team leagues.  But there's more potential there than for most 2nd tier QB's because of what he's already accomplished.

Brad Smith

Smith is just sort of an interesting player, but far away from being a fantasy option... yet.  He can play QB, WR, KR and can get rushing yards and scores as well.  He's the kind of player you don't roster, until he scores 4 TD randomly in a game, and then you pick him up and he never does anything again.

Running Back

Fred Jackson

Jackson fans finally got what they wanted after the Bills got rid of Marshawn Lynch last season and fully handed over the reins to the backup, an undrafted free agent out of Coe College who didn't break into the NFL until he was 26 and got his first shot at starting last year at age 29.  In the first 8 weeks he rushed 83 times for 313 yards and 3.7 YPC and just 12 catches for 28 yards.  In the next 8 games he rushed 139 times for 614 yards, 3 scores, 4.4 YPC and 19 catches for 187 yards and 2 scores.  He's a fringe RB2 for me, but a great RB3.  Jackson is the top RB on the depth chart right now, but will be splitting some carries with..

CJ Spiller

For my money, Spiller is one of the most talented athletes in the NFL.  Whether or not that will ever translate on the field and in fantasy has yet to be seen, but I believe he has Marshall Faulk kind of upside.  He didn't have much of a rookie season, disappointing any fantasy owner that drafted him.  He rushed 74 times for 283 yards, caught 24 balls for 157 yards, and was a good kick and punt returner.  I don't if he'll break out this year or ever, but he's going to be someone I keep an eye on.  If you're being safe, he's a last round kind of draft pick.  If you're feeling frisky, you can take that chance based off of his unique ball skills.

Wide Receiver

Steve Johnson

Johnson was another 7th round draft pick that found success with the Bills last season.  They took him in 2008 out of Kentucky and he did nothing in his first 2 seasons.  Then last year in week 3 against New England he caught 3 balls including 1 for a score.  He caught 3 more and another TD against the Jets the next week.  Then 2 more TD's against Jacksonville the following week.  Then he really legitimized himself against Baltimore, catching 8 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown, as it seemed him and Fitzpatrick were really on the same page.  All told, Johnson had 82 catches for 1073 yards and 10 TD's.  With Lee Evans traded away to the Ravens, Johnsons value is two-fold since he may get more targets, but he'll also get more attention from the defense.  I'm wary of having a one-year wonder in fantasy leagues, and I would target Johnson as a good WR2 and a great WR3.  He may just be a diamond in the rough, or he may just be a cool rock you found on the beach that kind of looks like George Washington.  

Roscoe Parrish

Now 29 years old, Parrish has been a disappointing 2nd round pick out of Miami in 2005.  He had 400 yards last season, and that was a career high.  With Evans gone, he has a shot to get a permanent job as a starter, but he'll have to fight off some young guys.  He's not really draftable for me, even if he starts, until he proves something.

Others:

At this time, I don't think other WRs deserve much mention unless someone has a breakout preseason.  (Certainly nobody did in their first game)  But Naaman Roosevelt, Donald Jones, Craig Davis and David Nelson are fighting for roster position.  If a player like Donald Jones wins a starting job, then it's worth closer examination.

Tight End

David Martin

Ring ring

Bills: Hello?

Me: Yeah, hi, this is Kenny and I write for a fantasy sports website.

Bills: Oh hi, which one?  CBS, Yahoo, ESPN?

Me: No, Faketeams.com on SBN.  You should check it out.

Bills: Faketeams, huh?  Okay.  I'm sure it's a wonderful site and you do a great job.

Me: Gee, thanks.  Will you check it out?

Bills: Well, I'm kind of busy right now.  We got a season coming up and we really want to make the playoffs.

Both of us: hahahahahaha, jk! lol!  

Me: Anyways.  I'm writing about your team and your offense and I'm kind of stumped on the tight end situation.

Bills: The what situation?

Me: You know, who is your starting tight end, who are some other names that I should keep an eye on for fantasy this year at the tight end position.

Bills:

Me: Hello?

Bills: I'm sorry, I'm confused.  What position?

Me: You know, tight end.  He's usually a big tall guy, plays at the end of the o-line, catches balls but also blocks?

Bills: A wide receiver?  

Me: No.

Bills: It's like another tackle?

Me: Kind of, but he catches balls.

Bills: Huh.  Interesting.  Is this a new rule?

Me: No.  Not at all.  

Bills: Well sir, it looks like I've got some research to do.  I knew that we were missing something.

(Sorry David Martin)

 

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