The Buffalo Bills have been making headlines for mostly terrible reasons as of late. They traded Sammy Watkins under the assumption that the pick up of a healthy Jordan Matthews and the addition of Anquan Boldin comfortably negated the effect of losing the number one wide receiver on their depth chart.
Honestly, they’re probably not too far off on that one. That assumption is about as close to correct as Buffalonians are to drinking maple syrup for three meals a day and worshipping the ground that Mike Myers walks on.
Though neither Matthews nor Boldin poses the big play ability that Watkins does (when healthy) they are both considerably more reliable, and they both fit the new offensive coordinator's system much better than a fragile Sammy Watkins does. However, when the news broke that Jordan Matthews was injured in the first fifteen minutes of his first practice in Buffalo, it sent a shockwave of doubt through the Bills’ organization. Then, out of nowhere, Anquan Boldin announced his plans to retire sighting his passions changing. Just like that the Bills wide receiver depth chart changed faster than it takes said wide receivers to cross the border for a Crispy Crunch and some affordable prescription drugs.
“Ready or not Zay Jones, here I come.” - NFL
Currently, Zay Jones is sitting at an ADP of 158 and is the 55th wide receiver in line. For perspective sake, he’s placed around the likes of John Ross, Ted Ginn Jr, and Cole Beasley who all have questions surrounding their fantasy production (whether usage or talent). Ted Ginn Jr will likely get some decent usage in an offense that likes to spread the ball around, but everyone has seen enough dropped balls from Ginn to know that perhaps that may not be enough.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Cole Beasley who is as talented as they come in the slot. But last season his target share dropped, like a wide open pass to Ted Ginn, whenever Dez Bryant was healthy. John Ross is a raw draft pick with question marks in both the NFL readiness and usage departments. Until recent events, this was where the Zay Jones discussion ultimately led, but with several recent personnel changes and the offseason acquisition of an offensive philosophy that fits his playing style – things have changed.
In college, Jones benefited from a healthy dose of targets that made up for his shortcomings in gaining separation in man coverage. He was targeted a whopping 221 times his senior year and still came away with a 71 percent catch rate, so there really isn’t a question about his hands. If the quarterback puts a catchable ball in the air, Jones is going to figure out a way to come down with it regardless of who is about to hit him.
Right now, Jones is the number one receiver on the Bills roster. Matthews is expected back sooner rather than later, but Jones is getting reps right now with Tyrod Taylor and that’s important. The Bills brought in Rick Dennison from Denver this offseason to fill their vacant Offensive Coordinator position, and Dennison is a proponent of spreading defensive backfields horizontally.
This is great news for Jones because it eliminates the one area of his game that he struggles with: man-to-man coverage. It’s great news for Taylor because it’s a very quarterback friendly offense. It’s great news for whoever forms chemistry with Taylor because it’s a “three-step-drop-back, get the ball out fast to the receiver you feel comfortable with” kind of system. So as it sits Jones is heading into a season as the number one receiver in a scheme that fits him like a glove. It fits him like the glove of the FBS record holder for career catches.
I’ve already given my nod to Tyrod Taylor as being a potential late round target for those looking to get a quarterback when others are looking for kickers. He’s a consistent fantasy quarterback that won’t necessarily air the ball out for a lot of yards, and he likely won’t wow anyone with touchdown totals either thanks to LeSean McCoy. But he has proven over the years to be one of the most consistent fantasy quarterbacks in the league, and the Bills’ new system should help to make him more consistent – not less.
Rick Dennison has a history of providing historically terrible quarterbacks with some of their best statistical seasons. Tyrod Taylor isn’t a terrible quarterback. Last season he was playing a lot from the shotgun, which didn’t help his throwing mechanics, and he was leading an offense that had one of the most explosive rushing attacks in the game. Yet he still ranked above Matt Ryan, Derek Carr, and Kirk Cousins in ESPN’s list of top fantasy quarterbacks.
It seems that the direction of the Bills offense is geared toward playing to the strength of Tyrod’s game (i.e. 3 and 7 step drop backs) and they are building a receiver core to supplement that strength. So for fans wondering why the Bills’ decided to retain Taylor after seeming not so sold on him earlier this year – look no further than Rick Dennison (Taylor’s old QB coach). As far as Jones goes, it looks like there is a lot here that warrants a higher ceiling than an ADP of 158 would suggest. Jordan Matthews is being drafted around thirteen spots ahead of Jones.
That’s closer than Buffalonians are to playing fantasy hockey and speaking French. That’s pretty darn close, eh? I say he is worth that price at the least, and in PPR leagues he might be one of the biggest sleepers of this year’s draft.
Draft stats and data collected from awesome folks over at fantasypros.com