Written by Jacob Dreyer, who goes by @jacob9er on the Fantasy Life App and Twitter as well
Buffalo is now the city of brotherly love. But that’s not necessarily a positive.
Bills head coach Rex Ryan hired brother Rob as assistant head coach (in charge of defense). Rob has coached in the NFL as a defensive coordinator since 2004 with stints in Oakland, Cleveland, Dallas and New Orleans.
Defensive efficiency was first measured in 2006. In 10 seasons with this measurement, a Rob Ryan defense ranked in the top 10 only once:
- 2006 Raiders – 9th
- 2007 Raiders – 26th
- 2008 Raiders – 21st
- 2009 Browns – 26th
- 2010 Browns – 25th
- 2011 Cowboys – 17th
- 2012 Cowboys – 29th
- 2013 Saints – 11th
- 2014 Saints – 30th
- 2015 Saints – Last
Can anyone say nepotism?
But offense is what it’s about in Buffalo, anyway…and it’s all about staying healthy.
One of the most polarizing players in fantasy football is Tyrod Taylor. The Buffalo Bills signal caller finished 2015 as QB16, but missed two games and would have finished as QB5 (yes, QB5) if he scored his average (19.3) in both of those games (which is more than possible because those games were vs. Cincinnati and at Jacksonville). Taylor was also a top-10 QB in half his starts.
“T-Mobile” is appealing because of what his nickname suggests; added value on the ground. Taylor rushed eight times or more in half (seven) the games he played last season. He rushed for 41 yards or more in nine games and accounted for four rushing touchdowns.
In addition to the ground game, Taylor loves to throw the deep ball. And Sammy Watkins is back. And LeSean McCoy is back (play action). And Rob Ryan is piloting the defense (playing from behind).
Health is the most important factor for Taylor in 2016. And the problem is that he has to worry not only about his health, but the health of Watkins and McCoy as well. And Taylor also needs to improve on short and intermediate passes, as he ranked second-to-last among starting quarterbacks on passes less than 10 yards downfield.
If the season went according to plan for the Buffalo Bills, Tyrod Taylor is a top-10 QB with a top-five ceiling. But it will not go according to plan.
I tell you that, to tell you this: Tyrod Taylor will finish the 2016 season as a top-16 QB, but will not crack the top 10.
Much like his quarterback, LeSean McCoy missed multiple games (four, to be exact) in 2015 and finished as RB17. If he scored his average (12.2) in each of those games, he would have finished as RB4 with 195.6 points.
That’s right: Devonta Freeman, Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin…McCoy.
McCoy recorded double-digit carries in all 12 games he played in 2015, including 19 or more carries in the five games leading up to his season-ending injury in Week 15. He is a complete back, tallying three or more receptions in half the games he played last season, with 31 receiving yards or more in half the games as well.
And the Bills backfield belongs exclusively to McCoy after the release of Karlos Williams (RB31 in 2015). The development should result in McCoy receiving nearly all of the carries and double-digit rushing touchdowns for only the second time in his career (2011).
While the injury concern is real, McCoy has played 15 or 16 regular season games in five of his seven NFL seasons. In those seasons, he finished all but his rookie year with more than 1,000 rushing yards, topping out at 1,607 in 2013.
McCoy is a RB1 in all formats with top-five potential.
He’s back. Just when you thought it might be over for Reggie Bush, who registered a mere eight rushing attempts and four receptions in five games with San Francisco last season…he’s back. And he’s the second running back on the official Buffalo Bills depth chart.
Before the release of Karlos Williams, Buffalo signed Bush and promptly listed him as the No. 3 RB. By order of operations, Bush is now the No. 2 RB.
There isn’t much to say about Bush. He is now a journeyman, entering his 11th NFL season with his fifth NFL team. It is not 2006—when Bush hauled in 88 passes in New Orleans—or 2011 or 2013—when Bush recorded 1,000-plus yard seasons in Miami and Detroit. It’s 2016.
Bush will catch some passes and return some kicks. He will make some plays. But he is no more than a bye week fill-in flex in the deepest of PPR leagues.
Other running backs: Mike Gillislee, Jonathan Williams
Sammy Watkins will be the only Buffalo Bills wide receiver discussed in this article. Why? Other Buffalo Bills wide receivers: Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Greg Salas. That’s why.
Watkins is a top-five talent with significant risk, as his short NFL career has been plagued by nagging injuries and poor quarterback play.
In keeping with the trend, Watkins finished 2015 as WR16 (158.8), but missed four games due to injury. If he scored his average (13.2) in each of those games, he would have finished as WR7 with 211.7 points. Watkins has exceptional talent and is a deep threat for a quarterback who wants to throw it deep.
But will he stay on the field?
Watkins missed games last season due to a calf injury and an ankle injury. And he suffered a broken bone in his foot before training camp, but has since taken the field for practice.
And, while it shouldn’t play a significant role in draft day decisions, it should be noted that Watkins saw his number of targets decrease from 128 in 2014 to 95 in 2015.
Watkins is a WR1, but if selected as such, a strong WR2 and WR3 are necessary, as teams may be without their WR1 for multiple games this season.
After spending four seasons with the Miami Dolphins (and beginning his career as an H-back), Charles Clay watched his reception count grow to 69 for 759 yards and six touchdowns in 2013.
He signed with the Bills before the 2015 season and looked the part early with fantasy performances of 14.2 and 11.1 points. But it did not last, as Clay endured a seven-game stretch resulting in 19.8 total points. He also suffered a season-ending back injury in Week 14.
There is a chance he returns to his 2013 form, but the risk outweighs the reward. Clay should be a free agent in all leagues and it should stay that way.
Also a former Miami Dolphin, Dan Carpenter is in his fourth season with the Buffalo Bills. Carpenter is one season removed from a season in which he made 34 field goals and finished fourth among kickers in fantasy football.
Unfortunately, Buffalo is not an offensive juggernaut, nor does the team play its home games in a weatherproof stadium, so he will likely post numbers similar to 2015, in which he was K20 with 23 made field goals.
Greener pastures are available in the land of kickers.
In case you skipped the opening paragraph, Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is anything but an improvement. It was the No. 1 D/ST in 2014, but plummeted to No. 22 in 2015.
While it is unrealistic to expect the defense to get any worse, it is also unrealistic to expect a return to the top…especially with all of the injuries and surprise roster cuts.
Few defenses are automatic starts and this is certainly not one of them. Play the matchups with Bills D/ST, but do occupy a roster spot.
No fantasy relevance here…but Glenn Gronkowski, younger brother of Rob Gronkowski, made the Buffalo Bills 53-man roster as a fullback.
His friends call him “Goose.”