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If there’s one thing the Buffalo Bills do not shy away from on a consistent basis it’s the almighty fantasy hype machine. Seemingly every year someone on the Bills ends up getting overhyped to the point where someone is pretty much guaranteed to get burned by over drafting.

Whether it’s running back C.J. Spiller, former wide receiver Steve Johnson, or current rookie Sammy Watkins, somehow the Bills always end up with a player fantasy folks just can’t avoid talking up. Luckily for fantasy owners the value attached to Sammy Watkins isn’t nearly as steep as it was for those with the hype burden before them. As for the rest of the roster, it’s a tad more complicated than that.

Buffalo Bills Offseason Changes

Offseason Acquisitions – RB Bryce Brown, WR Mike Williams

No Longer on the Roster – WR Steve Johnson

 

Buffalo Bills Quarterbacks

rotoballer-fantasy-football-advice-ej-manuelThe Buffalo Bills surprised a lot of people when they made E.J. Manuel the first quarterback selected in the 2013 NFL Draft. Manuel had a roller coaster of a rookie season both in terms of his performance and health, missing six games and nearly throwing as many interceptions (9) as touchdowns (11). Sure a good portion of that was performance related but a lot of his lack of production can be attributed to the fact that the Bills only threw the ball 522 times last year, 24th in the NFL. It’s plausible the Bills were simply protecting Manuel, hoping he’d learn to manage the game before taking it over but when you’re evaluating for fantasy you can’t assume plausibility.

For all intents and purposes, we have to operate under the assumption that the Bills do not throw the ball enough to warrant investing in E.J. Manuel as a viable fantasy option. Manuel does have some talent, it’s just that when you compare him to the rest of the league it’s pretty much impossible to justify rostering him in a league that doesn’t start two quarterbacks.

 

Buffalo Bills Wide Receiver

By Mr.schultz (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsWith Steve Johnson shipped out west to warm and toasty San Francisco, (he’s gotta be thrilled he won’t be seeing any snow at home games this year right?) the number one receiver spot is up for grabs in Buffalo. Or rather, the number one receiver spot has been pretty much taken by Sammy Watkins without even stepping onto the field. (Fun Fact: Sammy Watkins was drafted before he could even drink legally in the United States. He was 20 at the time of the draft. What did you accomplish before your 21st birthday?).

If you were to take a look at the rest of the receivers on the roster you’d notice that Watkins has virtually no competition for the top spot. The only true names are Robert Woods and newly acquired Mike Williams. We haven’t seen enough out of Woods to even consider him as anything more than a name. Mike Williams is the polar opposite; we’ve seen all there is to see.

We’ve already established the Bills don’t throw the ball all that often so it’s difficult to envision more than one receiver being fantasy relevant. Some Watkins supporters turn to the fact that he was drafted fourth overall in the NFL draft as a sign the team will throw the ball more, relying on their new weapon right away. That’s a nice theory but how much more could they suddenly throw? Even if they throw the ball 50 more times this year they wouldn’t even crack the top 15 so unless we’re expecting a complete overhaul in offensive philosophy for one player what are we really talking about here?

Now, that’s not to say Watkins’ fantasy value isn’t decent enough to consider. Watkins is currently ranked in the early 30's at wide receiver and that’s actually pretty fair considering the players around him. It’s totally fine to consider a rookie who will certainly be the number one passing option over a guy like Mike Wallace who struggled with his new team last year and has been described as a one trick pony. (Speed is nice and all but having boulders for hands? Not so much.) That places Watkins in the seventh or eighth round, presumably making him your third or fourth receiver. He should be viewed as a rookie lottery ticket worth taking given his value and presumed number one receiver status. Just don’t expect a major breakout year or anything. It’s rare for rookies to become fantasy darlings right from the start, especially at the wide receiver position. Watkins possesses immense talent so it’s only a matter of time before he’s fantasy relevant. Until then, temper your expectations and treat him as someone you’re going to stash on your bench until proven otherwise.

 

Buffalo Bills Running Backs

C.J. Spiller was touted as high as a top three running back last year which I personally thought was ludicrous. Spiller didn’t finish anywhere close to that mark, coming in at 15 in rushing yards with 933. The curious part of that performance is that teammate Fred Jackson was right behind him at 16 with 890 yards. What’s even more eye-opening is that Jackson had a major advantage in the touchdown department, punching it into the end-zone nine times compared to Spiller’s measly two. If you’re about to jump out of your chair and try to tell me it’s because Spiller was hurt or that he didn’t receive as many touches as Jackson, you’d only be a third correct. Despite being banged up for a good portion of the year, Spiller actually only missed one game and trailed Jackson in carries by four. That’s not a substantial amount by any means.

The biggest difference in touches came via receptions with Jackson leading the way with 47 to Spiller’s 33. The theme here is that Spiller and Jackson’s stats are eerily similar which is worrisome, hence Spiller plummeting down the 2014 fantasy rankings. Once touted as high as number three in 2013, Spiller is now all the way at the back end of the top 20.

Let’s face it though, running back as a whole is bad this year. Like, really bad. So when you’re looking around for your number two running back in round four, I can’t blame you if you take Spiller out of sheer panic. Spiller probably will end up as a low end RB2 by year’s end but Fred Jackson isn’t going anywhere either. He’ll still be there to vulture away touches and should actually still be useful for fantasy this year. He’s 33 years old now so it’s not like he’s going to have a career year but he could be a usable flex option in any given week. The Bills also traded for former Eagle Bryce Brown so there is a bit of clutter at the position as well. If anything were to happen to Spiller or Jackson, Brown would immediately become relevant. I could also see Brown challenging the aging Fred Jackson for the number two spot but that’s something that would have to develop over the course of the season, not something to put stock into during your fantasy draft.

 

Buffalo Bills Rookies & Tight Ends

We’ve already discussed Sammy Watkins and he’s the only offensive skill position player the Bills drafted so that settles that. Quick, name the Buffalo Bills starting tight end. Time’s up, it’s Scott Chandler. Nothing to see here, folks.  Carry on.

 

Buffalo Bills in Summary

So the Buffalo Bills fantasy hype train isn’t running at nearly the same speed it has in the past and that’s a good thing. Sammy Watkins could benefit from being moderately ranked. It wouldn’t be accurate to consider a seventh round rookie everyone is aware of as a sleeper but he does possess considerable upside. The running back situation could churn out one, two, or zero usable fantasy options which is simultaneously reassuring and terrifying.

By the way, does anyone remember when Head Coach Doug Marrone was quoted as saying the Bills were going to give C.J. Spiller the ball until he “threw up?” Grand opening, grand closing on that game plan huh?