Fantasy Football

2015 Fantasy Football Team Preview: Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills will be entering their 16th season since their last playoff experience. Despite the lengthy delay since the last time they have seen football in January, everything points upwards for the Bills who have made large strides in updating their coaching staff and their roster to bring playoff football to the city of Buffalo.

2014 saw the beginning of that uptick with the drafting of Sammy Watkins to be the explosive wide receiver the organization has been missing since Andre Reed. In fact, to put that into perspective, HOF running back Thurman Thomas has the third most receptions in franchise history; Fred Jackson is fourth on that list. The 2015 offseason saw an even bigger growth pattern with the acquisitions of LeSean McCoy, Percy Harvin and Charles Clay and the revamping of the coaching staff with the addition of Rex Ryan as the new Bills Head Coach.

Quarterback

If history has anything to say about it, very few teams have been successful going into a season without any idea of who their QB is going to be. What may be even worse is that the Bills aren’t just looking at a two-quarterback battle but they have three.

After a tumultuous start to his sophomore season, EJ Manuel, who was benched in the second half of the season, is being given a second chance to show what he’s got. The former Florida State signal caller with a 67% completion rate in his four college seasons has failed to complete even 60% of his NFL pass attempts.

Enter both Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor to bring some competition to the position. Neither QB has had career-blazing numbers, specifically Taylor who has never passed for more than 200 yards in a season, but they are coming in to provide a deep rotational QB competition in the early off-season. Early on Cassel has been given more opportunities with the first-team squad due to his veteran status, but all signs are pointing to Taylor being the favorite after the first week of training camp.

Running Back

One of the deepest running back corps in the National Football League, the Bills set their sights on one of the most dynamic halfbacks in the league when they acquired LeSean McCoy from the Eagles for outstanding young linebacker Kiko Alonso. Despite, rushing for more than 1,300 yards, last year was a down-year for the seven-year halfback.

McCoy joins a backfield that consists of former teammate Bryce Brown, Anthony Dixon, rookie Karlos Williams out of Florida State and long time Bills veteran Fred Jackson. Jackson, the most seasoned of the bunch, will be entering his 8th year as a Bills running back, but is concerned of his role on the new look Bills saying “I don’t know what my role on the team is going to be… they say they want Shady to get 300-plus carries,” If this is true it will be the first time a Buffalo Bill ball carrier rushes 300 or more times since Willis McGahee did it ten years ago with 325 rushing attempts and 1,200 plus yards.

Wide Receivers

The Buffalo Bills haven’t had a 100-reception receiver since 2002 when Eric Moulds did it for 1,292 yards. In 2014 the Bills looked to change that with the controversial trade up to get Watkins from Clemson as the #4 pick in the NFL draft. To many standards Watkins had a bit of a subpar season with only 65 receptions and 982 yards receiving but most of that was due to a less than stellar QB group that even saw Kyle Orton come out of retirement to sling the ball around.

The emergence of Robert Woods as a viable #2 option was a bit of a surprise as the second year receiver pulled in 65 receptions for 699 yards and five touchdowns, all higher than his rookie season. The Bills also signed Percy Harvin in the off-season in hopes that he can help the team bring some more playmaking ability to the squad that hasn’t seen a sure fire superstar in many years. Harvin, who is entering the season on his fourth NFL club, is looking to rewrite the script on an otherwise disappointing career. Harvin’s skill set is going to make it extremely difficult for opposing defenses to key on any one area of the offense and that combination with Watkins on the outside and McCoy in the backfield should make for quite an entertaining season.

Tight End

Scott Chandler has been the #1 tight end for the Bills for many years but has never finished better than the 13th best fantasy tight end in any given season. On the other hand Charles Clay, the newest addition to the Bills tight end group has finished 12th or better in the last two seasons including 7th best at the position in 2013. Clay has reeled in at least 58 receptions and more than 600 yards in each of the last two years under the Dolphins control, both numbers better than Chandlers as a Bill. The Bills new offensive coordinator loves to get tight ends involved in the receiving game by bring several high level tight ends to prominence including Vernon Davis in San Francisco.

Defense

It is very easy to criticize the Bills offense, but it is much harder to do so for their defense which in 2014 ranked 4th in yards allowed, 4th in points against, 1st in sacks and 6th in interceptions. If there is one thing this team knows how to do, it’s play defense. Led by a demonstrative defensive line that has the likes of Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Jerry Hughes, the line dominated opposing quarterbacks recording 40 of the teams 54 sacks.

The addition of Rex Ryan will help the situation as well bringing in a defensive playbook that has been one of the best in the NFL for more than a decade. The secondary isn’t too shabby either with Leodis McKelvin, Da’Norris Searcy and Stephen Gilmore combining for 10 of the teams 19 interceptions. Rookie Ron Darby is also looking impressive in camp taking snaps with the first team defense and making plays to go with his opportunity. With all signs pointing upwards the Bills defense looks to be a shining unit once again for this storied franchise and Rex Ryan is going to take them to even bigger heights.

Player to Watch

Sammy Watkins is entering his second year in the NFL and needs to take major strides to show the fan base that he deserved to be selected as high as he was. The Bills leveraged future picks to jump up as high as they did to select Watkins and they will need him to turn the corner if they plan to be successful offensively. You can only go so long making excuses for the shoddy QB play, so the sophomore receiver will need to show that even with question marks under center that he can beat DBs off the line and make plays.

Key Stat

LeSean McCoy has rushed for at least 270 attempts just three times in his career with the last two seasons being over 300 each. In each of those seasons the former Pittsburgh University running back has gained more than 1,300 yards and had at least nine touchdowns in two of those years. Over the last three years, Buffalo halfbacks have rushed for 4.3 yards per carry. If McCoy can hit both of those numbers you will see another 1,300 yard season which will help whomever is the Bills QB by limiting opportunities for them to commit errors the team can’t afford.

Bonus Stat

Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman is in love with high-powered tight ends. In four seasons as the 49ers OC, Vernon Davis gained 2,435 yards on 186 receptions and 26 touchdowns. These stats combined make Davis the 6th best tight end in that time period which bodes well for Clay who could see the 2nd most targets on the Bills and be a top 12 tight end for the third straight year in a row.

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