Offseason Primers: Buffalo Bills
The Bills looked to be headed in the right direction in 2012, until the season started. Jamey Eisenberg sees big changes ahead this offseason and a bigger opportunity (hopefully) for C.J. Spiller.
The Bills entered 2012 with a lot of optimism. They were active in free agency after spending big money on Mario Williams. Their offense looked in place with Ryan Fitzpatrick signed to a new contract and a strong backfield with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. And plenty of prognosticators picked them to finish second in the AFC East behind New England and challenge for a playoff spot.
Then came Week 1.
|C.J. Spiller||250 (207 car., 43 rec.)||26.2%|
|Fred Jackson||149 (115 car., 34 rec.)||15.6%|
|Steve Johnson||79 rec.||8.2%|
|Tashard Choice||51 (47 car., 4 rec.)||5.3%|
|Scott Chandler||43 rec.||4.5%|
Buffalo got hammered by the Jets 48-28 and everything went downhill from there. Jackson was injured again, Fitzpatrick struggled and Williams never lived up to his contract. The Bills limped to a 6-10 finish, and coach Chan Gailey was fired at the end of the season.
Doug Marrone was hired as the new coach, and again there's some optimism in Buffalo. The Fitzpatrick experiment is over now that he was released, and Kevin Kolb was signed to help turn things around. Spiller is expected to replace Jackson and become a star, and the Bills also need to find another receiver to play opposite Steve Johnson.
Fantasy owners might find just two starting options on the Bills in Spiller and Johnson, with Jackson as a key reserve if he's back in Buffalo. Scott Chandler is coming off a torn ACL suffered in Week 16, and T.J. Graham has some sleeper appeal in deep leagues. But the Bills don't have a lot of offensive firepower coming into the season.
C.J. Spiller -- Breakout
Can we really call Spiller a breakout after he was the No. 7 running back in 2012? Yes. Spiller had just 207 carries and 43 catches last year with only nine starts. He's scheduled for a bigger role, especially if Jackson is released. But Spiller averaged 6.0 yards per carry and 10.7 yards per catch. If he gets close to 300 total touches -- all six running backs in front of him in Fantasy points (Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, Arian Foster, Marshawn Lynch, Alfred Morris and Ray Rice) all had more than 300 touches -- then he could be the No. 1 Fantasy running back in 2013. Rice, by comparison, had the fewest carries of the guys in the Top 6 with 257. Give Spiller those 50 carries at his rushing average, and he comes away with 300 more yards, which equals 30 more Fantasy points. That would bump him from 211 points to 241 and put him ahead of Morris at No. 5. As you can see, he's not that far away, so we hope he gets the increased workload. Spiller is worth drafting as early as No. 4 overall behind Peterson, Foster and Lynch.
Ryan Fitzpatrick -- Player on the move
The Bills decided to part ways with Fitzpatrick and start fresh at quarterback. Kolb or Tarvaris Jackson could earn the starting job, but the Bills are expected to also draft a new quarterback this season. Fitzpatrick signed with Tennessee, and he will be the No. 2 quarterback to Jake Locker. It's almost a guarnantee that Fitzpatrick's days as being Fantasy relevant are over, even with Locker's injury history. Fitzpatrick also proved to be an inconsistent Fantasy quarterback at best with consecutive years with 20-plus turnovers. Maybe he would improve with an upgraded receiving corps, but we don't expect to see Fitzpatrick on many Fantasy rosters going forward.
Steve Johnson -- Coaching impact
|C.J. Spiller||4-10 overall|
|Fred Jackson||70-80 overall|
|Steve Johnson||68-75 overall|
Johnson has been an underrated Fantasy receiver the past three years. Over that span he has at least 76 catches, 1,004 yards and six touchdowns in each year. He's done all that despite a commitment to the running game and poor quarterback play. We'll see what happens with Kolb or Jackson, but the new coaching staff in Buffalo is already talking about moving Johnson around. He'll see time in the slot, which could help him increase his catch total. Johnson definitely has the potential to be around 90 catches, 1,200 yards receiving and double digits in touchdowns, but the Bills need to focus on him more. Until that happens, even with the move to the slot, he remains a No. 3 Fantasy receiver with upside and should be drafted with a mid-round pick.
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