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Fantasy Football: Buffalo Bills post-draft outlook

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Will Lee Evans be a quality WR option for fantasy owners this year? (<a href="http://www.nfl.com" target="_blank">NFL.com</a>)
Will Lee Evans be a quality WR option for fantasy owners this year? (NFL.com)

With the post-draft portion of the off-season in full effect, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the fantasy football prospects of the Buffalo Bills' new offensive lineup.  While the Bills shouldn't be considered a top offense, especially one for fantasy purposes, there are a number of individual players that will be fantasy enigmas relevant this upcoming season.  Let's take a quick look at and possible projections for each of the Bills' weapons for the 2009 season.

QUARTERBACK

Quarterback is the main position on offense, the position that comes under the most scrutiny from fans, and probably the one position that determines a successful fantasy football season.  Most leagues only start one quarterback, so it's unlikely the Bills will have a starting QB on most fantasy rosters this year.  In two-QB formats (or ones that requires a strong backup), however, they could get a look.

Trent Edwards: Going into his third season, and second as the full-time starting QB for the Bills, Edwards will have a lot on his shoulders.  He hasn't been anything more than an average player thus far (and hardly fantasy relevant), but with the weapons surrounding him, he could have a very surprising season if all things fall into place like we hope.  As always, he'll be an injury concern, which does limit his fantasy value to an extent.  It's also unknown how Turk Schonert will adjust game plans to fit our offense this year, with not only more weapons in the receiving games, but also a very good running back trio and a re-shuffled offensive line.

Prediction: 14 G, 290/435, 2950 yards, 19 TD, 15 INT, 140 yards rushing, 2 TD.

Ryan Fitzpatrick: Coming off a season in which he started 12 games for the Bengals, Fitzpatrick will be an experienced backup that the Bills and us fans hope won't see the field.  However, the chances of that seem rather slim.  With Edwards' injury history suggesting predicting he'll miss some time, it's quite likely we'll see Fitzpatrick at some point.  He's not as accurate as Edwards, nor does he have the yards per attempt numbers that we saw from Trent last season.  He is a very solid running QB, so bonus points there!

Prediction: 5 G, 65 completions, 110 attempts, 650 yards, 5 TD, 6 INT, 100 yards rushing, 0 TD.

Running backs, wideouts, tight ends, kickers and the defense after the jump!

RUNNING BACK

Running back is probably the most secure and unquestioned position on the team.  With three talented, proven NFL runners, the Bills have plenty of options, but how will the touches be distributed?  Will Marshawn Lynch serve the full three games he was suspended for and what happens in his absence?  Despite the stability we seem to have at the position, it's still not known how the work will be distributed.

Marshawn Lynch: Lynch is the most talented of the bunch, but he's also the one who won't be available all season.  Facing that three game suspension to start the year, his fantasy outlook remains a question mark.  With a talented duo behind him, there's no way Lynch sees the first- or second-round status he saw in fantasy drafts of the past year.  I have a hard time figuring out how much work he'll get, but I'd imagine he'll be the workhorse once he returns.  I think he'll probably end up a third round pick in leagues if his suspension isn't reduced, and could creep into the mid-second round if it is reduced.

Prediction: 14 G (after suspension is reduced), 240 carries, 1000 yards rushing, 7 TD, 35 catches, 260 yards receiving, 1 TD.

Fred Jackson: Despite the longing for a new contract, Jackson will enter the season as a dependable backup with a ton of value for the Bills' offense.  His fantasy value isn't quite as high though.  He will likely see a good portion of the work in Lynch's absence with about 10 touches a game once he returns.  Freddie will remain a dependable runner with great receiving skills, but his fantasy value depends on Lynch's presence in the lineup.  If Lynch misses more than the three games he was suspended for, Jackson will be a quality No. 2 RB for fantasy teams once again.  He's a good mid-to-late round RB option.

Prediction: 16 G, 150 carries, 630 yards rushing, 4 TD, 35 catches, 280 yards receiving, 0 TD.

Dominic Rhodes: Rhodes was one of the best backup runners in the league last season filling in for an injury-riddled and ineffective Joseph Addai for long stretches.  He has proven to be a dependable, well-rounded RB in the NFL.  It remains to be seen how he will be used, especially once Lynch returns from his suspension.  My best guess is he'll see sporadic duty at that time - probably around 4-6 touches a game.  If Lynch or Jackson are injured, Rhodes becomes a good pickup for fantasy owners.  Until then, I don't think he's worth owning except in really deep leagues.

Prediction: 16 G, 80 carries, 300 yards rushing, 1 TD, 20 catches, 180 yards receiving, 0 TD.

*****

WIDE RECEIVER

Like the RB position, the Bills' WR group is deep and talented.  However, it has not been a big play unit and may not be once again if Edwards doesn't take the next step towards becoming a bigger-play QB.  The starting duo of Lee Evans and Terrell Owens is one of the top pairs in the league; it'll be up to Trent to keep both (mostly T.O.) happy this season.  The fantasy value of the rest of the unit is very low, so don't expect to see them owned in too many leagues.

Lee Evans: Is Evans going to be lost in all the hoopla of the T.O. addition and the Lynch suspension come draft day?  He very well could be, which means he could present a good bargain for owners.  I don't think he'll ever be the consistent threat that fantasy owners look for in their starting receivers, but he's always the big play threat that teases the best of us.  With T.O. occupying certain double teams often this season, Evans could have his most consistent season to date if he is single covered this year.  I think we'll be seeing Trent taking more shots deep to him, so the big play could be a bigger part of his game again this season.  I'd rank him as a third WR for most fantasy teams if his TD totals can rebound.

Prediction: 16 G, 60 catches, 900 yards, 6 TD.

Terrell Owens: T.O. was easily the Bills' biggest addition this off-season and one of the most surprising signings the NFL has seen in some time.  His numbers have been declining ever so slightly the past few years, but he remains one of the biggest threats at the WR position in the league.  Playing on a one-year deal, T.O. will be as motivated as ever, which could translate to a monster fantasy season.  Of course, this depends on Edwards being able to get him the ball and keep him happy all season.  Good luck, kid.  T.O. should remain a borderline No. 1 WR for most fantasy teams.

Prediction: 16 G, 68 catches, 1000 yards, 8 TD.

Josh Reed: Reed is a better real-life WR than he is a fantasy one, and it isn't even close.  The ultimate chain mover, Reed isn't much of a fantasy option unless you play in a league where you start 4 or 5 receivers.  As the No. 2 WR last year, Reed had 56 catches in 13 games.  Extrapolating that out for 16 games, he would have pulled in roughly 70 balls last year.  Not too shabby.  But he averaged under 11 yards per catch and found paydirt just one time.  That's why his value is so low as a fantasy receiver.  In a PPR league, Reed's value is slightly higher, but he should remain on your league's waiver wire barring injury to one of our starters.

Prediction: 16 G, 50 catches, 520 yards, 1 TD

Steve Johnson: Everybody's favorite seventh rounder from a year ago, Johnson saw increased playing time as the season progressed.  He looked good out there, but wasn't very productive.  I don't expect to see much of an increase in his production this year, and it's hard to imagine he'll see much work outside of four- and five-WR sets.  He could be a guy that dresses for every game because of his potential as a starting punt gunner, but his offensive production will likely have to wait another year until T.O. moves on.  His size does make him a red zone option, however.

Prediction: 16 G, 18 catches, 200 yards, 2 TD.

James Hardy: One of last year's draft disappointments, Hardy will have a tough time cracking the lineup this year for extended playing time.  And that's before we talk about his injury.  He'll be working all summer on rehabbing and strengthening his knee, which will limit his time with Trent and the offense.  He could fall behind Johnson on the depth chart and see even less time than expected.  He also could continue a fast recovery and become the red zone threat we all envisioned him as.  Like Johnson, I think he'll have to wait another year before seeing his production increase.  I also think he'll see his fair share of 'DNP' this year, with Johnson and Roscoe Parrish's special teams ability potentially taking precedent to him. If that happens, don't call him a bust, just call him a casualty to the numbers game for this year.  Season three is when he needs to make his presence felt, for sure.

Prediction: 10 G, 14 catches, 160 yards, 1 TD.

Roscoe Parrish: If he's still with the team, don't expect Roscoe to put up any numbers of significance on offense.  His major value will remain in the punting game, where he'll continue to be one of the most dangerous return men in the league.  He just won't have any sort of fantasy value.  Sorry Roscoe.

Prediction: 16 G, 13 catches, 170 yards, 1 TD, 2 punt return TD.

*****

TIGHT END

The TE position of the Buffalo Bills has been fantasy irrelevant for as long as fantasy football has been played.  I'm not sure we'll see a big difference this year, despite the addition of a very intriguing receiving option in Shawn Nelson.  Expect a few TD's, a decent number of catches and only average yardage production out of this bunch.  It'll still be a better unit than in years' past, though.

Derek Fine: Fine will enter the year as the Bills' starting TE after showing promising once he was healthy last year.  He wasn't much of a receiving option, but does have the skills to have a productive season.  I just don't know how many chances he'll get in the passing game.

Prediction: 16 G, 28 catches, 300 yards, 2 TD.

Shawn Nelson: Nelson has by far the most upside of our tight ends, but it may be tough for the rookie to make the transition from Conference USA to the NFL too quickly.  I expect there to be bumps in the road, but flashes of brilliance out of Nelson.  Watch for some big plays out of the kid, but also stretches where he disappears.  He's another guy where big things should be expected a year from now.

Prediction: 16 G, 25 catches, 300 yards, 2 TD.

Derek Schouman: Bah, Schouman is nothing special and probably isn't even a lock to make the team.  I don't see him as much of an option in the passing game, nor do I expect to see him get a ton of playing time once Nelson is ready.

Prediction: 16 G, 10 catches, 85 yards, 0 TD.

I'm guessing my predicted receiving totals are likely too generous and don't quite synch up with my predictions for the quarterbacks, but I also don't expect all these guys to be healthy for a full season.  Assuming we'll see some missed games from the receivers, the numbers could be bumped down a little bit. 

*****

I know many of you think I'm crazy for some of these predictions, but that's OK.  I'd love to hear from you guys and what you see for the season coming up, fantasy-wise.  Just remember, only one of us is the two-time defending Buffalo Rumblings Fantasy Football champ... and it's not you!