Fantasy football draft season is upon us, for better or worse. With networks like ESPN devoting hours to players’ value in the fake game, not the real game, the information overload can become a bit much by the time the actual season begins. All too often, these “major” publications focus on non-Bills players. Here, I’ll share my opinion on which Bills are worth drafting, which are worth rostering, and which players fans should remove their rose-colored glasses for before drafting.
A note to start: I won’t pretend I’m an expert, nor will I try to say that I’m the best fantasy player ever. At best, any of us who are somewhat knowledgeable about the game understand that fantasy football is an exercise in frustration and luck. However, solid preparation and thought can give a player an advantage when going into a draft, and that same preparation will allow players to remain active in waiver-wire pickups as the season progresses. Another note: I hate drafting Buffalo players, as I feel like anything that can go wrong does go wrong after I draft them (I feel like there’s a Law that applies here). So I apologize to anyone whose season was ruined by Sammy’s slow start last season, as it was probably all my fault for drafting him. Let me know what you think in the comments below!
All projections and final numbers courtesy of Yahoo! All projections use .5 PPR scoring.
Draft ‘em Early
LeSean McCoy—Last season: 162.7 pts. (13.56/game). Projected: 239.03 (14.94/game)
Bell-cow backs don’t really exist anymore, but Buffalo’s RB1 is as good a bet as any to have a stellar season. Yahoo! projects him to be the third highest scorer in fantasy this year, behind only Ezekiel Elliott and David Johnson. Josh Radwin covered McCoy’s fantasy value in great depth last week, so I’ll be brief, but I’ll say that I’m even more bullish on him than Josh is. I think you could justify grabbing McCoy in the second round for sure, and you might even want to think about grabbing him within the first 18 or so picks. Yahoo! projects him as the seventh highest scoring non-quarterback in the game, so I think a late first-early second round pick isn’t out of the question. Throw in the fact that the Bills are light on proven depth behind McCoy, and this could be a huge year for Shady.
Sammy Watkins—Last season: 188.8 pts. (14.5/game). Projected: 201.47 (12.59/game).
Sammy was the 16th highest scoring receiver last season, and he played the fewest number of games of any receiver in the top 34 scorers at his position. He was only targeted 96 times, but still managed a 60/1047/9 line on the year. His second half was red-hot: 63 of his targets, 38 of catches, 718 of his yards, and 6 of his touchdowns all came between 11/23 against the Patriots and the finale against the Jets. Yahoo! projects him as the 15th-best receiver this season, which I think is a little low. I think you can feel good about drafting Sammy in the third round, even ahead of some players projected ahead of him (Allen Robinson, Mike Evans, and Keenan Allen among them). His continued maturation, combined with Tyrod Taylor’s continued development, could lead to a phenomenal year for the third-year wideout.
Draft ‘em, but Don’t Reach
Tyrod Taylor— Last Season: 277.1 pts. (19.79/game). Projected: 277.55 (17.35/game).
I know, I know—he’s Buffalo’s franchise guy, and it’s the most important position in football. How could you reach in drafting him? My philosophy about fantasy football quarterbacks is that they’re a dime a dozen, unless you’re picking one of the elite guys (and even last year, picking Luck, Peyton, Brees, or Rodgers early would not have netted great returns). Consider my two quarterbacks that I had on my Yahoo! squad last season. I ended the year with Tyrod and Carson Palmer on my roster. I drafted Palmer in the 15th round, and acquired Taylor via waivers after I dropped my seventh-round QB...Ryan Tannehill (I had blocked that out of my mind, and I am actually quite ashamed to admit that I did that). Palmer ended up fourth in scoring, at 320.24 points (20.02/game over 16 games). Taylor ended the season sixteenth in scoring. Tannehill? He finished seventeenth, at 269.82 (16.86/game). The difference between the fourth scorer and the sixteenth scorer was next to nothing. I think Taylor is a guy who is going to outperform his projections—Yahoo! has him projected behind Blake Bortles, Derek Carr, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brock Osweiler, Philip Rivers, and Andy Dalton—but I don’t think you should draft a quarterback too early. I think the seventh or eighth round should be a good spot to look to grab Taylor (if you’re in a league full of Bills fans, you may want to give him a go a round earlier, but I wouldn’t reach at the QB position. Patience!).
Charles Clay—Last Season: 96.3 pts. (7.4/game). Projected: 124.32 (7.77/game).
Another position I’m not big on drafting early is tight end. There just isn’t enough separation between the second-tier group and guys like Clay. Unless you have a shot at a Gronk, Greg Olsen, or Jordan Reed, there really isn’t much of a reason to draft a tight end before the eighth round. If you miss on those guys, you might as well wait until you’ve filled up on running backs and receivers. A healthy Clay could be the third option in Buffalo’s passing attack, but I wouldn’t go for him until the tenth round. Yahoo! projects his season to be fairly close to his career norms (56/666/5), putting him firmly in that “best of the rest” category at the position.
Dan Carpenter— Last Season: 116 pts. (7.25/game). Projected: 125.06 (7.82/game).
Don’t draft kickers early. Just don’t do it. Carpenter is worth having, and he is a strong bet to have a big season after last year’s head-scratching adventure in PAT-botching, but don’t pick him earlier than the end of the draft. If your league rewards kickers for distance, he is especially strong, as he has made 37 of 46 kicks over 40 yards since joining the Bills, including 14 of 19 from 50-plus. I also am pretty sure that most fantasy leagues haven’t caught up with the NFL yet, as they don’t take points away for missed PATs, so Carpenter’s garish 34-40 in that regard from last season would not have harmed him at all fantasy-wise (None of mine take away for missed PATs yet, at least...I’m sure there are some out there that do).
Bills D/ST— Last Season: 98 pts. (6.13/game). Projected: 100.65 (6.29/game).
Don’t draft defenses early. Just don’t do it. Yahoo! projects Buffalo to be fantasy football’s 27th-best defense, which seems far too low and far too likely to incite a profanity-laced tirade from one or both Ryans. Buffalo’s stop unit could be had at the tail end of any draft (round 14 or 15), and could end up a steal. If the performance of the first team defense continues to be as stellar as it has been in the preseason, this could be a fantastic bounce-back year for the squad. However, preseason results are often thought to be as valuable as those things to which I compared opinions, so take those results with a large grain of salt.
Consider, but I Wouldn’t Draft
Robert Woods—Last Season: 94.7 pts. (6.76/game). Projected: 99.66 pts. (6.23/game)
Woody is a solid football player. He’s a capable and willing blocker, an okay possession receiver, and a good player out of the slot in three-wide formations. He is not a great outside receiver, however, and he is arguably the fourth passing option on a run-first team. If things go well for the Bills, Tyrod Taylor will not throw the ball a ton. In six losses with Taylor at the helm last season, he averaged 35 attempts per game; in the team’s eight wins, he averaged 21. Overall, Taylor threw the ball 27 times per game. Assuming that Sammy Watkins is the recipient of 11 of those targets, with LeSean McCoy and Charles Clay receiving five each, that leaves 6 targets to be split between Woods and whomever the third receiver is. There just aren’t enough touches to go around to justify drafting Woods.
Quick Hitters and Sleepers
With Karlos Williams looking for work, look for Jonathan Williams to vulture a few touchdowns away from Shady...Mike Gillislee looks primed to be McCoy’s handcuff, and he could be a decent fourth or fifth RB, especially if you draft McCoy...Jeff Hunter wrote a great piece on the wide receiver battle, and it does look like Marquise Goodwin will emerge as the team’s WR3. However, don’t sleep on Greg Salas, who had the “inside” shot at the slot job prior to injuring his hamstring (thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all night...try the veal). Neither guy should garner much fantasy attention early on as anything more than a WR5 or 6...Walt Powell and Reggie Bush look like they’ll share return duties and may also vie for situational roles on offense. I wouldn’t draft either of them, but monitoring them early in the year could make them solid waiver pickups.