The Buffalo Bills were not a team that had much fantasy football relevance for a good part of the 2018 NFL season. Through the season’s first ten weeks, things were bleak. The team scored 96 points over that span, a pathetic number that included a shutout and scores of 3, 5, 6, and 9. The Bills improved greatly beginning in Week 10, scoring 40 points twice and over 20 points twice more.
With that overall improvement came an increase in fantasy football use for certain Buffalo players. While some old stalwarts showed signs of decline, some young players rose to success in their place. Here are the best of the best for the Bills in terms of fantasy football performance from 2018.
QB Josh Allen
The rookie quarterback essentially lived a “tale of two seasons” throughout his first campaign. Before his injury, he was a fantasy football afterthought, scoring 67.78 fantasy points over the course of four whole games and two partial ones (the season opener against the Baltimore Ravens and the game in which he was injured against the Houston Texans). He scored 27.74 of those points in one game, Buffalo’s 27-6 win over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3.
After Allen recovered from his elbow injury, however, he came back with a vengeance. Allen scored 152.28 total fantasy points over his final six games, which more than doubled his season average prior to suffering the injury—he averaged 11.3 fantasy points per game in his first six games, and he averaged 25.38 points per game in his final six. While his rookie season was by no means a perfect one, he did show himself to be a bona fide QB1 in the season’s final month and a half.
When comparing him to the other rookie quarterbacks, Allen’s fantasy season is especially impressive. Baker Mayfield led the rookies in fantasy scoring, as the Cleveland Browns quarterback compiled 254.1 fantasy points in 14 games. Allen was a close second, scoring a total of 220.06 fantasy points in only 12 games, two of which were partial contests. Mayfield finished 16th overall among quarterbacks; Allen was 21st. The next-highest scorer among the rookie quarterbacks was Sam Darnold of the New York Jets, who only managed 183.4 fantasy points over 13 games.
In terms of average scoring per game, however, Allen was the leading rookie quarterback, barely edging out Mayfield (18.34 points per game compared to 18.15 points per game). Allen’s mark was good for 17th among quarterbacks, while Mayfield came in at 20th overall.
By any objective measure, Allen was able to put together a great finish to his rookie season, and by using his arm (10 touchdown passes, 2,074 yards) and, more importantly for fantasy purposes, his legs (631 yards rushing, 8 touchdowns), he earned a spot on the fantasy radar for 2019.
WR Zay Jones
Speaking of players who positioned themselves well for the future, Buffalo’s second-year wide receiver had a much better season in 2018 than he did in 2017. It would have been hard to have been worse than Jones was as a rookie, as he only managed to catch 27 passes (on 74 targets for an abysmal 36.5% catch rate) for 316 yards and 2 touchdowns. This year, Jones improved across the board, and while his catch rate still left room for growth, his overall numbers were far better.
Jones was targeted 102 times, the top number on the roster by a long shot (Kelvin Benjamin, who only played in 12 games and wasn’t even on the roster in the season’s final month, was second with 62 targets). Jones made 56 catches (54.9% catch rate) for 652 yards and 7 touchdowns. All of those numbers led the Bills in 2018. While none of those statistics are eye-popping, they do show great improvement, and evidence of chemistry between Jones and Allen is encouraging.
Jones scored a total of 137.2 fantasy points this season, and over the team’s final five games, he mixed in some great performances (multi-touchdown games against the Miami Dolphins and a garbage-time explosion against the New England Patriots) with some duds (a combined 4 catches for 33 yards in games against the New York Jets and Detroit Lions). Bills receivers aren’t usually highly-sought fantasy football commodities, and Jones definitely shouldn’t be one heading into next year. However, if the Bills add another outside receiver in the off-season, thereby allowing Jones to do damage in the slot once again, he could be a sneaky-good pickup as a possession-type with upside next year.
WR Robert Foster
Speaking of players with upside, Buffalo’s undrafted rookie gem went from an afterthought on his college offense to a legitimate weapon in his first year in the NFL. Foster gained more yards this season than he did in his entire four-year career with the Alabama Crimson Tide. He had 541 yards receiving in 13 games this season, while he had 389 yards receiving in 35 games in college. He even equaled his touchdown production, scoring three times, while only falling short of his college reception total (35) by eight passes (he caught 27 this year). Among all players with at least 25 catches, Foster had the best average per reception in the league, with 20 yards per catch this season.
Often, players who are dependent on the deep ball are risky pickups in fantasy football, but Foster seems to be a great developmental find on the part of the Bills. As the year progressed, his route running improved, and he did much more than just catch bombs. Foster had three 100-yard receiving games, and mixed another game of 94 yards in there for good measure. While he only scored 85.6 fantasy points on the season, the majority of his work came in the year’s second half. Through the first nine weeks of the season, Foster had 2 catches for 30 yards. From Week 10 onward, he totaled 25 receptions for 511 yards and 3 touchdowns. Heading into 2019, Foster could be a great pickup late in your draft.
RB LeSean McCoy
It can’t all be sunshine and rainbows, right? The veteran running back, whose average draft position in Yahoo! leagues was 17th overall, was one of the biggest busts of the fantasy football year. If you used a second-round pick on McCoy, chances are good that you were very disappointed this season.
The veteran running back set career lows in essentially all major categories. He managed 514 rushing yards, 3 touchdowns, and a 3.2 yards-per-carry average. He only caught 34 passes for 228 yards, and he failed to score a receiving touchdown for the first time since 2014. McCoy’s 110.2 fantasy points placed him 38th among running backs, right behind Doug Martin and right ahead of Leonard Fournette—who only played in eight games.
While the Bills seem intent on bringing McCoy back next season, hoping for a bounce-back year with an offensive line that the team will certainly look to upgrade, it’s hard to suggest drafting McCoy in fantasy football and expecting the same kind of recovery. McCoy turns 31 in July, and he has right around 2,800 touches on his career. This kind of slowdown isn’t exactly uncommon for running backs of his age and usage, so it’s hard to see Shady producing at the same level as in years’ past.