Buffalo Bills - 2014 Preseason #FF Preview
There is a long list of things I never thought I would utter. “Mr. Bieber, can I have your autograph”; “That’s it, there’s just TOO MUCH cowbell!” ; and finally, “What time are the London Bills playing?”. In the world of fantasy, it is easy to lose sight of reality, what is really important. Sometimes a city means more to a team than an address, a simple stadium location. Sometimes, an athlete can mean more to a town than just a poster. And sometimes, a player can be just the kind of guy that can unit a whole community. Jim Kelly, who is battling his second fight with mouth cancer, is just that kind of guy. Kelly reminds us to keep things in perspective. At a time when it is easy to be turned off by some of the antics of supposed role models, Kelly is the real deal in Buffalo. He spoke about keeping the Bills in Buffalo as well as the support he has received from the community. Keep fighting the good fight Jim.
We love you.
The new gunslinger in town is EJ Manuel. Although his rookie campaign showed some inconsistent passing, it also showed some raw talent. He played in 10 games last year. He completed 58.8% of his passes. He threw 11 TDs and 9 Interceptions. All in all, his passer rating was 77.7. That does not inspire confidence. But, keep in mind he was a rookie, with an offensive line that ranked near the bottom for pass blocking (29th). Manuel says he feels 100% healthy going into the 2014 season after struggling to stay on the field last year. His goal is to play smarter. A definite sleeper pick at the quarter back position, Manuel could be one of the next big running QBs. Not only that, Buffalo is brimming with just the kind of young talent that can boost an inexperienced quarterback. Another thing going for this young scrambler is the competition. Last year, Buffalo’s strength of schedule for the pass was 16th. Buffalo comes in with the 2nd easiest pass schedule this year. There O-line will need all the help it can get as only three other teams gave up more sacks than the Bills last year. Buffalo spent 3 of their 7 draft picks on offensive lineman in order to beef up pass protection. Not only will the new faces on the line help to improve Manuel’s performance in his second year, he has the legs to extend the play. There are a lot of factors in Manuel’s chance for fantasy success. Not only does he have a cherry of a passing schedule, he has dynamic trio in the backfield, and an incredibly talented group of receivers.
Arguably the most gifted athlete in the draft, Sammy Watkins is indeed a freak. The Bills traded up for the chance to land him at the number four spot. Any time an organization makes moves to land a player, you know they will give him every opportunity to shine. Watkins put up some impressive numbers his last year at Clemson. He gained 1,464 receiving yards in 2013 on 101 catches. He went for over 90 yards in 9 different games. He scored 12 receiving TDs. What is amazing is where he caught the ball. 45% of his receptions were grabbed behind the line of scrimmage on screen plays. He then went on to average an amazing 9.7 YAC (yards after the catch). Perhaps the most explosive guy in space from this year’s draft, Watkins is a gifted route artisan with the ability to run a number of different patterns with precision. Watkins could be one of the most talented rookies in this year’s class. For more about this year’s rookies, check out Pyro’s “3 Hours of Nothing but Rookies” Podcast.
Watkins joins a young, talented receiving core that boasts the 4th best schedule for the position. Two rookies from last year hope to make strides entering their sophomore seasons. Marquise Goodwin, who should backup to Watkins, snagged 17 balls for 283 yards last year. The slot receiver for the Bills is Robert Woods. He had 40 receptions, 587 yards, and 3 TDs in 2013. Finally, Mike Williams will be looking to rebound from Tampa Bay. Williams burst onto the NFL scene in 2010 with 964 yards and 11 TDs. He followed that up two years later with 996 yards and 9 TDs. Last year saw him hobbled by injuries. Williams is looking to rebuild his young career in Buffalo. The Bills will have a chance to put up some numbers in the passing game as long as Manuel takes strides this season. While I like Watkins in dynasty leagues, these receivers could end up cannibalizing one another. Keep your eyes on the preseason to see wear the chemistry develops.
One of last year’s biggest disappointments was undoubtedly C.J. Spiller. Without question, this 2013 first round pick was closer to Clark Kent than he was Superman. Spiller fell far short of expectations, leaving owners leery. Interestingly enough, his counterpart, Fred Jackson, was almost a mirror image in the stat. department. In fact, Spiller finished as the number 15 back when it came to total rushing yards (933), right behind him at 16, you guessed it, Fred Jackson (890). Spiller averaged 4.6 per tote, juxtaposed with Jackson who earned 4.3. So why did Spiller owners come away cursing draft day where as Jackson owners had that minty fresh feeling all season? Value -that plus the fact Spiller eked out only 2 touch downs and Jackson 9. I am betting Spiller is more of the player we saw in 2012 where he ran for 1,244 yards and averaged 6.0 yards per carry. The Bills have the 10th best run schedule this coming year. Spiller can score from anywhere on the field. Although Jackson still has value as a 10th round pick in a 12 team league, keep in mind he is 33 years old. Not only that, the Bills acquired Bryce Brown who ran for 341 yards on 75 carries for the Eagles last year. Brown’s presence means less action for Jackson. Both Spiller and Jackson are in the final year of their contracts. Don’t get me wrong, Jackson still has value for a 10th rounder. Last year, the old man averaged the 4th best fantasy points per game average for running backs. In 2014 however, Jackson may not receive as many opportunities he did last year. Because Spiller should only touch the ball 15 times a game if they want to maximize his performance, someone else needs to pick up the slack. That someone else could very well be Bryce Brown, who has a lot less tread on the tires. I would rather be the guy who gets off the sinking ship too early as opposed to too late with Jackson. This could be the year gamble on Spiller, especially if you can get him in the 5th round. Here is an interesting stat. Spiller was approximately the 27th best fantasy running back last year when it came to points. He only scored 2 TDs. Pyro looked at percentages from last year. We asked - where do guys build their points? Touch downs are entirely too hard to predict or rely on. Yardage is a better indicator of a player’s value. Out of all of C.J. Spiller’s total fantasy points from last year, 75.7% came from yards on the ground. That was the fourth highest percentage for running backs. Keep in mind, last year was a down year for him. If he had just three more touchdowns, he would have been in the top 20 for fantasy running back scoring. In comparison, only 47.9% of Fred Jackson’s fantasy value was tied to rushing yards. Do you want to bet on Jackson getting into the end zone 9 times? I want guys that amass points through yardage. Looking at the last five games of the 2013 season, Spiller gained 420 yards rushing (5th best for that span), whereas Jackson only amassed 305. Again, yardage is a better indicator of consistency and performance. You want to draft guys that are not touch down dependant, simply because it is too hard to repeat scoring from year to year. We have crunched the numbers, you can find the “Touchdown Dependency Chart” on this year’s draft kit.
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The Bills have two tight ends to discuss. Last year, Scott Chandler had 53 receptions for 655 yards and 2 TDs. He only averaged 4.72 fantasy points per game. Chandler is a name that only comes into play in 16 team leagues. However, with such depth at the position, chances are you will be able to find a better option. Tony Moeaki is a guy who will never see his full potential due to injury. He is on the bubble to make the team, but should be the backup this year.
Several members of last year’s 7th best fantasy defense will not be on the roster for opening day. Marcell Dareus, defensive tackle, will most likely be suspended for the start of the 2014 season for two incidents: one involves synthetic marijuana, and the other drag racing. Mmmm, when have you ever told a pothead to slow down because they were moving was moving too fast? Anyway, Kiko Alonso, a rising force to be reckoned with, is out for the season with a torn ACL. Finally, pro bowl strong safety, Jairus Byrd, was lost to free agency. However, they have a strong depth of line-backers and a healthy mix of veterans and young talent. The Bills will be changing their scheme under new defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz. The Lions, under the power of the Schwartz, was a bit of a rudder-less ship last year. Rick Moranis as Dark Helmet could have controlled the locker room better than old Schwartz.
The Lions, despite having a wealth of young talent on the defensive side of the ball, finished 26th in fantasy last year with Schwartz at the helm. He has some big shoes to fill in Buffalo now that Mike Pettine is running things in Cleveland. The Bills D should still be a top five talent. The bonus here is value. You will be likely to get them with the last pick in your draft as some of the fantasy douche canoe sites do not even have them rated in their top 12. The Bills will undoubtedly get a boost from their divisional opponents. They play the Dolphins and the Jets twice. Statistically, both offenses were in the bottom 25% for yards per game last year, neither offense averaged 20 points per game. The meager offensive talent the Bills will face should help Schwartz’s D. If that doesn’t work, the devastating taunt of “Our coordinator can beat up your coordinator” will undoubtedly do the trick. We all remember Harbaugh running for the hills after Schwartz came after him with the eye of the tiger.