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Team Previews

Bills Fantasy Preview

by Nick Mensio
Updated On: July 24, 2020, 5:33 pm ET

2019 Stats (Rank)

Total Offense: 5,283 (24th)
Offensive Touchdowns: 34 (24th)
Offensive Plays: 1,018 (16th)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 553 (23rd)
Rush Attempts: 465 (6th)
Unaccounted for Targets: 35 (32nd)
Unaccounted for Carries: 169 (6th)

 

Coaching Staff

Entering his fourth season at the helm, Sean McDermott has guided the Bills to the playoffs in two of his three seasons but has lost in the Wild Card round both times. Those are still the only two playoff appearances for the Bills this century. McDermott is coming off a strong 10-6 campaign and clocked in as Rotoworld’s Patrick Daugherty’s No. 11 coach in his annual offseason head-coach rankings. Defense is his calling card. Plain and simple. Buffalo fielded one of the truly elite units on that side of the ball in 2019. On offense, OC Brian Daboll is headed into his third year after replacing Rick Dennison. A disciple of Bill Belichick and Nick Saban, Daboll calls a more balanced attack that leans heavily on the running game. Last year, Buffalo was 26th in pass-play percentage a year after coming in at 29th in Daboll’s first season. Buffalo was 11th in situation-neutral pace last season, however, so it’s not like Daboll is calling a medieval-style offense. He just knows the strengths of his team. Josh Allen is unlikely to ever be a true air-it-out 40 times per game quarterback who can carry a team with his arm.

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Passing Game

QB: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley, Jake Fromm
WR: Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, Robert Foster
WR: John Brown, Isaiah Hodgins, Duke Williams
WR: Cole Beasley, Isaiah McKenzie
TE: Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft

 

Entering year three, this is an extremely pivotal season for Josh Allen. The Bills have put all of their chips in Allen’s basket for 2020, and coach Sean McDermott has already admitted that Buffalo can only really go as far as Allen can take it. “Most times, how the quarterback goes is how the team goes,” McDermott said. “Josh is very aware of that in his responsibilities.” To say it’s a make-or-break year for Allen might be too strong, but at the very least he has to get the Bills to the playoffs again and possibly win a postseason game to not face competition or worse in 2021. Allen’s 2019 marked an improvement on his 2018 rookie year, increasing his completion rate, touchdown rate, and QB rating while simultaneously lowering his interception total. He also rushed for nine more touchdowns after scoring eight times on the ground as a rookie. Only Lamar Jackson ran the ball more times among quarterbacks than Allen’s 109 attempts. In terms of fantasy, Allen had a run of spiked weeks coupled with crippling lows as a true boom-or-bust QB1, finishing as the overall QB6 at season’s end. From a talent perspective, this is the best Bills team we’ve seen in years following the trade for Diggs. Allen has all he needs to succeed, but it will be up to him. He’s never going to complete a high percentage of his throws, but 30-plus combined touchdowns through the air and on the ground is very achievable. Allen is an elite best-ball proposition, but he’s a very shaky week-to-week fantasy QB1 who is being drafted as a top-eight quarterback. Allen owners are going to need a strong QB2 plan.

Acquired from the Vikings in March in a blockbuster deal that saw the Bills give up four picks, including the 22nd overall selection in April, Stefon Diggs gives Allen a true No. 1 receiver and one of the elite route-runners in the NFL. Despite seeing 55 fewer targets than he did the year before in the same amount of games, Diggs still managed to post the most receiving yards of his career (1,130) on 39 fewer catches. His 17.9 yards per catch obliterated his previous career high of 13.8 that he set as a rookie. Diggs will turn 27 this season, so he’s very much in the prime of his career. While he should pace the Bills in targets, he actually goes to an even more crowded situation than he had in Minnesota where it was really just him and Adam Thielen along with Dalvin Cook out of the backfield. In Buffalo, Diggs has competition for targets in John Brown, Cole Beasley, Devin Singletary, and even Dawson Knox. Brown led the Bills in targets per game last season with 7.7, and the Bills were 26th in pass-play percentage, operating as a true run-based offense. Diggs is going to have his big games, but consistency might be a problem with Allen’s erratic play and the nature of the Bills’ offense. Being drafted as the overall WR18 in half-PPR right now, that might be a bit too rich for my tastes. He’s set to square off with Stephon Gilmore twice a year in the AFC East and will also draw Byron Jones/Xavien Howard another two times in divisional games with the Dolphins.

Signed away from the Ravens as an afterthought, Brown paced the Bills in targets a year ago with 115 and set new career bests in catches (72) and yards (1,060) while scoring six touchdowns as the overall WR22 in half-PPR points per game. The Diggs acquisition represents a nightmare situation for Brown’s fantasy owners, however, as he’s a virtual lock to see fewer targets after leading the Bills in target share last year. He slides back to WR4 territory as a matchup-based streamer as long as everyone is healthy. Beasley is in a similar situation as Brown. He set career highs in targets (106) and touchdowns (6) a season ago while catching 67 balls for 778 yards on 7.1 targets per contest. Diggs’ presence may not affect Beasley’s underneath and short-area targets as much as Brown’s downfield looks, but another big mouth to feed can’t be spun as a positive for Beasley. After finishing as the overall WR38 in half-PPR points per game last season, Beasley is a bottom-barrel PPR-specific WR5/6 until further notice.

As for the depth wideouts in Buffalo, fourth-rounder Gabriel Davis is expected to replace Robert Foster as the backup outside threat. Both Foster and Duke Williams are believed to be on the outside looking in at roster spots after the selections of Davis and Isaiah Hodgins in April’s draft. Williams actually led the Bills with 10 targets in the playoff loss to the Texans after emerging as the No. 3 receiver late in the season. Both Foster and Williams should draw interest from other teams should the Bills let them hit the market. Foster was downright lethal in the back half of 2018, but he fell out of favor in Buffalo for whatever reason. He has speed for days.

At tight end, 2019 third-rounder Dawson Knox is dripping with athleticism, but he’s in a tough spot for production. He was outscored by guys like Foster Moreau, Jordan Akins, and Dan Arnold last year while seeing just 3.3 targets per game. Knox would do well to push that number to five targets per contest in 2020, and that would even be a surprise considering how crowded the receiver corps is in what is already a run-heavy offense. Knox is barely even knocking on the door as a TE2 headed into the season. Tyler Kroft is even further from fantasy relevance. 

 

Running Game

RB: Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, T.J. Yeldon
OL (L-R): Dion Dawkins, Quinton Spain, Mitch Morse, Daryl Williams, Cody Ford

 

Selected one pick after David Montgomery in last year’s draft, there was no question who had the better rookie year. Singletary suffered an early-season hamstring injury but took over lead-back duties in Week 9 and averaged 19 touches per game over the final eight weeks. He was fifth in the NFL in yards per carry, averaging 5.1 yards per tote, and was a tackle-shedding machine. Just two rushing touchdowns held Singletary back in the fantasy department where he was the RB27 in half-PPR points per game from Week 9 forward. The presence of Josh Allen as the Bills’ de facto goal-line back is going to be the biggest thorn in Singletary’s side from a fantasy perspective. The Bills do seem committed to him as their 1A back, though, as GM Brandon Beane has said they think Singletary can be the “workload guy.” Singletary saw just three carries inside the 10-yard line as a rookie, whereas Allen got 11 and Frank Gore 18. The addition of Moss is basically a Gore replacement but with more upside. The expectation is Singletary will remain the lead back, but his light pass-game usage coupled with a shaky role near the end zone sours Singletary’s vibe a bit. He should be viewed as a safe RB2/FLEX, but it may prove difficult for Singletary to reach his ceiling. He’ll have to score some long touchdowns.

A direct replacement for ageless wonder Frank Gore, Zack Moss gives the Bills another jolt of youth in the backfield. A three-time 1,000-yard back in college at Utah, Moss stands 5’9/223 as a between-the-tackles prospect. Gore averaged 8-10 carries per game down the stretch last season as the Bills’ preferred goal-line and short-yardage back, and that should be the role Moss fills initially after Gore paced the team with 18 carries inside the 10-yard line. Moss needs to be on fantasy radars in the later rounds of drafts. Should Singletary go down, Moss would be a weekly starter as a top-25 fantasy back in this run-heavy offense. Of course, injuries were Moss’ bugaboo in college as well, and he even pulled a hamstring at the Combine in February.

On the offensive line, Spain was somewhat surprisingly re-signed to a three-year deal in March, and the Bills could conceivably return their starting five should newcomer Daryl Williams not beat out Jon Feliciano at right guard. Williams’ addition gives the coaches options, however, as he can play any tackle or guard spot. And when healthy, Williams was one of the better players at his position in his Panthers days. Buffalo’s line was 15th in adjusted line yards created in the ground game last season and 23rd in pass protection. They need better play out of Ford.

 

Win Total

After posting a 10-6 mark last season, the Bills’ win total sits at nine over at BetOnline. That number likely came down following the Patriots’ signing of Cam Newton last weekend. Widely viewed as the favorites in the AFC East following the departure of Tom Brady, both the Bills and Patriots’ totals are at nine with the addition of Newton to the division. Buffalo gets the luxury of facing the Jets twice a year, but the other division rivals in Miami look vastly improved on paper. This division won’t be a cake walk. Buffalo also hosts the Rams, Chiefs, Chargers, Seahawks, and Steelers in 2020 with road dates in Denver, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Tennessee, and Arizona. Warren Sharp has the Bills’ schedule as middle of the pack in terms of difficulty, leaning a bit more to the difficult side of the fence. A lot of things are going to have to go right for the Bills to hit double-digit wins, and it starts with Josh Allen taking another step forward.

Nick Mensio

Nick Mensio has been covering the NFL for Rotoworld since 2012. He can be found on Twitter at @NickMensio.