Usually where there’s smoke there’s fire. The Bills might want to get out the fire extinguisher.
Buffalo’s biggest offseason prize, LeSean McCoy, remains a question mark for September 13’s season opener against the Colts. It’s a juicy fantasy matchup for the six-year veteran, which is probably why McCoy carries such a high price tag on FanDuel ($8,400). Only two playoff teams, the Packers and the Bengals, allowed more rushing yards per game than Indianapolis last season. McCoy himself posted one of his better fantasy weeks against them, pounding the rock 19 times for 79 yards and a touchdown in a Week 2 win.
McCoy is still nursing a hamstring injury that he suffered early on in camp. For weeks, the Bills have been calling it a “strain” when in reality McCoy has been dealing with a small tear. It’s a bad omen for a player many fantasy writers have already written off as a bust. Our own Evan Silva included McCoy on his Shy-Away Top 40 a few weeks back. McCoy’s position on that list? Numero uno.
The knock on Shady is that he’s playing under offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who in many ways is Chip Kelly’s polar opposite. While McCoy’s previous coach operated his offense at a sprinter’s clip, Roman’s system moves about as quickly as dial-up Internet. Fewer plays mean fewer carries and that all leads to fewer fantasy points. Doesn’t sound like a winning formula, does it?
I’m actually higher on McCoy than most. He’s still just 27 and Rex Ryan has hinted more than a few times that Buffalo’s scheme will be heavily skewed toward the run. McCoy lost out on targets last year with Darren Sproles replacing him on third downs. That third-down threat doesn’t exist in Buffalo, which is why I think McCoy will finish closer to the 425 receiving yards he averaged in his first five years than the 155 he put together last season.
If McCoy isn’t ready to go by Week 1, look for rookie Karlos Williams to share the rushing load with Bryce Brown and Boobie Dixon. Of the three, Brown has stood out the most during Buffalo’s preseason slate with six carries for 52 yards (8.7 yards per carry) and one touchdown. He’s priced at $5200 on FanDuel while the going rate for Dixon is $4600. Williams is the cheapest of the bunch at $4500. With Fred Jackson gone and McCoy at less than 100 percent, Brown, Dixon and Williams should all survive Buffalo’s final round of cuts on Saturday.
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Cruz Still Sidelined
Since his breakout sophomore season in 2011, Victor Cruz has taken a long, painful path back to reality. He’s hit every rung on the way down: injuries, inconsistency, competition from teammates. Name an obstacle and Cruz has probably encountered it.
Cruz hasn’t fallen off completely. He still sports a 112 ADP on Yahoo, which puts him roughly in the same range as Torrey Smith and Pierre Garcon. But that’s likely to change with Cruz doubtful for next week’s opener against the Cowboys. Cruz hasn’t suited up for the Giants since tearing his patellar tendon last October.
Sometimes when athletes come off major injuries, they have a tendency to overcompensate. That could have been what triggered Cruz’s sore calf, which has kept him out most of camp. Until the inflammation goes away, Cruz’s return date will be a moving target.
Even if Cruz returns to full health sometime in the near future, is he worth the trouble? Fantasy owners can draw their own conclusions but the stats say yes. Before his injury last year, Cruz was on pace for 67 catches and 1,027 yards. That volume is enough to land Cruz in the WR3/flex discussion.
Odell Beckham’s role has changed significantly since Cruz last played but I don’t think that hurts his value as much as people think. Only eight teams attempted more passes than the Giants last year. Even if the G-Men spread it out among many wide receivers, there should be enough work for Cruz and Beckham to both have successful fantasy seasons.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that Cruz’s body is just too fragile to survive a 16-game schedule. The nagging calf injury isn’t a good sign.
It’s hard to believe Rueben Randle hasn’t generated more fantasy interest with Cruz injured. His ADP on FantasyPros, an aggregate of all the major fantasy outlets, is a dismal 231, which means some sites didn’t bother to rank him. That’s a lower ADP than Wes Welker, who isn’t even employed right now.
This was a player who was knocking on the door of 1,000 yards last season. Randle wasn’t much of a red zone presence (three touchdowns in 2014) but at age 24, he still has time to improve in that area. I put Randle around where Evan has him at No. 117 overall and 49th among wide receivers. There’s upside here and for the price of a late-round flyer, you could do a lot worse than Randle.
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Quick Hits: Now that Tyrod Taylor has been named the starting quarterback, the Bills could be looking to dump Matt Cassel. Cutting him loose would save Buffalo $4.75 million against the cap … Rex Ryan said that Buffalo will be his final coaching stop. “I’m not going anywhere else,” said Ryan … Panthers backup QB Derek Anderson agreed to a two-year extension on Wednesday. He posted a 105.2 passer rating in six games last season … Texans owner Bob McNair thinks J.J. Watt would have handled Deflategate differently than Tom Brady. “If it was J.J. Watt, I think he would have been cooperative, and it wouldn't be a question,” said McNair. “I don't think J.J. would destroy his cellphone.” Shots fired … Speaking of Brady, he made his first public comments in months Wednesday at a team charity event. When asked about his post-Super Bowl exploits, Brady responded sarcastically, “Yeah, it’s been such an enjoyable offseason” … Packers second-year receiver Jeff Janis hasn’t won over Aaron Rodgers yet. “Jeff will have some great days and some days where mentally he's making too many mistakes," said Rodgers … Free agent NT Phil Taylor visited the Steelers on Wednesday but Pittsburgh chose not to sign him because of injury concerns. The former first-round pick was let go by Cleveland earlier this week … Larry Foote officially announced his retirement on Wednesday. He’ll serve as the Cardinals’ inside linebacker coach this season … Lance Briggs also hung up his cleats on Wednesday. The former Bears linebacker will cover his old team for CSN Chicago … Free agent cornerback Tim Jennings met with the Buccaneers on Wednesday but left without a deal. The Bears released Jennings on Sunday … Chuck Pagano could be on the hot seat. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport called this a “make-or-break year” for the Colts head coach … Colts DT Arthur Jones will need surgery to repair torn ankle ligaments and could miss the entire 2015 campaign. He sat out seven games last year with a high-ankle sprain … Saints CB Keenan Lewis will miss 4-to-6 weeks after undergoing hip surgery on Tuesday. Lewis finished 98th out of 108 qualified cornerbacks in PFF’s 2014 rankings … Former Redskins and Steelers safety and current ESPN analyst Ryan Clark called Trent Richardson the “worst running back of all time.” Harsh, man … Pierre Garcon seems to have forgotten that Robert Griffin III is still his teammate. “Robert has been a great player himself, already. So he’ll definitely be a great player on any team that he goes to and help them out” … Giants kicker Josh Brown bruised his knee making a tackle in last week’s preseason game and won’t be available Thursday against the Patriots. The Giants re-signed Chris Boswell to take his place. Boswell was cut on August 16 … If you go to a Bengals game this year, you can buy a mac and cheese pretzel hot dog. Yup … You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Vince Wilfork in overalls. This is—well awesome might not be the right word, but it’s definitely something.