BALTIMORE MD - OCTOBER 24: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Buffalo Bills hands off to Fred Jackson #22 against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on October 24 2010 in Baltimore Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Bills 37-34. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
The Bills get the return of Fred Jackson, one of the leading running backs in 2011 when he was healthy, but do they have any other fantasy starters?
The Buffalo Bills were a
hilarious sad tale of two teams last season. The team that opened 5-2 and dropped 20+ points in each of their first seven games with 30+ points four times and then the team that finished 1-8 and dropped fewer than 20 points five times and over 30 just once (aided by three Broncos turnovers.)
The defense was atrocious, allowing the 30th most points, 20th most passing touchdowns and 30th most rushing touchdowns and allowing over 20 points all but three times and over 30 seven times. What to do?
Step one was firing defensive coordinator George Edwards. Step two was hire Dave Wannstedt to take the job. But step three was the most important, because you have to have the right kind of players if you want to run your new 4-3 defense. So they wined, dined and... never mind. They wooed Mario Williams and signed him to the biggest deal for a defensive player in NFL history.
With Williams on one side and Mark Anderson added to the other, Buffalo believes that they can immediately improve to a top-ten defense. The addition of cornerback Stephon Gilmore in the draft is another big part of that. Certainly, this is a defense you can start to buy into. But it's more than that.
The offense has to get better too. Throw out the first seven games (because I said it's okay) and you've got a mediocre-bad offense. Does losing Fred Jackson play a part in that? Sure. But so does Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing it all over the field and without discrimination as to whether you play for his team or the other team. He's going to have to limit turnovers and then maybe, just maybe, the 2012 Bills are a playoff team. But do they have a lot of players for your fantasy team?
2011 Record: 6-10
Dearly Departed: Naaman Roosevelt, Derek Hagan
Prior to signing a $59 million contract extension on Oct. 28th of last year, Fitzpatriick had thrown 66.3% completions, 246 yards a game, 12 TD, 6 INT and a 95.3 QB rating. After the deal: 59.7%, 236 yards a game, 12 TD, 17 INT and a 70.1 QB rating. He completely fell apart after the deal but also reportedly had cracked his ribs against Washington in week seven, just before the Bills lost 8 of 9 games. Excuses or just the truth?
The thing about Fitzpatrick is that he's been in the league for seven years. He had a hot stretch in 2010 as well when he threw 18 TD and 9 INT over an eight game span. This is a good offense for a QB in fantasy but is also prone for some horrible nights unless he's Tom Brady. Seven years later, I'm confident that he's not Tom Brady. I even checked his birth certificate. However, he will throw for 700 yards alone in his games against New England and sure, there are some times to start Fitzpatrick.
2012 Projection: 60% completions, 4,000 yards, 24 TD, 22 INT
Tarvaris Jackson would be an interesting case study if given a start in Buffalo. His arm is strong but in that offense you've got to get the ball out quickly. Jackson just finally threw a pass that he had started to wind up for in week 17 last year.
Don't forget that before his injury, Jackson was an absolute beast last season. He had put up over 110 yards rushing in six of nine games with considerable yards receiving before getting hurt in week ten against the Dolphins. His injury should not be a long-term concern or even a concern right now. He'll get dinged up like any other RB. His age, 31, is also not a concern because he had only been sparingly used until he was 28. This is the same guy in the same offense that just a year ago was perhaps tops at his position in the NFL for fantasy.
2012 Projection: 200 carries, 1,100 yards, 7 TD. 45 catches, 450 yards, 2 TD.
My favorite kind of NFL player is: explosive. They don't always produce at a consistent level, but I've just had a thing for guys like Spiller, Desean Jackson, Dexter McCluster, Percy Harvin, etc. Put the ball in their hands and you never know what's going to happen. Spiller was nowhere to be seen before the Jackson injury however, carrying the ball 21 times in ten games. He eventually got the hang of it when starting though: 446 yards rushing, 187 yards receiving, 5 touchdowns in his six starts.
I don't think that they'll be limiting him to 5 carries or less anymore in relief.
2012 Projection: 100 carries, 500 yards, 5 TD. 40 catches, 500 yards, 3 TD. If Jackson does go down, he's a solid RB2.
Steve. Stevie. Steven. Mr. Johnson? Maybe it's just the name as to why nobody takes notice of this guy. I was at a live draft last year and picked him late after he had 82 catches for 1,073 yards and 10 TD in 2010. Several people had a "who?" look on their face. You put his career in the hands of a flashy guy like Desean Jackson and he's going in the third round.
I have absolutely no reservations about his production. This could be the next Derrick Mason, a guy that just goes out there and gets 1,000 yards every season without anyone taking notice.
2012 Projection: 80 catches, 1,100 yards, 8 TD
Seriously, the Bills have the whitest (named) receiving corps in history. Or at least since 1967.
Nelson is a low-end bench WR option and Jones is waiver-wire watch. As the season opens up it's possible one of these guys starts making grabs, particularly Nelson who had 20 catches in the first three games last year, but you have to play the wait-and-see game.
Rookie T.J. Graham is the wild card who could have some special teams value. You can't not like the athleticism of Brad Smith. You can't like the fantasy value of Smith.
The Chandy-man (sorry) was one of those "ehh. ughhh. should I? noooo. welllllll. arg." pickups last year as a guy who had ONE catch in his career that caught four touchdowns in the first three games. He was basically useless after that unless you miraculously predicted he'd catch two touchdowns in week seven.
Could he grab six or even eight touchdowns this year? Sure. But it's risky.
2012 Projection: 40 catches, 400 yards, 5 TD