2016 fantasy football depth charts: Buffalo Bills
The Bills' offense made some strides in 2015. Jeff Ratcliffe says there could be more to come from some of the top weapons.
2016 fantasy football depth charts: Buffalo Bills
Buffalo had an up and down season in Rex Ryan’s first year at the helm. The Bills now have the Ryan tandem with Rex’s brother Rob now in as the assistant head coach/defense, a position Rex created for his brother.
In Ryan’s first year, Buffalo ran the league’s most run-heavy offense, calling a pass play just 49.9 percent of the time. Buffalo ranked 28th in passing yards per game, and yet QB Tyrod Taylor still managed to finish a respectable 15th among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring. And he did so despite missing two games. Over the 14 games he played, Taylor actually ranked fifth in fantasy scoring. His dual-threat ability was a big part of his success. Taylor was one of only three quarterbacks to top 100 rushing attempts, and his 566 yards on the ground ranked third at the position. With E.J. Manuel and rookie Cardale Jones also on the depth chart, Taylor is locked into the starting job and offers sneaky value as a player with QB1 upside who you can get in the end of fantasy drafts.
There are few receivers in the league as electric as Buffalo’s No. 1, Sammy Watkins. The league leader among receivers in fantasy points per opportunity, Watkins ranked fourth in average depth of target. He also scored on eight of his 34 targets 20-plus yards down field. Watkins’ ADP has slipped since news broke that he had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot. While the Bills remain vague about his return, a recent video of Watkins running suggests his recovery is moving along well. Watkins has top-10 fantasy upside, and he’ll likely be available at a nice discount in fantasy drafts this year.
Buffalo Bills projected 2016 offense with 2015 grades:
Beyond Watkins, the Bills are very thin at wide receiver. Robert Woods figures to play the No. 2 role with Dez Lewis, Greg Salas and Leonard Hankerson duking it out for the No. 3 job. Woods finished 62nd in fantasy scoring last season, and isn’t likely to perform much better this year. Despite having some athletic upside and an ability to stretch the field, Woods just simply doesn’t see enough targets to be a consistent fantasy asset. The same will likely be the case for whoever emerges as the third receiver. Lewis has an intriguing size/speed profile, and has reportedly taken a big step forward in the offseason. He’s the most interesting of the three, and has some deep dynasty appeal.
Charles Clay remains the Bills’ top tight end. He’s the seventh-highest-paid player at the position, but graded out as our No. 17 tight end and finished 19th in fantasy scoring. To be fair, the Bills’ run-heavy approach isn’t particularly fantasy friendly. That won’t change this season, and neither will Clay’s low fantasy ceiling. At best, he’s a mid-range TE2.
While the Bills posted very modest passing numbers, they led the league in rushing yards per game (152.0) and tied with the Panthers and Chiefs for the league high in rushing touchdowns with 19. LeSean McCoy enters his age-28 season still the top dog in the backfield and figures to see a bulk of the touches. Last year, McCoy saw just under 20 touches per game, and posted RB1 production from Weeks 6 to 15, ranking fifth over that span. McCoy is an every-down workhorse who could still be hanging around in the third round of fantasy drafts. He’s a solid value in that range as a player with very real top-10 potential.
Entering the offseason, Karlos Williams seemed the clear backup to McCoy, following a strong rookie campaign where he finished 31st among running backs in fantasy scoring despite getting just 104 touches. But then he showed up to offseason practices 20-25 pounds overweight and proceed to get suspended for four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Williams’ once-bright future is now clouded by a concerning offseason.
[With the worries about his injury, how late can you wait on Sammy Watkins? What sort of draft value is Tyrod Taylor providing? Check out our PFF Draft Master tool and try a mock draft, complete with offensive line grades, full projections and all the PFF data.]
The initial thought was Williams’ weight issue would open the door for rookie Jonathan Williams, an exciting back who put up some impressive numbers at Arkansas. He reportedly looked good in OTAs, and seemed to be on a good path. Well, Jonathan Williams was recently arrested for driving while intoxicated in Arkansas. Talk about bad timing. While this turn of events doesn’t necessarily preclude the rookie Williams from grabbing No. 2 duties while the second-year Williams is suspended, it’s far from ideal.
The name flying under the radar in all of this mess is Mike Gillislee. He’s a sneaky bet to be McCoy’s handcuff, which is a very important position for fantasy purposes. Should McCoy get hurt, his handcuff would be an instant RB2-plus fantasy option. This is certainly a situation to closely monitor throughout training camp.
Much to the chagrin of many IDP players, the Bills defense will be classified as a 3-4 this season, which kicks Jerry Hughes back to an outside linebacker designation and saps almost all of his fantasy value. Buffalo does have a potentially exciting fantasy option in rookie Reggie Ragland out of Alabama. However, Ragland will only be a viable IDP option if he can manage to stay on the field in passing situations. Arguably the best IDP option on Rex Ryan’s defensive is SS Corey Graham. The converted slot corner posted a tackles per opportunity rate of 14.5 percent and finished sixth among defensive backs in balanced IDP scoring. He’s locked and loaded as a DB1.
Jeff Ratcliffe | Director of Fantasy
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is one of the most accurate rankers in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.