Could the Bills actually be fantasy relevant in 2019?

Josh Allen, LeSean McCoy, John Brown and Cole Beasley make the Bills more intriguing in fantasy football

Derek Kramer
August 01, 2019 - 8:46 pm

Jeff Hanisch - USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the 2018 season, the only Buffalo Bills player that was seen as truly relevant in fantasy football was running back LeSean McCoy.

A year ago, it was Nathan Peterman opening the season as the starting quarterback with the incredibly raw Josh Allen waiting in the wings. Adding to that issue, the wide receivers that were on the team were Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones, and don't forget about Charles Clay at tight end.

Just a few games into the 2018 season, the Bills proved to be the worst team for fantasy footballers. Peterman lasted all of 30 minutes, Allen was raw and a rookie to not be trusted to put up points in anything other than a two-quarterback league, while the offensive line was so poor that McCoy became unusable as a starter at running back. Adding to that, the receivers were affected by the quarterback play, but also terrible with point production in their own merit. 

To put it kindly, the Bills were pretty much a cesspool for fantasy football players in the first half of 2018, which made Breakfast with the Bills - Fantasy Style a bit of a challenge during game days. 

While the offense has plenty of question marks entering the 2019 season, there is at least enough intrigue to allow for conversations such as McCoy being a fantasy bargain. Allen improved after returning from injury last season, and Allen, Zay Jones and Robert Foster outright helped several risk-taking fantasy owners win some games and make playoff runs. 

With Allen looking to improve, an entirely different offensive line and additions like John Brown and Cole Beasley, one major fantasy football question has to be asked: Can the Bills finally be relevant in fantasy football?

Let's go position by position on which Bills could be worthy of roster spots. 

 

Quarterback:

Options: Josh Allen 

Allen is... odd. In standard scoring, quarterbacks get nerfed based on getting only four points for passing touchdowns. However, Allen did a lot of damage on the ground last year, so much so that Allen was the best scoring quarterback in ESPN standard scoring leagues between Weeks 12-17 (yes, most teams don't play Week 17, but #numbers). That kind of fantasy production on the ground and hopeful improvement in accuracy and decision making allows the second-year passer to become a potential roster stash and a late round pick in drafts. According to ESPN, Allen is projected to tally 336.3 points, which would be good for 20th among quarterbacks and would put Allen comfortably in the QB2 mix. 

DRAFT PROJECTION: Late round flier, QB2, potential matchup starter 

 

Running back:

Options: LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore, Devin Singletary 

Bell cow running backs are truly a rare commodity these days. McCoy used to be that guy, but the additions of Gore and Singletary (as well as the potential of keeping a fourth running back like T.J. Yeldon) might throw a wrench into a true bounce back season for McCoy. McCoy does not look like the same player he was when he arrived in Buffalo, but I suspect more of his faults were due to one of the worst run blocking lines in the NFL last year. 

Gore signing in Buffalo was an eyebrow-raiser, if only because of McCoy's previous production and last year's struggles. Depending on usage and who is the hot hand, this could turn into a committee backfield because Gore is still a solid runner despite his age. Adding Singletary to the mix gives McCoy and Gore an RB2 ceiling at best. However, getting productive running backs is not easy so McCoy and Gore will be picks in the middle of a draft simply based on necessity. 

In PPR formats, McCoy gets the edge on Gore out of the backfield.

DRAFT PROJECTION:

  • McCoy - eighth round RB2 upside/ more of a RB3
  • Gore - late round handcuff for McCoy owners 
  • Singletary - late round dynasty or rookie draft pick only 

 

Wide receiver:

Options: John Brown, Cole Beasley, Zay Jones, Robert Foster 

WGR's own Nate Geary thinks that Brown and Beasley could see career seasons in Buffalo, which isn't out of the realm of possibility since Brown's best yardage total is 1,003 and Beasley's is just 833. Despite their lower totals, both players have quirks to their game that allow for potential to be fantasy steals. Brown is a downfield threat that can thrive with a deep ball passer, which is undoubtedly the best part of Allen's game. Beasley can counter defenses worrying about Brown with his separation skills underneath, which can put defenses in a bit of a pickle. The two can compliment each other's game and also unfortunately create a problem of: "which Bills receiver should I start, which one will go off?" 

Jones is heading into an imperative third season of his career, where he has yet to even total 1,000 yards in his career. However, Jones quietly put together a solid second half of the 2018 season after reeling in seven touchdowns, six after Week 9. Part of that boom was due to teams needing to pay attention to someone other than Jones once Robert Foster became a thing. In the first half of the year, Kelvin Benjamin and Andre Holmes were so bad that both got released in season and teams had to really only worry about Zay Jones until Robert Foster became a thing. 

Now comes Foster. He emerged onto the fantasy scene the minute he was promoted back to the 53-man roster last year. Foster's speed is so special that he cannot be ignored, despite the presence of Brown. Foster may have elite speed, but he may become a discount DeSean Jackson-type, where he can net you 15 by reeling in a deep ball for a touchdown and that makes your day in the flex, or he busts and you get two points from him. That's still worth a flier. 

DRAFT PROJECTION:

  • Brown - late rounder who could be a WR3/FLEX 
  • Beasley - undrafted free agent pickup with WR3/FLEX upside 
  • Jones - undrafted WR4
  • Foster - late round flier "boom or bust" WR4 

 

Tight end:

Options: Tyler Kroft (injured), Jason Croom, Dawson Knox 

Tyler Kroft's offseason foot injury probably derailed any chance of a Bills tight end being drafted. Kroft has a more complete skill set, as opposed to the more athletic Jason Croom and rookie Dawson Knox. This will be a group to watch, however, since the tight end position has killed fantasy players in recent years if they don't have the elite tight ends like Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz or George Kittle.

DRAFT PROJECTION: 

  • Kroft: undrafted 
  • Croom: undrafted 
  • Knox: late round flier in rookie drafts only 

 

Defense/Special teams:

The Bills defense is often seen as a steady unit, fantasy or real football alike. Last year, Buffalo's defense was the only consistent fantasy asset, ranking seventh among team defenses. The secondary headlines a defense that thrives on getting turnovers, which allows for upside despite a special teams unit that has provided no real scoring help in the return game for years.

That special teams unit added Pro Bowler Andre Roberts, which could allow the Bills to have the random spike game with a return touchdown. Even in their worst games, Buffalo avoided negative points, making them a worthy defense to draft late. 

DRAFT PROJECTION: Final two rounds, top-10 D/ST worthy of a roster spot all season 

 

With a majority of drafts fast approaching, the gang from Breakfast with the Bills - Fantasy Style would be happy to help with your fantasy questions! You can reach all of us on Twitter:

Derek Kramer: @DerekKramer49
Louie DiBiase: @DiBiaseLOE
Mike Jafari: @MJafariWGR
Joe DiBiase: @SneakyJoeWGR

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