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Fantasy Forecast: Buffalo Bills

Can newly acquired WR Stefon Diggs life the rest of the Bills to fantasy stardom? Which RB is the Bill to roster? @Glosser13 breaks it down.

The Buffalo Bills are coming off one of their better seasons in more than a decade. A 10-6 season, which earned them their second trip to the playoffs in three years under head coach Sean McDermott. After snapping a 17-year playoff drought in 2017, it’s very encouraging for Bills fans to see multiple playoff appearances and be considered a serious threat to win the AFC East for the first time since 1995. Despite a crushing loss in the NFL Wild Card Playoffs, a game in which they led 16-0, there is plenty to be excited about in Western New York.

A year ago, I mentioned how long some rebuilds usually take in the NFL, and it seems the time for rebuilding the Bills is done. The departure of Tom Brady and the struggles of the Jets and Dolphins have left the door wide open for the Bills to finally be playing a home playoff game in front of their die-hard fans as long as Covid-19 restrictions allow it.

The Bills offense did improve in 2019 but not by leaps and bounds. The Bills offense was next to last in nearly every offensive category in 2018. In 2019 they improved to 24th in yards per game and tied for 23rd in points per game with 19.6. The offense stayed true to form as they finished as the 8th best rushing offense and the 26th passing offense in yards per game under offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

The Bills defense carried them in 2019, finishing 3rd in total yards per game as only the third team in the NFL to give up less than 300 yards per game. The Bills balance as a defensive unit was on display weekly as they rounded out 2019 as the 4th best defense against the pass and 10th best against the run. The 2020 Buffalo Bills season will all depend on the development of their potential franchise quarterback.

The Future is Now

Josh Allen

The Bills front office and coaching staff have done their part over the past two seasons, putting the pieces around Josh Allen to succeed. 2020 will have to be the year he makes his biggest statistical leap if the Bills are going to be a threat in the AFC. The sting of the Wildcard playoff loss will be something that hopefully motivates him after he improved from his rookie to the second year. Allen finished the 2019 season as the QB6 and courtesy of Pro Football Focus he ranked 21st in attempts, 23rd in pass yards, tied for 21st in passing touchdowns and scored 0.55 fantasy points per drop back. While none of these stats should surprise you for where the Bills finished as an offense, it’s widely known where Allen’s value is: rushing the football.

Josh Allen had 63 designed runs in 2019, and he was second only to Lamar Jackson in rushing yards and fantasy points scored by rushing for a quarterback. Allen does, however, lead all NFL QBs in rushing touchdowns scored in the last two years with 17.

It’s widely known how many fantasy analysts aren’t believers in Josh Allen’s ability to improve as a passer. I won’t argue too much. The numbers aren’t likely to drastically improve; however, given the talent around him, there is hope he can see another jump in numbers like he did from 2018 to 2019. The former Wyoming QB improved on his completion percentage, passing yards, yards per game, touchdowns, interceptions, first down throws, and rating last year. Although these numbers didn’t make a huge jump, there is still plenty to be excited about as a dynasty owner for Josh Allens 2020 outlook.

The idea of Allen remaining a top 6 QB in fantasy football is probably not something I’d bet on, but he does have upside. Unfortunately for Allen, he’s wildly inconsistent as a passer. His big games aren’t enough to win you your weekly fantasy matchups like some QBs who are being drafted around the same ADP as him. For reference, Allen has only eclipsed 200+ yards passing in nine of sixteen games last season and has only had two or more passing touchdowns in six of sixteen games. The rushing upside keeps him fantasy relevant, but his ineffectiveness as a passer limits his ceiling, Allen had five or more carries in thirteen games last season and scored at least one rushing touchdown in eight of those games.

It’s unlikely with the Bills philosophy that Allen slows down his rushing attempts without an injury. Still, you’re banking on him to keep improving as a passer if he’s going to remain a top dynasty QB.

Make Them Miss: Running Backs

I was admittedly not very high on the Devin Singletary pick a year ago, but he proved me wrong finishing as the RB32 in only 12 games played with an average of 12.3 fantasy points per game. Pro Football Focus ranked Singletary 2nd best in the NFL at missed tackles per attempt at 0.25. There is little reason to believe that the Bills plan to use Devin Singletary as a workhorse back, and that became evident when they spent a 3rd round pick on Utah RB Zack Moss in the 2020 NFL Draft. Devin Singletary and Zack Moss share similar skill sets, but their play styles aren’t similar; however, they do both excel at making people miss as you can see.

During his college career at Utah, Zach Moss holds multiple records, including all-time rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and 100-yard games as well as being the only player with three 1,000-yard seasons for the Utes. The combo of Singletary and Moss could be a very effective 1-2 punch for the Bills run-heavy offense.

Singletary finished 2019 with 775 yards on 151 carries assuming Moss is given what was left behind by Frank Gore, who left in the off-season he has a chance to see most of the 166 carries. Surely Moss can improve upon the 3.6 yards per carry Gore rushed for last season, Moss has had a 6.0 yards per carry in each of his last two seasons in college. It’s very likely Singletary, and Moss will be used on a game flow or hot hand basis all season. Predicting the more valuable running back will be even more difficult; this is a situation where having both players isn’t the worst strategy for your dynasty team.

Three’s Company: Wide Receivers

Stefon Diggs

A man who will forever be known for the Minneapolis Miracle now joins a WR core in Buffalo that could be considered the most underrated in the NFL. Stefon Diggs was traded to Buffalo in a deal, which ultimately landed the Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson. For the Bills, this was one of the more bold moves by GM Brandon Beane, who has made a conscious effort to surround Josh Allen with as much talent as possible while he is still on his rookie contract.

Stefon Diggs brings an elite level of route running combined with a league-best 60% catch rate since 2016, according to PFF. Diggs has reached 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons, including 102 receptions in 2018. The workout videos going around twitter and Instagram of Diggs working with Josh Allen are welcome signs of the two working to create something special. Diggs is ranked as WR16 in the most recent Superflex/TE Premium rankings on dynastynerds.com.

Brown and Beasley

There was a similar story around Buffalo this time last year when both John Brown and Cole Beasley joined the Bills as free agents to play with second-year QB Josh Allen. Cole Beasley was able to haul in 67 receptions the second most of his career for 778 yards and six touchdowns while John Brown set a career-high with 72 receptions and 1,060 yards, and he found the end one six times as well. John Brown finished the season as WR20 and Cole Beasley as WR34 that’s really not bad for an offense that finished 26th in passing offense last season.

The Bills also added Isaiah Hodgins in the NFL Draft, who will take some time to develop most likely but could see some snaps if one of the top three wideouts happens to go down. Isaiah McKenzie is also a weapon the Bills liked to use last year mostly on shovel passes and jet sweeps, but for fantasy purposes, the most relevant players will be Diggs, Brown, and Beasley in that order.

The Missing Piece: Tight End

The one thing that’s been missing from the Bills offense year after year is a reliable pass-catching tight end. The Bills hoped they’d found when they drafted Dawson Knox a year ago. Buffalo tight ends only accounted for 46 receptions last year, tied for 26th in the NFL that surely has to change for them to be a balanced offense in 2020.

Tyler Kroft returns along with Dawson Knox, Kroft, the more reliable blocker of the two and Knox with the upside to make splash plays and get behind a defense while the secondary focuses on the speed of the wide receivers. Josh Allen will need to see more consistent hands from Knox to use him as a safety blanket he caught only 28 of 50 passes he was targeted on last year. The emergence of a reliable tight end in the Bills offense could do wonders for Allen’s development going forward.

IDP

Next Man Up: Defensive Line

The Buffalo Bills might rotate defensive linemen as much or more than any other team in the NFL. The philosophy under Sean McDermott has always been run to the ball, and fresh legs are a big part of that. It’s unlikely any defensive linemen see much more than 65% of snaps in the Bills scheme things can be a headache for trying to find value in IDP leagues.

The highest scoring DL for the Bills last year was Jordan Phillips as DL21 and Shaq Lawson DL28, both of whom have left in free agency. The Bills added Vernon Butler, Mario Addison, and Quinton Jefferson in free agency and added A.J. Epenasa in the first round of the NFL Draft. Mario Addison finished as the DL27 in 2019 and now joins his old coach in Buffalo to help a young defensive line reach its full potential.

Ed Oliver

Ed Oliver would be the defensive linemen to own for me on upside alone. Despite some off the field troubles, he still can finish as a top 24 DL. It’s fair to say the Bills defensive line has the most versatility it’s had in the Sean McDermott era, which will make rotations heavier and the likelihood of a standout IDP along the defensive line nearly impossible.

Batman and Robin: Linebackers

One of the most underrated LB duos in the NFL and they are just getting started. Tremaine Edmunds was drafted as an LB1 in dynasty each of his first two years, despite finishes of LB19 and LB18. The presence of Matt Milano has prevented Edmunds from putting up monster numbers, but as a whole, the two together are both very valuable in IDP leagues.

Edmunds had 90 solo tackles in 2018, which was good enough for 14th in the NFL and 86 solo tackles in 2019 which was 16th overall his consistency is what you’re looking for in a dynasty LB even if he’s yet to finish as an LB1 going into his third season.

Matt Milano continues to prove what a steal he was for the Bills in the 2017 NFL Draft he has LB36 and LB29 finishes in each of the past two seasons. PFF graded Milano 83.3 in coverage, which was 4th best among linebackers. While the two are very good IDP’s they have their issue missing tackles if they can sure that up, they will become even more valuable and help you win dynasty championships.

A.J. Klein was added in the off-season, and second-year LB Vosean Joseph, who was drafted in the 5th round of the 2019 NFL Draft, are sleepers who could potentially make an impact for the Bills in 2020.

Steady Production: Defensive Backs

Since joining the Bills, Jordan Poyer has been in the conversation for most under-appreciated DB in all fantasy football. Poyer has been solid on the back end of the defense posting finishes as DB6 in 2018 and DB5 in 2019. Poyer and Micah Hyde have been one of the most solid safety duos in the NFL in the past few years leading to the Bills being one of the only teams to stay in two deep safety looks for a majority of their snaps. One big advantage the Bills have is the ability of Hyde and Poyer to both play the free safety position where they both have earned grades of 90.0 or higher.

Tre’Davious White

Tre’Davious White turned in a DB21 finish, and in non-CB required leagues, he was a great find on waiver wires. White allowed zero touchdowns in 2019 and has allowed the second-lowest passer rating since being drafted in 2017. The emergence of Tre White as a shutdown corner will surely elevate the 2nd, and 3rd string CBs, Josh Norman, and Levi Wallace are names to look at during the season on the waiver wire for a bye week fill-in production.

The Bills have one of the deepest rosters they’ve had in years, and the fantasy outlook both offensively and defensively going forward is exciting for dynasty owners.

Hoping all the Nerd Herd members enjoy this and continue to use all the resources at dynastynerds.com to stay ahead of your league mates. As always, feel free to reach out to me on twitter @Glosser13 with all your IDP questions and more! Good luck this year, and I hope we can all bring home a dynasty championship!

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