Welcome back Nerds, to my final installment in the IDP dynasty Spotlight series. Let’s take a look into my hometown Buffalo Bills and their defensive landscape for the 2021 season. The 2020 season was a great year for the city of Buffalo as the Bills made it back to the AFC Championship game for the first time since the 1994 season. The Buffalo offense stole the show in 2020, finishing second in the league in points. The defense was middle of the pack, finishing 16th in points against.
The Bills’ defensive scheme has treated IDP managers well through the years, especially at both the linebacker and defensive back positions. Head Coach Sean McDermott does not like to play his defensive linemen high snap percentages and that goes back to his time with the Carolina Panthers. Since McDermott took over as the Head Coach in 2017, only one DL has seen more than 65% defensive snaps for a season. The 2016 season was the last time a Bills defensive linemen has played at least 70% of snaps. This won’t excite IDP managers who are looking to invest in the Bills’ young pass rushers; Buffalo has drafted three DL in the first two rounds of the last two drafts.
The former Hurricane star was drafted 30th overall by Buffalo in the 2021 NFL Draft. Rousseau sat out the 2020 season in college after a dominant 2019 season where he had 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. He has the most upside of the current Bills pass rushers, and his size and athletic ability are exactly what NFL teams are looking for in elite-level EDGE defenders.
Rousseau is still very new to playing defensive line; he played WR and DB in High School before committing full time to DL at the University of Miami. I broke down the Hurricanes pass rusher for Dynasty Nerds, and you can find it here. Although the Bills haven’t used any single pass rusher in a 70% or more snap share, there is hope with how dominant Rousseau could be that he has the potential to be the exception.
Oliver finished the 2020 season as the DL95 with 104 fantasy points. Oliver saw his tackle and sack numbers drop from his rookie season to his second year; a big factor could have been Star Lotulelei’s decision to sit out the 2020 season. The former first-round pick finished as the DT25 in premium DT scoring leagues and averaged over nine points per game. In the DT required formats, he certainly has more value but also is a player who is being drafted around the 25th-30th rounds of 12 team startup drafts in non-DT required leagues.
Epenesa had a very forgettable rookie season, managing just one start in 14 games played. The former Iowa Hawkeye had a rough 2020, as many NFL rookies did with no off-season or training camp due to COVID-19. Epenesa played just 29% of snaps but did manage seven pressures and average one tackle a game last season. A full off-season heading into the 2021 season should give Epenesa a chance to find his way and make more of an impact in his second season. There’s hope for IDP managers who used a rookie draft pick on the man who had 22 sacks over his final 26 college games.
The Bills’ two highest defensive snap percentages among defensive linemen were Jerry Hughes (58.73%) and Mario Addison (56.58%). Hughes had 4.5 sacks for his second straight season and failed to record 30 tackles in back-to-back seasons. Hughes will be 33 this year and although it’s early has recently failed his team physically so he won’t be present at least for the early part of training camp.
It’s a bit of a surprise that Buffalo brought back the 34-year-old pass rusher in 2021. Mario Addison tied for the team lead in sacks with five last season but is an aging veteran with a high cap number. The young talent along the Buffalo defensive line should see Addison and Jerry Hughes be a situational pass rusher at best and someone who IDP managers won’t have on their rosters this season.
Carlos “Boogie” Basham Jr. is the Buffalo pass rusher that is the best stash in dynasty leagues. Basham was drafted 61st overall in the second round of the NFL Draft. The former Wake Forest defensive linemen finished his college career with the fourth-most sacks in school history and have the versatility to play inside or outside on the defensive line.
Edmunds is one of the game’s most underrated young linebackers who has the ultimate fantasy football curse. He’s a much more effective player in terms of real football than for IDP fantasy football. Edmunds has racked up at least 115 tackles and 1.5 sacks in each of his first three seasons. He just turned 23 ahead of his fourth season. The former Bills’ first-round pick finished as the LB30 last season with 228 fantasy points. Edmunds was LB23 in 2019 and LB7 as a rookie in 2018.
The Bills are a two LB dominant system, and the things they ask of their linebackers don’t always lead to consistent points per game from that position. The Dynasty Nerds IDP team currently has Edmunds as the LB10 overall in our rankings despite just one LB1 season over his first three years. His age and consistency in tackle numbers play a big part in that. Buffalo has already picked up the fifth-year option on Edmunds’s contract and he will likely be in the middle of the Bills defense for years to come. IDP managers should be hopeful that he can find his way to another LB1 season in 2021 with the depth of talent being added to the defensive line in front of him.
Milano is a surprising holdover from the 2020 season, the player most Bills fans thought for sure would be wearing a different uniform for the 2021 season. Milano has played some productive football alongside Edmunds over the past three years. That includes a career year in 2019 with 101 tackles and nine passes defended. The Bills have made Milano into a fairly productive fantasy producer; he finished as LB33 in 2019 before battling injuries in 2020 forcing him to only play in 10 games (LB85).
The Buffalo Bills keep their core group of linebackers together to make another push at a Super Bowl run. Milano fits the Bills defensive system well playing with Edmunds and he should continue to remain fantasy-relevant in that role. In the past two seasons, he has forced 19 pressures and has been sent on a team-high 99 blitzes according to pro-football-reference. Unfortunately, you have to take the good with the bad when it comes to Matt Milano who also has missed 44 tackles over his last three seasons.
Klein filled in admirably for Matt Milano last year and turned in his best fantasy performance of his career. He proved he can be a factor in the Buffalo defensive scheme and wouldn’t surprise me if he pushed Milano for snaps next season. There is very little upside for two 30-year-old backup LBs but there’s an opportunity for managers to have a backup plan if one or both Buffalo starters were to go down to injury.
Adams was a great find on the waiver wire for IDP managers in 2020. Adams was a factor for the Houston Texans when starter Benadrick McKinney went down for the season. When Adams took over as the starter in week five he had at least 6 tackles or more in 12 straight games; He had double-digit points in every game.
Poyer has quietly been a DB1 in each of the last four seasons, culminating with him finishing as the DB2 overall in IDP123 scoring behind only Budda Baker last season. The Bills’ most productive DB finished with at least 10 points in all 16 games last season including eight 20+ point performances. Poyer has been an absolute stud since joining the Bills with four straight seasons of 230+ fantasy points. He’s also had at least 95 tackles, a sack, and two interceptions in each season.
Poyer will be 31 this season and is still playing at a high level. He led the Bills in snaps played with 1,010 and continues to be their most flexible defensive back. Poyer spent nearly 50% of his snaps as the deep safety and almost 40% of his snaps as a box safety. As someone who has Jordan Poyer in a few leagues, I know you’ll never get full value for him so he’s a hold for me. When a player has delivered you four straight DB1 seasons and is still somehow underrated in the IDP community you just ride it out until he eventually stops producing at such a high level.
Johnson was very good in 2020, his 94 tackles were tied for second-best among all cornerbacks. Johnson played 77% of defensive snaps and was the team’s best slot corner all season. While CB production is nearly impossible to predict in fantasy football from year to year there is some consistency with Taron Johnson as he enters a contract year. Johnson has collected at least 42 tackles, a sack, and forced fumble in each of his first three seasons. In 2020 he finished DB15 with 223.1 fantasy points and an average of 13.9 points per game. Buffalo is unlikely to change his role in the defense as he becomes a real advantage in CB-required fantasy leagues.
Hyde has been disappointing dynasty managers for much of the last three seasons. He has failed to produce over 160 fantasy points since his very first season with the Bills. In 2017, Hyde set career highs in tackles (82) and interceptions (5). The former Green Bay safety has spent most of his time in the deep safety role for the Bills including 58% of his snaps there last season. He was only able to produce seven double-digit performances in 2020. He should be a bye-week fill-in starter at best on your dynasty roster.
Tre’Davious White has been wildly inconsistent for fantasy production as most elite cornerbacks are. White has two 200+ point fantasy seasons under his belt but his coverage skills tend to make opposing QBs throw in the other direction. The Bills CB has been a consistent tackling corner who has at least two interceptions in every season.
The Buffalo Bills defense will need to improve in the 2021 season with a much tougher schedule. The Bills are slated to play on the road in Kansas City, New Orleans, and Tampa Bay this season. The front office has gone all-in on bringing back most of the starters on both sides of the ball from last year’s team. Barring a rash of injuries they can turn in another successful season.
It’s nice for a change that dynasty managers are excited about drafting Bills players to their teams. For too long, it seemed the Bills were a pure avoid for most people and you can’t blame them for that. The change of culture has led to some exciting football and most importantly production when it comes to dynasty fantasy football.