|By Matt De Lima, Tuesday, August 27, 2013|
QB E.J. Manuel - Sleeper (undervalued)
The E.J. Manuel era can only begin if he is able to unseat Kevin Kolb from the starter's spot. In recent years, outperforming Kolb has not been a challenge. Using anything more than a late-round pick on the former Florida State signal-caller would be a mistake. The upside is there given his big frame and pro-style experience. Kolb's propensity for injury, which has already been a factor, and his limited ceiling could create a ripe opportunity for Manuel to win the starting gig in the second half of the season if not sooner. If the rookie begins the season as the starter, it can be safely assumed that the Bills' coaching staff sees something we don't yet know about. In that case, Manuel becomes a super sleeper with inconsistent, but big-time potential against the right matchups.
QB Jeff Tuel - Deep-league Only
Update (8-27): Remember when Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said that he plans to run C.J. Spiller "until he throws up"? This should help that become a reality. Because of injuries to Kevin Kolb and E.J. Manuel, head coach Doug Marrone said Monday that the current plan is to start undrafted free-agent quarterback Jeff Tuel against the Patriots on Sept. 8. Tuel's job will be very simple: Don't trip while handing the ball off to Spiller. Sure, it means that Spiller will face a bunch of stacked boxes in Week 1, but he is basically a lock to see at least 20 touches. That's going to lead to big numbers. However, the Bills and Spiller owners should be hoping that Manuel gets healthy soon. Only teams in 2QB leagues should even contemplate using Tuel.
RB C.J. Spiller - Stud (low risk)
Now entering his fourth season (and likely in his physical prime at age 25), C.J. Spiller will look to build upon his breakout 2012 season. He had 207 carries for 1,244 yards (6.0 ypc) and found the endzone six times. Add another 43 receptions for 459 yards and two scores and Spiller contributes in multiple ways as the biggest playmaker in Buffalo. Using his blazing speed, he is one of the few backs talented enough to make the leap into the upper echelon at his position and perhaps even challenge Adrian Peterson as fantasy's No. 1 back. RB Fred Jackson will poach some carries, but don't let that discourage you, because this is now Spiller's load to bear.
RB Fred Jackson - Gamble (high risk)
Now 32 years old, Fred Jackson has finished each of the last two seasons with dehabilitating leg injuries and missed 12 games in total. Although he was formerly ahead of RB C.J. Spiller on the depth chart at the start of each of the last two years, that is no longer the case. Jackson will likely take on a change-of-pace role and at best, will poach a few short-yardage scores away from the more fleet-footed Spiller. Jackson's injury risks and reduced offensive responsibilities should keep him healthy which would be useful to fantasy owners for the right value. Unfortunately, he should rarely, if ever, crack your starting lineup unless Spiller goes down with injury.
RB Tashard Choice - Not Draft Worthy
Former Bills head coach Chan Gailey had ties to Tashard Choice, having coached the running back while they were both at Georgia Tech. Gailey is gone and Choice's spot on the depth chart will certainly be challenged. The Bills have brought in some practice squad fodder so unless one of them really shines, Choice has an opportunity to provide depth behind RBs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.
WR Stevie Johnson - Quality Backup
Update (8-27): Johnson has proven he's got game and makes for a worthy fantasy option. However, like all receivers, he is on some level only as good as those throwing him the ball. For now that coud be undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel or Matt Leinart (or E.J. Manuel whenever the first-round pick returns from injury). Draft Johnson in the WR30-40 range, but that QB scenario makes him a tricky start early in the season.
Preview - Over the last three seasons, Stevie Johnson has very reliably caught around 80 passes for 1,000 yards and at least a half dozen scores. A turbulent quarterback controversy would not help the 26-year-old's draft stock, yet he provides solid value given his consistency and secure role as the Bills' No. 1 receiver. The only real downside is that he has likely plateaued and fantasy owners may feel that as well. On the other hand, Buffalo will be using a new offense and have a new starting quarterback. This could push Johnson's receiving totals up a bit while also increasing his risk. Defenses keyed on stopping C.J. Spiller should create more open spaces for Johnson's superb route-running. He makes for an excellent WR3 or flex play.
WR Robert Woods - Sleeper (undervalued)
Former USC wideout Robert Woods was described as one of the most "ready to play" prospects in this past draft class. This does not necessarily mean he will open the season in the starting lineup though. Woods is currently No. 3 on the Bills' WR depth chart. He will challenge WR T.J. Graham for additional playing time and also needs to fend off fellow rookie WR Marquise Goodwin from Texas. A healthy competition never hurts, but for our fantasy purposes, it makes for an unclear situation.
WR T.J. Graham - Bye Week Fill-in
Of Buffalo's many options at the receiver position, T.J. Graham has the best shot to emerge from the group as a solid No. 2 or slot receiver. He has good speed and can work defenses as a deep threat. In three of his last four games, he saw at least seven targets. Unfortunately, the Bills' unproven passing attack leaves much to be desired. Graham is not going to outperform WR Stevie Johnson or even RB C.J. Spiller as a pass-catcher, but he could be a bench player in deeper formats surprising people on a random week.
TE Scott Chandler - Deep-league Only
Scott Chandler tore his left ACL in Week 16 last year. After a long rehab, he is scheduled to see some action during the preseason and looks to be ready for the start of the 2013 season. Chandler has been a red zone monster and could be a good late-round TE who can be plugged in as a backup when you're in a pinch. The key is whether or not he will have the same chemistry with the Bills' new quarterback, whether it is E.J. Manuel or Kevin Kolb as he did with Ryan Fitzpatrick. That remains to be seen.
TE Lee Smith - Not Draft Worthy
With TE Scott Chandler still recovering from a torn left ACL, Lee Smith is the early favorite to start. Entering his third season, Smith has eight career receptions and is not likely to be a fantasy factor.
PK Rian Lindell - Bye Week Fill-in
Rian Lindell has been with Buffalo since 2003 and you know what that loyalty got him? The Bills drafted Florida State K Dustin Hopkins in the sixth round, so Lindell will certainly be trying to keep his job all offseason. If he sticks with the team, he is a bye week fill-in at best.
PK Dustin Hopkins - Deep-league Only
Update (8-27): Hopkins beat out veteran incumbent Rian Lindell as the Bills' kicker. Considering Buffalo's QB woes, points could be tough to come by which is why Hopkins shouldn't be beating out many fantasy kickers for a spot on your roster.Injury Status: Injured Reserve
Buffalo Defense - Deep-league Only
The Bills do have some nice pieces on defense. They really struggled against the run in 2012, allowing 145.8 yards per game. Rookie LB Kiko Alonso replaces veteran LB Nick Barnett. DE Mario Williams and DT Marcell Dareus anchors what could be a solid defensive line. Buffalo's defense is in a transitional phase and is not going to be fantasy relevant unless they can dramatically improve.