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With the arrival of a coach like Rex Ryan in Buffalo, everything changes. Ryan injects swagger and confidence into every team he coaches, not to mention a complex defense. To keep that defense well-rested, Buffalo traded for Lesean McCoy in the offseason. Adding to an already competent offense, Buffalo is a few pieces away from being a serious contender.
Holding them back will be the same achilles heel Ryan faced in New York. The lack of talent at quarterback suggests that Buffalo will be a physical, ball-control offense that tries not to give the game away. If the defense can elevate itself after the departure of Kiko Alonso, they should be able to keep the Bills competitive each week this season.
On the fantasy side, Buffalo has a few interesting options to fill out a roster. Personally, the ratings of a player like Sammy Watkins are affected by whoever throws the ball for Buffalo. Still, Buffalo has talent that could help your squad week in and week out.
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Here’s the best Bills for fantasy:
1: Lesean McCoy, RB
This one’s easy. On pure ability, McCoy is one of the best backs in football. Shady has one of the best bursts around, but struggled to hit paydirt in 2014, his worst full season as a pro. Sharing a backfield with Darren Sproles, McCoy had solid rushing totals but was a ghost in the passing game. McCoy totaled a career-low 28 receptions, resulting in some of the lowest touchdown and total scrimmage yard numbers of his five-year career.
Those numbers look to change in 2015, when McCoy once again has sole ownership of his position. During his six years in New York, Rex Ryan’s teams finished outside the top ten only once (2011) in total rushing attempts. Buffalo still has Fred Jackson and Bryce Brown, but expect McCoy to resume his role as one of the best every-down backs in football. Look for those reception numbers to jump, as whoever calls signals will look to Shady often as a check-down. There’s no way McCoy makes it past the first round of your draft.
2: Bills D/ST
If Buffalo has questions on offense, they can be answered by an aggressive, opportunistic defense. Buffalo was third in the NFL with 30 takeaways, and they led the NFL with a whopping 54 sacks. In the offseason they traded standout linebacker Kiko Alonso, but they still have Mario Williams, who racked up 14.5 sacks last year.
Alonso didn’t play last season, so Buffalo’s defense won’t look all that different in 2015. The real difference will be Ryan’s scheme, but the AFC East has been playing Ryan defenses for almost a decade now. Teams will still score on the Bills, but they can be counted on to stuff the run and hassle the quarterback.
3: Sammy Watkins, WR
Watkins showed flashes of greatness in 2014, but his inability to stay healthy allowed other rookie receivers to outshine him. There were a few weeks midseason when Watkins and Kyle Orton were clicking, otherwise he was a bust for fantasy purposes. If 2014 wasn’t the year of Beckham and Evans, Watkins’ 65/982/6 rookie totals would be a respectable mark.
Until Watkins is paired with a capable quarterback, whether he can live up to his draft pick is unclear. Watkins was much better with Kyle Orton than he was with Manuel, but Orton has retired and Manuel is still competing for the starting job. Whoever gets the start, they get an offense with big-play capability in the backfield and on the outside. For fantasy value hold onto Watkins, but don’t overvalue him in a deep receiver field.
4: Charles Clay, TE
Clay is a new addition from Miami, where he caught 127 passes the previous two seasons. He has solid hands and is a capable blocker, which will earn him tons of playing time for Rex Ryan. Clay, a former fullback, is by far the most experienced tight end on the Bills roster.
Clay missed the final two games of 2014 due to injury, but is only 26 and shouldn’t be slowing down soon. New OC Greg Roman uses tight ends heavily, having spent the past four seasons coaching Vernon Davis and the Niners. Clay would be valuable as a backup tight end, and may crack your lineup by the end of the season.
5: Dan Carpenter, K
A team that leads with defense needs a quality kicker, and Buffalo has one of the best in Carpenter. DC3 hit six kicks from beyond 50 yards in 2014, earning fantasy owners major points in the process. He finished with 148 points in ESPN leagues, good for fourth-best among kickers.
Carpenter looks to continue his dominance in 2015. He was perfect in December last year, showing that he’s not affected by rough conditions. When Buffalo tries to control the ball and win ugly football games, Carpenter will be their biggest weapon. He’s a must-own fantasy kicker.