3-Point Stance: McCoy, rookie Jones spicy fantasy options in Wing City
As the mercury rises, Brad Evans and Liz Loza will tackle pressing fantasy questions tied to every NFL team. Read, ponder and get a jump on your offseason research. Wednesday’s topic: The Buffalo Bills.
The third most productive running back in fantasy last year, LeSean McCoy touched the ball nearly nineteen times per game in 2016. Still the team’s feature back, but entering the season at age 29 and under a new offensive coordinator, Shady’s total rushing yards OVER or UNDER 1099.5?
Liz – UNDER. WAY under. Yes, Shady played 15 of 16 games and slashed his way to over 1,200 yards last season, but he was hobbled for at least two of those outings with hamstring issues (remember the Week 7 Mike Gillislee DFS disaster?). A sore hammy also caused McCoy to sit in 2015, resulting in fewer than 900 rushing yards at the season’s end. Those soft tissue issues don’t improve with age.
Furthermore, Anthony Lynn is now with the Chargers (How you doing, Melvin Gordon?!). While new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, a disciple of Gary Kubiak, figures to devise a run-friendly scheme, he’s not likely to be as fervent a ground-pounder. (Fun fact: Buffalo ran the ball 80 more times than Denver last season. Also, over the first six weeks of the season, before health was an issue, McCoy averaged two more rushes per game than C.J. Anderson.)
One can never predict injuries, but after a monster season it’s more likely for an older back’s production to dip. McCoy figures to see a ton of work in the passing game, but on the ground, I don’t think he posts more than 950 yards. Get to know Jonathan Williams. He’s going to do some work.
Brad – OVER. McCoy is one of the safest options in Round 1. Let’s not overdramatize the situation. Yes, the odometer reading is high, but he will again be an offensive centerpiece. He’s an excellent zone runner who should thrive in Rick Dennison’s one-cut-and-go scheme.
Off a terrifically efficient 2016 in which he ranked top-10 in several advanced metrics including breakaway percentage, yards after contact per game (27.7), catch rate (87.9) and total evaded tackles (80), Shady will rev the engine. Another 18-22 touches per game is a foregone conclusion. Also keep in mind the Bills’ offensive line ranked in the league’s top-half in run-blocking last year and TyGod’s versatility aids the ground game. Only a major injury would prevent him from surpassing 1,200 rush yards. But by all means, pass on him doom and gloomer.
The oft-injured Sammy Watkins and rookie Zay Jones figure to lead the Bills receiving corps in 2017. OVER or UNDER final WR rank (.5 PPR) for Watkins this fall 20.5? OVER or UNDER total receptions for Jones 70.5?
Brad – OVER. Various ailments cost Watkins 12 games the past two seasons. Suffice it to say, he’s a delicate fellow. Simply playing with a fidget spinner is a threat to his health. He cracked the top-20 two years ago in just 13 games, but the Bills refused to extend him this offseason which revealed their confidence level in the WR staying upright. If he suits up 14 or more games, he’ll finish in the WR15-WR20 range, but those odds seem very long. Give me Demaryius Thomas, Alshon Jeffery or Doug Baldwin at a similar price point (28.6 ADP, WR16) instead.
UNDER. Liz’s lady love for Jones’ fantasy potential is boundless. It’s a crush that rivals my affections for Melvin Gordon and, previously, Ryan Mathews. It’s serious, folks.
The kid is a wonderful talent and blessed with an exploitable situation, but the proposed number is very aggressive. Historically, only 16 wide receivers crossed over the 70-catch line in their first year. Jones should entice roughly 20-22 percent of the targets share, but a final tally around 63-825-5 seems realistic. In other words, Jones is an upside bench stash who will churn out an occasional WR3 return.
Liz – OVER and UNDER. No, Sammy hasn’t played a full season since being drafted in 2014. But this year’s a bit different. There’s a new regime in Buffalo, and the former first round pick is likely to be a free agent come 2018. The motivation factor for the (almost) 24-year-old is YUGE, bigger than it’s ever been before. Plus, there’s no denying his playmaking ability when actually on the field. I’m not predicting a 16 game season for Watkins, but it’s not unreasonable to think he stays healthy enough to post a 70-1,100-5 stat line.
Zay is money. As Brad noted, my adoration for his catch radius is well documented. Unquestionably, his addition will only help Watkins. With both Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin (whose combined targets totaled over 130 last year) on the West Coast, the rookie has a chance to step up in a big way. But to expect more than four catches per contest in run-heavy offense, with a defensively minded head coach, and from a small-school product in his professional debut? That’s a bit much. Give me around 55 or 60 in the smooth strider’s first year.
Following copious amounts of preseason speculation, Tyrod Taylor closed out 2016 as the 10th best QB in fantasy football. Is his ability to stay in the top-12 this fall BELIEVE OR MAKE BELIEVE?
Liz – MAKE BELIEVE. With the Titans and the Bucs surrounding their ascending signal callers with an arsenal of new weapons, it’s hard to imagine Tyrod stays in the top-ten. Coming off a groin surgery and with a new offense to learn, he’s facing an uphill battle. On what boils down to a one-year prove it, the mobile QB must put it all together come the fall. And with limited depth in the backfield and question marks surrounding his receivers, he’ll face quite a challenge. He’s a fringe QB1 for me.
Brad – BELIEVE. Dual-threat QBs are an endangered species. Tyrod was the only passer to scurry for 500-plus yards last year, the lowest output at the position since 2010. His scrambling abilities, though, greatly boost his overall profile. Despite Watkins’ prolonged absence and general ineffectiveness he still compiled QB1 numbers throwing to ‘earth shakers’ Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and Brandon Tate. It’s truly remarkable what he accomplished given the situation.
With Watkins healthy, for now, and Jones on roster, it’s not outlandish to think he totals 300-plus fantasy points in traditional Yahoo setups. At his 131.6 ADP (QB17), he’s the perfect target for late-round QB enthusiasts.