2020 Buffalo Bills Outlook
Over his first three seasons as the head coach for the Buffalo Bills, Sean McDermott went 25-23 with two playoff appearances. Before 2017, McDermott worked as the defensive coordinator for the Panthers over six seasons, with his best success coming in 2013. Last year the Bills lost 22-19 to the Texans in overtime in the AFC Wild Card Game. With QB Tom Brady no longer in the AFC East, the Bills moved to co-favorites to win their division.
Brian Daboll will run the offensive for the third year. He's been working in the NFL since 2000, with four seasons of experience as an offensive coordinator (Cleveland, Miami, and Kansas City). Brian worked in the Patriots' coaching system for 11 seasons. In 2017, Daboll was the offensive coordinator for the Crimson Tide that won the National Championship. He's been part of five Super Bowl teams and one National College Championship.
Last year Buffalo ranked 23rd in points scored (314) and 24th in offensive yards, which was an improvement from 2018 (30th in points scored  and 30th in offensive yards).
Buffalo brought in Leslie Frazier to run their defense in 2017. He's coached in the NFL since 1999, with six seasons coming as a defensive coordinator and three years as a head coach (21-32-1). In March, Frazier was promoted to assistant head coach.
Over the past two years, the Bills ranked second and third in yards allowed on defense. They improved 16 spots in the standings in 2019 in points allowed (259 – 2nd).
The Bills signed DT Vernon Butler, G Daryl Williams, DT Quinton Jefferson, DE Marion Addison, LB A.J. Klein, and LB Josh Norman in the offseason.
Buffalo hopes to unlock the keys for Butler after failing to live up to expectations in his four seasons with the Panthers. Carolina drafted him in the first round in 2016.
Williams fell out of favor for the Panthers in 2019 after failing to recover from his right knee injury in 2018. Over five years in the NFL, he played well only in 2017 when projected as an asset in pass protection. This year Williams looks to be an option off the bench with a lot to prove in 2020.
Over the last two seasons for Seattle, Jefferson improved his pass rush while showing growth vs. the run. The Bills will use him as a rotational player. He needs to do a better job tackling to make a further step forward.
Last year the Panthers' defense had risk in all areas, which led to Addison finding a new home on the Bills. Over the previous four years, he delivered 39 sacks with fading value defending the run. Addison turns 33 in early September.
Buffalo lost CB Kevin Johnson to the Browns while not re-signing DE Lorenzo Alexander and DT Corey Liuget.
Johnson is a former first-rounder (2015) who failed to meet expectations for over four seasons for the Texans. Last year he didn't allow a touchdown while working in nickel and dime coverage for Buffalo off the bench.
Both Klein and Norman signed for $6 million this year, but both players played poorly in 2019.
Their most significant move in the offseason was acquiring WR Stefon Diggs from the Vikings for a 2020 first-round draft pick plus multiple other selections in the 2020 and 2021 drafts. Diggs gives Buffalo a deep threat, plus the ability to work in the short areas of the field.
The Bills' first player added in the 2020 NFL Draft came via the 22nd pick (DE A.J. Epenesa) in the second round. He comes to the NFL with plodding style even with some first-step quickness. Epenesa wins with power while owning a plan and multiple moves to help his push to the quarterback. He needs to get stronger, and his game will go down a notch when facing top offensive linemen. Running backs with speed will beat him outside and in space.
In the third and fourth rounds, Buffalo added help to their offense with RB Zack Moss and WR Gabriel Davis.
Moss gives the Bills a power running back presence to rotate in with RB Devin Singletary. Strength and power are his calling cards while ranking below the top running backs in the NFL in speed (4.65 forty yards dash) and quickness. After the snap, his first instinct is to find the open field while allowing a play to develop. Moss slides to running lanes with the plan to step on the gas at the first sign of daylight. He lacks home-run speed while offering the ability to break tackles. Moss has three-down potential while projecting well in pass protection.
The addition of Davis adds size (6'2" and 215 lbs.) to the outside for Buffalo while still offering speed (4.54 forty at the NFL combine). His route running and release need work, along with a higher motor. Davis wins with his hands in tight battles and while high pointing contested passes. His lack of quickness does hurt him in press coverage.
Buffalo bought some insurance at quarterback with Jake Fromm in the fifth round. His slow-footed style makes him a pure pocket passer, but his arm doesn't have the zip required to match the top talent in the NFL. Fromm minimizes the damage in interceptions by showing the ability to get the ball out quickly when a play collapses to avoid sacks. He has been a winner his whole career with a tendency to rise in big games. Fromm grades well in reading defenses and displays a willingness to stand tall when needing a player to break-free downfield. His pre-snap reads allow him to find the best option in coverage.
With their last three selections in the sixth and seventh rounds, the Bills invested in K Tyler Bass, WR Isaiah Hodgins, and CB Dane Jackson.
Bass struggled with field goals in 2019 (71.4 percent) after showing upside in his kicks over his previous two seasons in college (34-for-40 in FGs). He has enough leg to handle kickoffs, but his technique needs improvement for more success from over 50 yards.
Hodgins needs to get stronger to handle top cornerbacks in press coverage. His quickness grades well for his size (6'4" and 210 lbs.) while coming up below par in his speed (4.61 forty). Hodgins bodies up his defender well with the hands to win in tight coverage. His rhythm off the line of scrimmage hurts Hodgins' ability to create over the short areas of the field. He overplays his shake-and-bake leading to below-par route running.
There are plenty of concerns with Jackson's game at the next level, even with successful stats in coverage in college. He wants to play a physical style in coverage, but Jackson lacks the wheels to match most wide receivers at the next level. He has more of a safety feel while lacking the size (6'0" and 187 lbs.) and tackling to handle that role. The Bills should use him in off coverage moving forward where his aggressiveness can be an asset.
After posting the top rushing stats (2,630 yards and 29 TDs) in 2016, Buffalo slipped to sixth in rushing yards (2,017) in 2017, ninth in 2018 (1,984 yards), and eighth in 2019 (2,054). Last year they scored only 13 rushing TDs, despite the legs of Josh Allen (nine rushing TDs). The Bills RBs gained only 4.4 yards per rush, with only one of the 465 runs gaining over 40 yards. Their offensive line allowed 40 sacks and 87 quarterback hits, which translated to the 10th highest sack rate (7.8).
LT Dion Dawkins
Dawkins was a second-round draft pick by the Bills in 2017 after playing left tackle in his college career at Temple. He offers athletic ability and power to the tackle position with his best asset expected to be pass protection. Dawkins started all 32 games over the past two seasons while offering league average value in pass protection. His next step is developing his blocking in the run game.
LG Quinton Spain
In his first season with the Bills, Spain won the starting left guard job for 16 games. His game had plenty of risk in the run game while trending backward slight in pass protection. Only once over five seasons has Spain played at a high level (2016 with the Titans).
C Mitch Morse
Over five seasons in the NFL, Morse played well on pass protection twice. His value in run blocking isn't where it needs to be. Last year he struggled with penalties for the first time in his career, which may be a sign of decline.
RG Joe Feliciano
The Bills gave Feliciano a full time starting job for the first time in his five-year career in 2019. The Raiders drafted him in the fourth round in 2015. He finished as a liability in all areas, which invites job loss this year. Last January, Feliciano had surgery in his right shoulder to repair a rotator cuff issue.
RT Cody Ford
After getting drafted in the second round, Ford made 15 starts with losing value across the board in his rookie season. He had right shoulder surgery after the season. His game is built on power while needing to add more strength and experience. Ford is still learning his position, and speed players do create problems for him. His best value should develop in the run game.
Buffalo doesn't have one offensive lineman that projects to be a plus player. Run blocking isn't where it needs to be. The Bills hope to improve in the deep passing game this year, which helps keep a defense honest plus adds value to the play-action game. Overall, this offensive line grades below par across the board.
QB Josh Allen, BUF - Solid/Safe Pick
Over 28 starts in the NFL, Allen doesn't have a game with over 300 yards passing while averaging only 6.6 yards per pass attempt. On the positive side, no QB has more rushing TDs (17) than him over this span. Over his final full nine starts, Allen passed for fewer than 210 yards in six contests. His completion rate (58.8) showed an improvement, and the addition of WR Stefon Diggs should iron out some of his issues in the deep passing game. Allen gained only 6.7 yards per pass attempt in 2020, but he finished with 47 completions over 20 yards and seven completions over 40 yards.
Last year Buffalo struggled to move the ball with RBs (61/460/2) and TEs (46/604/3) in the passing game. Allen isn't ready to be a great passer, and the Bills lack the key players to help him push higher up the QB mountain. They tried to add size at wide receiver in the draft, which may come into play in scoring in the red zone.
With about 37 percent of his fantasy scoring coming with his legs, Allen can't maintain his 2019 final QB ranking (8th) without more chances and success in the passing game. Last year he posted one impact game (36.40 fantasy points), but he had 11 contests with between 19.00 and 28.10 fantasy points in four-point passing TD leagues.
Based on the above graph, Allen is projected for 3,541 passing yards and over 30 combined TDs with success in the run game (102/512/7).
QB Jake Fromm, --- - Dynasty Only
My first thought when doing some research on Fromm was that he had a lot in common with Tom Brady.
Over three seasons at Georgia, Fromm went 36-7, highlighted by his play in his freshman season (13-2 with a loss in the national championship game). He passed for 8,236 yards over 43 games with 78 TDs and 18 Ints with no value as a runner (134/40/3). His passing total rose slightly every year (2,615, 2,761, 2,860) while playing in a run-heavy offense. Fromm had his best completion rate (67.4) and the highest number of touchdowns (30) in 2018.
Before this year's draft, his value will take a hit due to a string of five straight games with weakness in his completion rate (44.8, 46.4, 47.8, 48.3, and 47.6) over his final six starts. On the positive side over this stretch, Fromm delivered five wins with 13 TDs and two Ints. He is a dynasty only option and will need time to develop into a quality backup.
RB Zack Moss, BUF - Fantasy Handcuff
Moss flashed upside in 2017 when he gained 1,416 combined yards with ten TDs and 29 catches on 243 touches at Utah. The following season he shined again on early downs (179/1096/11) while losing value in the passing game (8/50/1). His season ended after nine games due to a right knee injury the required surgery. In 2019, Moss regained his previous form while delivering an outstanding season (1,804 combined yards with 17 TDs and 28 catches on 263 touches).
The year Moss should work as the RB2 for the Bills with a chance at 120-plus touches, leading to 550 combined yards with three to five touchdowns and short catches.
A fantasy owner should find Moss between round 10 and 12 in most PPR leagues while having the most value to the Singletary owner as a handcuff.
RB Devin Singletary, BUF - Solid/Safe Pick
In a limited role over the first two games in the NFL, Singletary gained 155 combined yards with a TD and five catches on 15 touches. He missed the next three weeks with a hamstring injury. Over his final nine games, including the playoffs, Singletary averaged 18.9 touches leading to 873 combined yards with two TDs and 26 catches with his best play coming at home over three contests (372 combined yards with a TD and ten catches). The Bills have a top rushing QB who steals plenty of TDs. Last year the Bills' RBs gained 2,008 combined yards with eight TDs and 61 catches. Easy to overprice, despite expecting growth in 2020.
The addition of RB Zack Moss does knock Singletary down a notch for me. Moss has more size, and Buffalo may lean on him more at the goal line and in short-yardage situations.
Singletary has an early ADP of 34 in the high-stakes market as the 20th running back drafted. His initial projection (1,341 combined yards with eight TDs and 44 catches) at Sports Illustrated placed him 19th at the running back position.
RB T.J. Yeldon, --- - Not Draft Worthy
After receiving 159 combined touches for the Jaguars in 2018, Yeldon barely saw the field in his first year with the Bills. He finished with 187 combined yards with no TDs and 15 catches on 30 touches. This year he'll work as the RB3 for the Bills while needing an injury to one of Buffalo's top two RBs to gain more chances.
WR Stefon Diggs, BUF - Gamble (high risk)
Last year Diggs had a flip from his previous skillset. Over his first five years in the league, he worked more like a possession type receiver (11.6 yards per catch), highlighted by his success in 2018 (102/1021/9). He set career-highs in receiving yards (1,130), yards per catch (17.9), and catches over 20 yards (20) in 2019. Diggs saw his targets (94) fall by 37 percent, which was more of the Vikings' passing issue. The Bills ranked poorly in WR production (192/2411/15) in 2019, despite showing growth. Buffalo wants to run the ball while developing its deep passing game. Diggs will see a sharp decline in his yards per catch in 2020 with only a slight bump in targets.
This year Diggs has an early ADP of 67 in the high-stakes market as the 28th wide receiver drafted. Over the previous three seasons, he finished 19th, 10th, 22nd in WR scoring in PPR leagues.
In his early projections, I struggled with the proper value for his opportunity. The Bills have three viable pass-catchers at wide receiver. For now, Diggs should receive a minimum of one-third of Buffalo's wide receiver completions leading to 75 catches for 1,089 yards and seven touchdowns. Diggs ranks 17th at wide receiver after my first run at the projections.
If his completions translated to the same value in WR targets, then Diggs would see a bump to 140 targets based on last year's wide receiver chances (320) for the Bills. His career catch rate (68.4) suggests his catches should be closer to 95 if he did indeed receive 140 targets.
Diggs looks to be a value in drafts, and I would expect his ADP to rise along with his projections over the summer.