Preseason - 2021 Buffalo Bills Outlook
Over his four seasons as the head coach for Buffalo, Sean McDermott went 38-26 with three playoff appearances (2-3). The Bills made it to the AFC Championship Game last season (38-24 loss to the Chiefs), giving them their deepest postseason run since 1993.
Before 2017, McDermott work as the defensive coordinator for the Panthers over six seasons, with his best success coming in 2013. Buffalo's success last year dethroned the Patriots' 11-year run as the AFC East champs.
Brian Daboll will run the offensive for the fourth year. He's been working in the NFL since 2000, with four other seasons of experience as an offensive coordinator (Cleveland, Miami, and Kansas City). Daboll worked in the Patriots' coaching system for 11 seasons. In 2017, he 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 jumped to second points scored (501) and 2nd in offensive yards, which was an improvement of 187 points from 2019 (314) while gaining 22 spots in the offensive yards rankings.
Buffalo brought in Leslie Frazier to run their defense in 2017. He's coached in the NFL since 1999, with 12 seasons coming as a defensive coordinator and three years as a head coach (21-32-1).
Unfortunately, the Bills' defense didn't come for the ride in 2020. They fell to 16th in points allowed (375 – 116 more than 2019) while ranking 14th in yards allowed (3rd in 2019 and 2nd in 2020).
The top five players signed in the offseason were LB Matt Milano, T Daryl Williams, WR Emmanuel Sanders, QB Mitchell Trubisky, and T Ty Nsekhe.
Milano and Williams were paid to be starters, and they should slide back into the starting lineup after playing in Buffalo in 2020. Milano missed six games last year after setting a career-high in tackles (101) in 2019 over 15 games. Williams led the Bills in snaps (1,237 last year while handling the right side of the offensive line.
Sanders is on the downside of his career (age 34) while expecting to work as a chain mover for the Bills. Buffalo added Jacob Hollister for depth at tight end. Trubisky brings a similar skill set to John Allen, but he has a lot to prove while failing to live up to his draft value (2nd overall in 2017) at this point in his career).
They released WR John Brown and DL Quinton Jefferson.
With their first two draft selections, Buffalo invested in their defensive line – DE Greg Rousseau (1.30) and DE Boogie Basham (2.29).
Rousseau has the look of a disrupter in the pass rush, but he needs to get stronger to defeat more talented players in the NFL. His play has a bully feel, but Rousseau can be nullified by offensive linemen who are willing to counterpunch him with strength. His vision plays well while showing up on every play. Rousseau will have smaller gaps at the next level, which forced him to develop his depth of moves to get to the quarterback. His speed and quickness should improve the Bills' edge rush defense.
Basham relies on more power than speed while almost having a stalemate feel at his position. His wins in the pass rush come from his ability to make wise decisions in his plan to attack the quarterback. He'll have limited range vs. the run, but Basham does come to the field with a plan and the hands to create a winnable window in the pass rush.
Over the next two picks, Buffalo addressed their offensive line – Spencer Brown (3.30) and Tommy Doyle (5.17).
Brown is one of their rare value offensive linemen who has the talent to move from right tackle to left tackle with a high level of success once he improves his technique and adds more bulk. He's worked hard to become a complete player while filling out into his massive frame. Brown shows value on the move with the arms and hands to keep defenders at a distance. His pass sets need refinement in his footwork while projecting to be an early upgrade in run blocking.
Buffalo brought into Doyle's war on the field as a run blocker. He plays an aggressive style, which will work against him in the NFL if Doyle doesn't improve his discipline. His struggles come in pass protection, and the Bills may envision him as a guard where his shortfalls won't be exposed as much.
The Bills finished their draft with three players (WR Marquez Stevenson, S Damar Hamlin, and CB Rachad Wildgoose) in the sixth round and G Jack Anderson in the seventh round.
Staying healthy has been a problem for Stevenson in his college career. He is an undersized receiver (5'10" and 180 lbs.). His ticket to the NFL comes from his speed and elusiveness. Stevenson will upgrade the return game for Buffalo while offering a mixed profile as a receiver. His route running isn't at a level to earn starting or replacement snaps at this point in his career. He'll struggle to defeat tight coverage in the deep passing game while lacking the movements or rhythm to win out of the slot. I only see a gimmick player while owning plenty of injury risk.
Hamlin lacks the man cover skill set to start for the Bills. His best play will come when moving forward toward the line of scrimmage, where his vision and play-making ability have more success. Wide receivers with speed will eat him up over the long field, but Hamlin has a chance to offer match-up value in the passing game in the red zone. He also comes with a checkered past with injuries.
Buffalo wants to attack the quarterback while rostering cornerbacks to defend the short areas of the field out of press coverage. Wildgoose fits this mold, but his overall game shows weakness if asked to stay with his receiver too long. His speed isn't fast enough to overcome a bad decision in technique or a missed step in chase mode.
Anderson lacks the one tool that can easily be taught if he wants to start in the future in the NFL. His shortfall comes in patience and decision-making off the snap. Anderson's aggressive style can turn into a massive mistake on some plays. He needs to have better vision and trust his technique out of his sets. His overall game should fit well for the Bills when they play from the lead and want to run the ball. Anderson shows quickness and the ability to pull while offering the fight to finish off his blocks in open space.
The growth in the right arm of Josh Allen led to the Bills slipping to 20th in rushing yards (411/1,723) while scoring 16 touchdowns. They only had one run over 40 yards while gaining 4.2 yards per carry. The addition of Stefon Diggs worked wonders for the success of Buffalo's passing game. They moved to third in passing yards (4,786) with 40 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Their offensive line allowed 27 sacks (9th lowest), which was helped by Allen's ability to run.
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 48 games over the past three seasons while playing the best ball of his career in 2020. He allowed minimal sacks and pressure on Allen while playing much better at run blocker.
LG Joe Feliciano
The Raiders drafted Feliciano in the fourth round in 2015, but he failed to earn a starting job over four seasons. In 2019 after signing with the Bills, he made 16 starts while finishing as a liability in all areas. His first appearance last year came in Week 9 after recovering from a pair of surgeries. Feliciano signed a three-year $17 million contract in mid-March, which puts him on track to start this season. He improved as a run blocker in 2020, but his skill set still shows weakness in pass protection.
C Mitch Morse
Over six seasons in the NFL, Morse has been a league-average player in all years in pass protection with minimal sacks allowed. He did allow more pressure in 2020, which may be a sign of decline in his game. His value in run blocking isn't where it needs to be. Over the last two seasons, Moore has been flagged well over 10 times.
RG Cody Ford
After getting drafted in the second round in 2019, Ford made 15 starts, with losing value across the board. After the season, he had right shoulder surgery while battling multiple injuries last year, leading to nine missed contests. 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.
RT Daryl Williams
Williams played well in 2017 for the Panthers, but a right injury that required surgery cost him most of 2018. He struggled in pass protection in 12 starts the following season, leading to his release. He came into the league as a left tackle with better value as a run blocker. His play last season improved despite allowing too many sacks and taking many penalties.
Buffalo has a below-par offensive line, which is helped by a mobile quarterback who runs and avoids sacks. They added depth in this year's draft class, pointing to more growth down the road.
Coming into 2020, the Bills averaged 473 runs over the previous three seasons while trying to have a balanced offense. Last year they scored early and often, which led to about a 40/60 split in running and passing.
Despite their success last year via the air, Buffalo only has one elite wide receiver (Stefon Diggs) this season. Their team structure says their 2020 success throwing the ball may not be repeatable. The Bills need to play better defensively while controlling the clock with the run game. Allen will get his chance to make plays downfield.
QB Josh Allen, BUF - Stud (low risk)
The best quarterback in the land last year was Allen. He finished with tremendous growth in his completion rate (69.2 – 58.8 in 2019) thanks to the excellent addition of Stefon Diggs (127/1,535/8) and his 76.5 percent catch rate. Allen gained 4,965 combined yards with an impressive 45 touchdowns. He gained over 300 yards in eight games, highlighted by two contests (434/4 and 429/4).
Over the past three seasons, he scored 25 rushing touchdowns in 40 games while gaining 1,562 yards on 300 attempts. Allen had eight runs over 20 yards in his rookie season, but only three over his last 211 carries. His yards per rush (4.1) regressed for the two straight years (7.1 in 2018 and 4.7 in 2019).
Fantasy owners will pay for Allen in 2021. He projects to be the second quarterback off the board behind Patrick Mahomes. His WR2 and WR3 come into the year at age 32 and 34. When adding in a career year for Diggs, Allen can only go backward in his success. I love his growth and ability to run, but the sum of his receiving core suggests that he is overpriced. I'll set the early bar on 4,500 combined yards with a ceiling of 35 touchdowns.
QB Mitchell Trubisky, PIT - Not Draft Worthy
The Bears moved on from Trubisky after drafting him second overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. His career started with a 4-8 record in his rookie season. Over his last 38 starts, he went 25-13 while tossing 57 touchdowns with 30 interceptions. He ran for 1,057 yards and eight touchdowns on 190 carries over four seasons of action. Trubisky has a winning record, and his style of plays is similar to Josh Allen while offering less explosiveness.
QB Jake Fromm, --- - Not Draft Worthy
When doing some research on Fromm, my first thought 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.
Heading into this last year's draft, his value took 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 touchdowns and two Ints.
RB Devin Singletary, BUF - Bye Week Fill-in
Based on his draft value (20th RB drafted), Singletary fell short of expectations. He gained 953 combined yards with two touchdowns and 38 catches while scoring 145.10 fantasy points (31st in PPR leagues).
Singletary gained over 75 yards rushing in one game. His top three fantasy outputs (16.10, 18.70, and 17.40) failed to reach an impact area. Buffalo gave him over 20 touches in two matchups. On his 194 touches in 2020, Singletary only had four plays over 20 yards.
Over his 28 career games, he averaged almost 69 yards with minimal damage in touchdowns (6). In the passing game, Singletary doesn't project as a difference-maker (6.9 yards per catch).
At best, Singletary will receive 225 combined touches with a short number of scores. His ceiling in the passing game looks limited based on the usage by Josh Allen in his time with the Bills. His early ADP is 145 (48th running back), which is much more reasonable than last season. I only view him as a bye week or a short-term injury cover.
RB Matt Breida, NYG - Deep-league Only
A trip to Miami didn't work out well for Breida. The Dolphins only gave him 68 touches for 348 yards and nine catches. Over the previous two seasons with the 49ers, he averaged 5.2 yards per rush and 8.3 yards per catch, leading to 1,818 combined yards with seven touchdowns and 46 catches.
He brings big-play ability to the run game, which may be a problem for Devin Singletary if he starts slow.
UPDATE: Breida has taken advantage of extra reps in training camp due to Zack Moss (hamstring) being out. Breida is making plays and hs a real shot at being Buffalo's top running back down the stretch.
Other Options: Antonio Williams, Christian Wade, Taiwan Jones
RB Zack Moss, IND - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Moss gained 576 combined yards with five touchdowns and 14 catches over 13 games in his rookie season. He missed three games early in the season with a toe injury and his season ended in the postseason due to a left ankle issue that required surgery. The Bills expect him to be ready for training camp.
His best game came in Week 8 (14/81/2) against the Patriots. Moss had four runs inside the 10-yard line in two different games, with six chances coming over the last five yards before the end zone.
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).
This season, he'll work in a rotational role with goal-line value. Josh Allen remains the top scoring threat on the ground in close, which hurts Moss. Buffalo won't give him enough chances in the passing game to warrant a starting role in the fantasy role. He is a borderline RB3 in PPR leagues while needing an injury to Devin Singletary to receive a better opportunity. His next step should be 900-plus yards with five to seven touchdowns and about 25 catches.
UPDATE: Moss has been sidelined by a hamstring issue and been losing valuable reps to Matt Breida. Moss still projects to lead Buffalo's backfield rotation but is looking like a riskier proposition.