2022 Buffalo Bills Team Outlook
With high-stakes fantasy football legend Shawn Childs anchoring Sports Illustrated's fantasy coverage, we decided to give our take on Shawn's Team Outlooks. While we won't always agree, Shawn's pedigree speaks for itself. Shawn has been a high-stakes Fantasy Football legend since 2004 when he had success in his first season (three titles and $25,000 in winnings). Childs has competed and won six-figures in all different formats – auctions, draft championships, main events, and high-dollar leagues. We dare you to find an expert who knows the NFL player pool better than Shawn Childs -- it can't be done!
Over his five seasons as the head coach for Buffalo, Sean McDermott went 49-32 with four playoff appearances (3-4). The Bills won the AFC East back-to-back years while compiling a 34-15 record from 2019 to 2021. Before 2017, McDermott worked as the Panthers' defensive coordinator for over six seasons, with his best success coming in 2013.
After working as Buffalo's quarterback's coach (2019 to 2021) and passing game coordinator (2021), Ken Dorsey has taken over as their offensive coordinator. He also held the quarterback's coach job for the Panthers from 2013 to 2017.
Last year the Bills finished third in points scored (483) and 5th in offensive yards. Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs helped the Bills become one of the better offenses in the league over the previous two seasons.
Buffalo brought in Leslie Frazier to run their defense in 2017. He's coached in the NFL since 1999, with 13 seasons coming as a defensive coordinator and three years as a head coach (21-32-1). After regressing in 2020 in yards allowed (14th) and points allowed (375 – 16th), the Bills' defense developed into the best unit in the league in 2021.
To beef up their pass rush, Buffalo signed LB Von Miller. He'll start the year at 33 with 540 tackles, 115.5 sacks, and 26 forced fumbles over 150 career games. The Bills also signed DT Tim Settle and DT Daquan Jones to hopefully clog up the middle of the line against the run and chip in with some sacks.
DE Jerry Hughes remains unsigned, while CB Levi Wallace found a new home in Pittsburgh after a subpar season in coverage. DT Harrison Phillips showed growth against the run last year, leading to a bump in pay with the Vikings.
The top two players added to the offense were WR Jamison Crowder and TE OJ Howard. QB Mitchell Trubisky signed with Pittsburgh. Buffalo didn't bring back WR Cole Beasley or WR Emmanuel Sanders. For offensive line depth, the Bills added T David Quessenberry and G Rodger Saffold.
Buffalo had eight selections in this year's draft. They addressed the second and third levels of their defense with half of the picks – CB Kaiir Elam (1.23), LB Terrel Bernard (3.25), CB Christian Benford (6.6), and LB Baylor Spector (7.10). The two swings added to their offense were RB James Cook (2.31) and WR Khalil Shakir (5.5). P Matt Araiza (6.1) and T Luke Tenuta were their other two additions.
Last year, the Bills' offensive line gave up 27 sacks on 655 pass attempts (5th). They finished 11th in passing yards (4,450) with 36 passing touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Josh Allen ended the year with the 16th passer rating (91.3). Buffalo ran the 461 times for 2,209 yards and 20 scores, with ball carriers gaining 4.8 yards per rush with 18 runs over 20 yards.
The star power of Allen covers up some deficiency of the Bills' offensive line. However, LT Dion Dawkins continues to be the best player on their offensive line, with his most significant edge coming in pass blocking. Last year, Buffalo gained only 6.8 yards per pass attempt compared to 7.9 in 2020, which shows that Allen needs a longer passing window to create bigger plays.
Coming into 2020, the Bills averaged 473 runs over the previous three seasons while trying to have a balanced offense. Buffalo ran the ball about 41 % of the time over the last two years, leading to a push higher in passing attempts but fewer passing yards in 2021 (4,450).
This season the Bills expect WR Gabriel Davis to offer more explosiveness to their passing game while Jamison Crowder has the talent and resume to work well over the short areas of the field. In addition, Buffalo would love to develop a closer mentality in the run game in the fourth quarter.
The Bills running back had similar success running the ball last year, but their opportunity to score reached a three-year high (13 TDs). Buffalo ranks poorly in production out of their backfield in the passing game. They finished last year with 73 catches for 520 yards and four touchdowns on 96 targets.
The Bills have been one of the better teams in the league getting the ball to their wide receivers over the past two seasons. After an explosive year in 2020 (312/3,897/28), Buffalo created a higher opportunity in targets (443) last year due to one more game played. Unfortunately, their wideouts had regression in catches (284), receiving yards (3,299), touchdowns (22), and yards per catch (11.6).
Buffalo posted a three-year high in catches (58), receiving yards (631), touchdowns (10), and targets (83) in 2021. Josh Allen delivered 19 touchdowns to his tight ends over the past two seasons.
The Bills inched to 13th in the NFL defending the run despite allowing 1,866 yards. They gave up 4.2 yards per rush, with struggles in rushing touchdowns allowed (19 – 26th). Buffalo gave up a league-high four runs over 40 yards.
They moved to the top of the league in pass defense (2,771 yards) with 12 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. Receivers gained 20 yards or more on only 31 plays (best in the NFL). Buffalo finished with 42 sacks.
The Bills enter this season with only one player (Von Miller) who projects to deliver impactful sacks. S Micah Hyde and S Jordan Poyer played at a high level in coverage last year while picking up a combined 11 interceptions. The strength of this defense will be their linebackers. Buffalo needs CB Tre'Davious White to return healthy after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee in Week 12. If incoming rookie CB Kaiir Elam can hit the ground running, Buffalo looks poised to make another deep playoff run this season.
QB Josh Allen, BUF - Stud (low risk)
Allen finished first in quarterback scoring in back-to-back seasons. Over this span, he delivered 87 combined touchdowns with a high floor in the run game (102/421/8 and 122/763/6). He has 31 rushing touchdowns over his 61 career starts. Allen averaged 259 passing yards per game while tossing a career-high 15 interceptions. In three of his four seasons in the NFL, he finished with weakness in yards per pass attempts (6.5, 6.7, and 6.8).
When at his best, Allen posted five impact games (40.80, 39.65, 39.30, 42.00, and 41.25 fantasy points) in four-point passing touchdown leagues. The final two showings came in the postseason. He also scored over 30.00 fantasy in four other starts.
Fantasy Outlook: Allen will be the top quarterback drafted in 2022 in most formats. The Bills have one of the top wide receivers (Stefon Diggs) in the game, and their wideouts led the NFL in targets (443) last season. Allen delivered 10 scores via the tight end. The foundation of his receiving corps has a chance to push higher this year. His next step is 5,500 combined yards with a run at 50 scores.
Other Options; Case Keenum, Matt Barkley
RB James Cook, BUF - Sleeper (undervalued)
Cook saw minimal playing time over his first three seasons in college (1,221 combined yards with seven touchdowns and 40 catches). Last year, Georgia gave him 140 touches, leading to 1,012 combined yards with 11 scores and 27 catches. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry and 10.9 yards per catch in his college career.
Cook is the younger brother of Dalvin Cook while offering a more sleek version of size (5'11" and 199 lbs.). He brings explosive speed and upside in the passing game. His challenge to get on the field on passing downs comes in his questionable value in pass protection.
Fantasy Outlook: The Bills should use Cook as a change of pace back with the goal of getting him in space. He has the potential to develop into a difference-maker back if/when Cook adds more strength. But, for now, he'll work as a change of pace back with a home run hitter feel.
RB Zack Moss, IND - Low Potential
Last year Moss appeared to be the favorite for goal-line and short-yardage carries for the Bills. He missed Week 1 with a slow recovery with ankle surgery. Over the next four games, Moss gained 278 combined yards with four touchdowns and eight catches on 54 touches. A concussion issue knocked him out of three games in November while offering no fantasy value over his final nine games (264 combined yards with one score and 15 catches on 65 touches).
Fantasy Outlook: Moss has a lot to prove in his third year in the NFL. His role expects to be minimal unless he adds more speed and quickness to his game.
Other Options: Duke Johnson, Taiwan Jones
RB Devin Singletary, HOU - Quality Backup
In his third season with the Bills, Singletary emerged as their top running back by snap count (830 – 63.0 %). He finished with a career-high in touches (228), combined yards (1,098), touchdowns (8), and catches (40). Singletary ranked 19th in running scoring (198.00) in fantasy scoring in PPR leagues. His best value came over his final seven games (630 combined yards with nine touchdowns and 21 catches) on 18.1 touches per game. His risk comes from his low bar and production over his first 12 games (99.3 fantasy points – 8.28 per game).
Fantasy Outlook: The direction of Singletary points to follow through, but the addition of another running back does create some cloudiness in his 2022 opportunity. His early ADP in the National Fantasy Football Championship is 80 as the 27th running back drafted. I sense regression in production. I'll set his early bar at 950 combined yards with five touchdowns and 35 catches.
WR Stefon Diggs, BUF - Stud (low risk)
After a sensational first season with the Bills (127/1,538/8), Diggs slipped to seventh in wide receiver scoring (285.50 fantasy points) in PPR formats. He caught over 100 passes (103) for the third time, leading to 1,225 yards and a career-high 10 touchdowns. Diggs finished with two fewer targets (164) than in 2020 (166), but his catch rate (62.8) was much lower than the previous year (76.5).
Diggs gained over 100 yards in only two games (7/114 and 8/162/1). His play slipped in the postseason (3/60 and 3/7) while offering more steady stats than impactful in most weeks.
Fantasy Outlook: Diggs was a slight fade for me last year as I tend to shy away from players coming off career seasons. In the early draft season in the NFFC, he is the seventh wideout off the board with an ADP of 15.1. A shorter passing window for Josh Allen led to Diggs posting a five-year low in catches of 20 yards or more (12). His 2022 floor should be 110 catches for 1,300 yards with another run at 10 scores.
WR Gabriel Davis, BUF - Solid/Safe Pick
The usage of Davis was strange in his sophomore season. Over his first eight games, he only had 10 catches for 133 yards and two scores on only 17 targets. The Bills looked his way only 31 times over the first 12 weeks. However, his stock rose in Week 14 (5/43/1) and Week 15 (5/85/2) while posting an attention-grabbing game against the Chiefs in the postseason (8/201/4). Davis finished with almost identical stats in his first two seasons (35/599/7 and 35/549/6).
Fantasy Outlook: The combination of big play and scoring ability paired with an improved opportunity will put Davis on the breakout wide receiver list for many fantasy sites. His natural progression points to 60+ catches with a run at 1,000 yards and double-digit scores. His ADP (84) ranks him as an upside WR3 in PPR leagues in the high-stakes market.