This is the first installment in my series that will offer readers fantasy previews for all 32 NFL teams in the coming weeks. The first division I will cover is the AFC East and I will start with the Buffalo Bills.
As I mentioned I am originally from Western, NY so I am very familiar with the Bills. Lets face facts people the Bills have been non existent since Jim Kelly and crew left town 10 plus years ago. In terms of the fantasy impact that Bills players will make this season lets do some dissecting. First, lets start with the receivers. Obviously the main move the Bills made this off season was the acquisition of T.O. when he was released from the Cowboys. Although I was shocked at first that the Bills went after him the more I thought about it the more it made sense. As I mentioned before in a previous post the Bills are desperate for anyone who can bring some excitement to town and the fact that T.O signed with the Bills so quickly proves he knew there wasn't much interest in him elsewhere. My friend and fellow gothicfooball.com columnist G Pepper hit the nail right on the head when he says:
"Only T.O.and only in Buffalo can you make a big splash by signing a one year deal, then tell the team the following week after that you're going to work out from home and they ACCEPT it! That shows you how desperate they BOTH are. I did find Owens' comment pretty funny: "I'll workout with them if I am in the area." Umm yeah because Buffalo is so close to anywhere you are travelling to." It's practically right next to Miami and Los Angeles, isn't it? T.O. is there because he needs the Bills to try to showcase himself into one more fat contract."
Brother, I couldn't have said it any better. T.O. will be productive this year because he always has been no matter where he has played. How much production remains to be seen. He has a new QB (I am holding back the tears streaming down from my eyes) and must also become acclimated to the Buffalo weather which he is not accustomed to. All in all I expect Owens to put up in the neighborhood of 1000 yds and 6-8 TD's. Those stats would make Owens an nice number 2 fantasy option heading into '09. T.O.'s presence immediately helps out incumbent number 1 WR Lee Evans. Evans is a great deep ball threat and has been a nice player for the Bills since they drafted him in 2004 but as most fantasy owners can attest to tends to disappear for weeks at a time with little or no production. Owens will at the very least prevent teams from being able to double Evans and gives the Bills that other receiver they haven't had since Evans has been on the team.
Expect Evans to post similar stats to what he has been posting throughout his career with the Bills: 800-1000 yds and 4-6 TD's making Evans more of a number 3 WR or a Flex option rather than someone you can depend on a regular basis. With Evans you always have the chance for an 80 yd bomb but you also risk getting nothing from him for weeks at a time. For the most part T.O. and Evans are the only 2 Bills receivers that I would consider on draft day. They have no TE to speak of and Josh Reed is mediocre at best. Moreover, Rosco Parrish is on the trading block. I may possible consider spending a late round flier on James Hardy who seemed to emerge as a decent Red Zone threat late last year before getting injured.
What effect will T.O. have on Bills QB Trent Edwards? Is Edwards a number 1 fantasy QB heading into drafts this summer because of Owens' presence? I will now address that very topic. The Bills had high hopes for Edwards when they drafted 92nd overall in the 2007 draft, The 2007 draft also showcased JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn. Last season Edwards and the Bills got off to a fast start until they came out here and Adrian Wilson destroyed Edwards with a devastating hit that caused Edwards to miss 2 games and even after returning was never the same for the rest of the year. It was readily apparent that he was scared to go down the field subsequent to that hit and it seemed like all he would do is immediately check down to Marshawn Lynch in the flat out of the backfield. The jury is still out on Edwards as at times he looks impressive and at others looks woeful. This is a big year for Edwards as he heads into his 3rd NFL season. He has weapons with Evans and T.O. but it remains to be seen whether he can take advantage of what he has to take his career to the next level and start flirting with the Pro Bowl.
Owens will help Edwards just from his mere presence of being on the field but he will also most certainly test his leadership qualities and it will be interesting to see how the third year signal caller will handle himself the first time T.O. goes off the deep end. The one thing the Bills need that in my estimation would help Edwards' development dramatically is an athletic, pass catching TE. The Bills have really never had that type of player and it would give Edwards a nice security blanket without having to rely so much on Lynch coming out of the backfield. To start the year no way do I trust Edwards as a number 1 fantasy QB until he proves to me that he can take this team under his wing and lead them consistently on a week to week basis. Treat Edwards as a decent number 2 fantasy QB heading into 2009 and someone who you may use as a bye week replacement or in other situations when the Bills have favorable match ups.
The Bills running game did not get any help from the commissioners office when it was announced recently that Lynch would be suspended for the first 3 games of the season. When you really think about it though you realize that Lynch will now miss approximately 1/3 of the fantasy season. With that in mind I expect Lynch to be somewhat of a bargain this year much in the same way Steve Smith was last year. If you remember last year Smith (who is one of my favorite players in the league and who I should have included in my top 5 WR's article a couple weeks ago) was suspended by Carolina for the first 2 games of the year for punching Ken Lucas (who has since been released) in the face. In my draft last summer Smith went in the 5th round and without the suspension would have been a late 2nd round or early 3rd round pick. I expect a similar fate for Lynch this year. Lynch certainly was a late 1st or an early 2nd round pick before the suspension and now I believe his stock has slipped to the late 3rd or 4th round.
Sure, Lynch in the 4th round sounds like a steal but if you go that route and draft him you really have to cover yourself for the first 3 games of the season. Moreover, even when Lynch does come back in week 4 he will surely need to work off the rust making it a real possibility that fantasy owners may not see any true production out of Lynch until week 4 or maybe even week 5. Furthermore, it is no guarantee that this schmuck will stay out of trouble. He is already in the doghouse of the commissioner and anymore screw ups will have the California native facing even sterner punishment. If you draft Lynch make sure you pick up either Fred Jackson or Dominick Rhodes whom the Bills just signed recently to a 2 year contract. The bottom line is this. You need starters with your first 5 picks at least and I just don't know if I can use a 3rd or 4th round pick on someone who isn't going to play the first 3 games. Personally, I wouldn't touch Lynch until at least the 5th round and no way he will be there that late.
In closing, I would steer clear of most of Buffalo's regular starters for fantasy purposes until this group proves that they can coexist and be a productive and cohesive unit on a weekly basis. Next up: The Miami Dolphins.