He didn’t set the lofty standard for himself that came with being a top-five draft pick. The Bills did that after making a stunning trade with the Cleveland Browns to vault from No. 9 to No. 4 overall to select Watkins. By paying the exorbitant price of first- and fourth-round choices in 2015 to make the climb, they instantly identified him as the primary solution to making EJ Manuel look much more like the first-round quarterback he didn’t look like as a rookie in 2013.
Fair or not, Watkins had to live with that label and the expectations that came with it. Ultimately, his 65 catches (tying him with Robert Woods for second on the team behind the 66 of running back Fred Jackson) for 982 yards and six touchdowns didn’t come remotely close to fulfilling them. Manuel was benched after four games, and the Bills proceeded to miss the playoffs for a 15th consecutive year.
Worse for Watkins was the fact that, in a draft packed with superb receiving talent, he took a seat many rows behind Odell Beckham Jr., who caught 91 passes for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns for the New York Giants, the story said. Carolina’s Kelvin Benjamin and Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans were also having more productive seasons and all those guys were taken after Watkins in the 2014 NFL Draft. Watkins is also behind the above WRs in our rankings for this season, coming in 30th. We project a much better season for Watkins (75-1,027-5.9), who has a QB situation more in question than the above players. He's shaping up to be a mid-range WR3 for fantasy teams and could benefit more with some QB stability.
While Bills running backs coach Anthony Lynn would like to see LeSean McCoy’s workload stay the same, he’d prefer if Fred Jackson’s was scaled back. Jackson played 548 snaps last season, a number Lynn said he’d like to see cut in half.
“I think he wore down a little bit at the end of the season,” Lynn said. “If we could take half of that off his plate, I think you’re going to see a fresher Fred Jackson and a more explosive Fred Jackson.”
We currently have Jackson projected to touch the ball 114 times after he racked up 207 touches in 14 games last season, so Lynn's expectations mostly jibe with our projections. As for McCoy, he's going to have a tough time matching the 340 touches he had in 2014 due to the potency and pace of the Philadelphia offense compared to the Buffalo offense. We do have McCoy projected to see 329 touches since OC Greg Roman and HC Rex Ryan both love to run the ball. Just don't expect McCoy's receptions to increase; Roman barely used the very capable Frank Gore in a pass-catching role while calling plays in San Francisco the last few seasons.
In an interview on Bills flagship station WGR Sportsradio 550, Bills QB E.J. Manuel said his commitment to the quarterback position has reached a point of singular fixation, and attributes it to the adversity he faced last season when he was benched after just four starts.
“I think what I went through that’s just what made me grow up. That was true adversity in my playing career,” Manuel said. “As far as the competitive edge I have now, it’s crazy. It’s almost an obsession now as far as mastering this position and mastering this offense and mainly the fundamentals and mechanics of the game. Why not spend all my time doing that? There’s really nothing else to do right now. The main thing is just being all in and investing in yourself.”
Manuel insists his throwing accuracy is much improved after working for four months this offseason with former NFL QB Steve DeBerg. He credits DeBerg with eliminating the wind up in his throwing motion that compromised his accuracy. His throwing motion is much more compact now and he feels his accuracy is much improved.
The team acquired Matt Cassel in the offseason and he's likely to start unless Manuel is able to make big strides. There are a lot of weapons in Buffalo, but under new OC Greg Roman the team is likely to utilize a run-heavy approach (with LeSean McCoy and Fred Jackson) and rely on its defense to win games.
"We try and give (the ball) to the guys who are going to do something with it, and I think he's going to be one of those guys who's going to force us to give him the ball more," Caldwell said last week at the NFL owners meetings. "I think you're really going to see him come along."
Caldwell expects Riddick's role to grow next season, though that could depend on what kind of tailback the team adds in April's draft. Riddick is a plus-plus pass catcher out of the backfield, but hasn't shown any kind of chops yet on the ground -- yet.
"He has all the qualities. Here's the thing -- if you're smart, if you're tough, if you're disciplined, if you have a great work ethic, there's improvement ahead. And he has all those things. So I think he's going to improve, and I think he's going to force us to get him the ball a little bit more in some situations."
Reggie Bush’s departure should give Riddick the opportunity to shine as the team's primary passing down back. He averaged 5.0 catches for 53 yards for 13.2 fantasy points in PPR formats in the five games that Bush missed last season. That's about what Fred Jackson averaged as the #17 running back in 2014. If the Lions don't add a running back early in the draft, then Riddick should be a sleeper in PPR formats.
Update: It's five-year, $40 million deal that includes $26.5 million guaranteed.
It's said to be a five-year, $40 million contract that includes $26.5 million guaranteed. This looks like a system downgrade for McCoy, who ran much better later in the season once his offensive line started to get healthy. In Buffalo, new HC Rex Ryan and new OC Greg Roman (formerly of San Francisco) both have a history of running ball control, run-first teams, but the Bills have serious quarterback issues. Free agent C.J. Spiller isn't likely to re-sign and the acquisition of McCoy has to be a downgrade for Fred Jackson. As for McCoy, he's still a fantasy RB1, though he carries more risk since the Buffalo offense could struggle to score points. Given the way the Eagles like to run the ball, whoever emerges as the starter in Philadelphia will carry early round value.
Nothing can be finalized until next week, but if the trade does indeed go through, it's a blockbuster. This looks like a system downgrade for McCoy, who ran much better later in the season once his offensive line started to get healthy. In Buffalo, new HC Rex Ryan and new OC Greg Roman (formerly of San Francisco) both have a history of running ball control, run-first teams, but the Bills have serious quarterback issues. Free agent C.J. Spiller isn't likely to re-sign and the acquisition of McCoy has to be a downgrade for Fred Jackson. As for McCoy, he's still a fantasy RB1, though he carries more risk since the Buffalo offense could struggle to score points. Given the way the Eagles like to run the ball, whoever emerges as the starter in Philadelphia will carry early round value.
After finishing in the top 20 for three straight seasons in PPR points per game (including #6 in 2013), Bush was #32 in that category last season. His departure should solidify Joique Bell's workload and give Theo Riddick the opportunity to shine as the team's primary passing down back. Bell finished #14 in standard formats and #13 in PPR, so he should continue to produce high-end RB2 numbers provided he stays healthy and the Lions don't make any major moves at running back. As for Riddick, he averaged 13.2 fantasy points (in PPR formats) in the five games that Bush missed last season. That's about what Fred Jackson averaged as the #17 running back in 2014.
Friday, December 19, 2014, 6:02pm
Bills RB C.J. Spiller (shoulder, probable) took limited practice reps all week and is probable for Week 16. Spiller should serve as Fred Jackson’s primary backup, but don’t expect a huge workload. Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon have combined for 12.0 touches in the last four games, so that would seem to be Spiller’s ceiling in his first game back from injury.
He was practicing with his teammates on Wednesday, much as he had for each of the past two weeks. The only difference now is he’s been medically cleared for contact. C.J. Spiller has not yet been added to the 53-man roster from his I-R Designated to return status, but it’s anticipated that will take place later in the week.
Bills head coach Doug Marrone liked the way Spiller performed in practice Wednesday.
“I’m not going to sit up here and see he didn’t look good. He looked good, but he’s still working his way back into the football part of it,” Marrone said.
The Bills are still alive in the playoff hunt, but they'll need some help to make the postseason. If Spiller does play, he probably won't have a big role in his first game back, though he could take over most of the touches that Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown have been getting in the last few weeks. They have combined for 12.0 touches in the last four weeks, so we would expect that would be Spiller's ceiling with Fred Jackson continue to carry the load as the team's primary back.
Marrone did not commit to having Spiller, who has been on injured reserve with a designation to return, play in Sunday's game at the Oakland Raiders.
"I'd like to see more participation before we make that decision," he said.
Spiller returned to practice on Dec. 3 after missing six weeks with a broken collarbone. The Bills had until Dec. 24 to decide whether to place him on their 53-man roster. If Spiller plays, it would likely mean Bryce Brown loses playing time and the Bills ride with Spiller, Fred Jackson and Anthony Dixon.
Spiller’s participation today begins a 21-day practice window in which he can work with coaches and teammates and not count toward the active roster. He cannot be activated until Dec. 16th, the Tuesday after the Packers game, and would be eligible to play in games at that time. A roster move would also need to be made at that time to add Spiller to the 53-man roster.
Fred Jackson owners shouldn't worry too much about Spiller's potential return. Everything has to go right for Spiller to return in Week 16, and even then, he's likely to be limited in his first game back. Jackson is the RB1 in Buffalo for all intents and purposes.
Fred Jackson will play in Week 12. He was questionable all week with a groin injury so it's possible he's limited against the Jets, who rank sixth in allowing fantasy points to RBs. Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown will likely factor in the game plan, but with the workload in question and a tough matchup, no one is really considered a safe play in this situation.
(New York conducted a walk-through on Saturday)
T Oday Aboushi (shoulder), LB Antwan Barnes (knee), G Willie Colon (knee), WR T.J. Graham (neck), LB David Harris (shoulder), RB Chris Ivory (shoulder), S Jaiquawn Jarrett (calf), RB Chris Johnson (knee), C Nick Mangold (shoulder), LB Trevor Reilly (knee), WR Greg Salas (wrist), QB Geno Smith (right shoulder), CB Darrin Walls (calf)
DE Jarius Wynn (knee)
CB Ron Brooks (groin), RB Fred Jackson (groin)
K Dan Carpenter (right groin), WR Marquise Goodwin (ankle), WR Chris Hogan (hip), DE Manny Lawson (ankle), QB Kyle Orton (toe), RB Frank Summers (neck), G Kraig Urbik (shoulder), WR Sammy Watkins (groin)
Bills RB Fred Jackson is questionable. He's indicated he's going to play, but with the game now Monday night he becomes a bit more risky. It's not a great matchup against the Jets rush defense, but either way owners will need to be prepared just in case Jackson doesn't go. Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown would at least be serviceable backups if needed. Also for the Bills, Watkins and Orton are probable.
Friday, November 21, 2014, 6:26pm
Bills RB Fred Jackson (groin) was removed from the injury report Friday after taking limited practice reps Thursday. Jackson is expected to play against the Jets on Monday evening. We should get an update on Saturday.
- Page 1