As part of the premium content package, we’re unveiling dynasty capsules for every team in the NFL all Spring and Summer. This year, we also have a follow-up to every team capsule, with more detail on one of our favorite pieces – the dynasty sleeper. We continue our alphabetical journey through the NFL with the Buffalo Bills because nobody circles the wago…nah, forget it.
Fitzpatrick started out hot in 2011, leading the Bills to a 5-2 record after the first seven weeks of the year. Over that span, he completed 68% of his passes (155 of 229) for 1,739 yards and had 14 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions. The Bills thought they had finally found the legitimate starting quarterback they’ve coveted since the days of Jim Kelly. As such, they rewarded Fitzpatrick with a seven-year, $62 million extension that included $24 million guaranteed.
Over the last nine weeks of the year, the Bills promptly went 1-8 and Fitzpatrick threw 10 touchdowns against 16 interceptions to end the season as the NFL’s leader in interceptions with 23 – just one fewer than his touchdown total of 24.
Part of Fitzpatrick’s struggles included a mid-season injury that included four cracked ribs and an injured sternum. That’s painful for any player to go through, but it still doesn’t excuse his poor performance down the stretch for the second straight season.
The good news for Fitzpatrick owners is that the Bills didn’t add a rookie quarterback of note in the NFL draft. Some thought they’d pull the plug on the Fitzpatrick era as soon as this Summer, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. He’ll get one more chance to prove he’s worthy of holding on to the job long-term this season. Make no mistake, though. The leash is going to be very, very short on him.
If you own Fitzpatrick, you can only hope he plays well enough to be your low end QB2. If he starts out the season hot again, it’s going to open up a window where you may be able to trade him. If that happens, it’s advised you jump on it – he’s shown us a pattern of hot starts and cold finishes.
Don’t be fooled yet again.
It doesn’t seem like that long ago when Young was the next big prospect at quarterback. After all, he had just led Texas to the National Championship over the favored Trojans of USC and was one of the best athletes we’d ever seen play the position. Six years later, he’s barely holding on to his career.
Young’s career thus far is an incredibly odd one. After being named to the Pro Bowl early on, his career in Tennessee included being booed off the field by his home fans, a bizarre disappearance that had some fearing he was going to take his own life and Young walking out on his Coach and teammates after a game. After finally being banished from the Titans, he inked a deal with Philadelphia last season and immediately made headlines by calling them the “Dream Team.” He backed that up talk with a performance that didn’t match featuring a meager four touchdowns and nine interceptions playing in spot duty for the injured Michael Vick.
The Bills have taken a chance on Young and he’ll battle Tyler Thigpen for the backup job behind Fitzpatrick. There could be some sleeper value with Young because we’ve seen him put up some great fantasy performances before. It’s not as if Fitzpatrick has a stranglehold on the job, either.
In a best case scenario for owners of Young, Fitzpatrick fizzles early and Young rekindles some of the old magic. In a more likely scenario, Young plays in a handful of games and performs as he has lately – not very well.
At 29, time is running out for Young to ever make an impact. It’s tough to justify any type of roster spot for him, even in the deepest of leagues.
In 2008, Thigpen was a great waiver wire grab as he played very well for the Chiefs en route to a near 3,000 yard passing season. Unfortunately, the rest of his career has produced just 584 passing yards, three touchdown passes and six interceptions playing in spot duty for the Chiefs, Dolphins and Bills. It’s possible he beats out Young because he’s a favorite of the coaching staff, but the chance of him ever becoming relevant again in dynasty leagues is almost non-existent.
For those of us who didn’t attend Coe College, Jackson was a relative unknown when he entered the league in 2007. His career has had a few ups and downs, but there’s no doubting his productivity. In fact, Jackson was one of the hottest players at the beginning of last season as he posted 934 rushing yards, 442 receiving yards and scored six touchdowns in just ten games until a fractured fibula ended his season.
On the plus side, Jackson just inked a new two-year extension and is said to be recovering well. He’ll look to improve upon his hot start last year that featured a robust 5.5 yards per carry average. He also has just 817 career carries, which is important considering he’s already 31 years old.
So, what about the negatives?
The biggest obstacle Jackson has now is the emergence of one C.J. Spiller. After making the former Clemson star a total afterthought and giving the Bills no choice but to keep him on the bench, his injury last season opened the door for Spiller to emerge and he did just that.
Going into 2012, Jackson’s value is on the decline because he’s expected to be used in a time share with Spiller. He could still be a valuable commodity for contending teams, but you really have to figure the beginning of last season is going to feature the best production we’re going to see from Jackson’s fantasy career. At best, he’s going to get the better part of a 65/35 split and that’s likely being pretty optimistic.
After being taken as a high first round draft pick, many dynasty league owners took Spiller with a top three pick in 2010 rookie drafts. His performance for the first year and half can be described as nothing but an epic disaster.
His rookie campaign featured just 440 yards and one touchdown on 98 total touches. Most dynasty league owners were wondering why the Bills even took him since he was seemingly nothing more than the highest drafted return specialist since Desmond Howard.
The beginning of Spiller’s 2011 campaign actually started out even worse. Through the first eleven games, Spiller had 36 touches on offense, producing 197 total yards and one score while watching Fred Jackson tear up the league. Arian Foster and Ray Rice could produce those stats in one week.
Here comes opportunity with a great big knock.
After Fred Jackson went down with a broken fibula, Spiller took the reigns of the featured back job and didn’t look back. Over the last six weeks of the year, he produced 446 rushing yards, 187 receiving yards and five touchdowns, becoming an incredibly valuable RB2 in dynasty leagues. Better yet, he averaged 5.2 yards per carry during that stretch and showed a willingness to be a true workhorse.
So, now what?
There are serious and justifiable questions about Spiller’s size in relation to his ability to hold up over an entire season. After all, he is just 5′ 11″ and weighs 197 lbs. The Bills have brought back Jackson at a reasonable rate, so the expectation is that these two end up sharing the load rather equally – at least for now.
This upcoming season is going to be huge for Spiller. If he can build upon what he did at the end of last season, the Bills are going to have no choice but to keep him on the field. After all, there are few players in the league as explosive as he is. Chances are he shares the load with Jackson, but there’s no doubt he’s the superior talent.
Spiller’s career will likely feature him being part of a committee one way or another. However, we’ve seen many backs (Darren Sproles, for example) who can still excel and produce in such a role. His potential is likely capped at being a RB2, but he’s a player who has been completely resurrected from the dead.
The former Tar Heel back was a hot sleeper pick in rookie drafts just a year ago, but the shine on his potential has grown rather dim. With Spiller emerging and Jackson re-signed, it’s looking like a long shot that we ever see much of White on the field. As such, his dynasty prospects are pretty bleak. He’s worth a roster spot in a deep league, but only in a very deep league.
Remember back in 2008 when Choice was looking like he could actually be a significant part of the future at running back for the Cowboys? Yeah, I’ll bet he does to.
After bouncing from Dallas to Washington to Buffalo over the last couple of seasons, Choice’s career is running on fumes. After all, if Mike Shanahan can’t make you relevant at the position, you’re really in trouble.
If you ever wanted proof that the theory behind the third year wide receiver breakout holds water, look no further than Stevie Johnson. In his first two seasons in the league, Johnson compiled just 12 catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns while appearing in sixteen games. In 2010, he exploded for 82 catches, 1,073 yards and ten touchdowns. Owners who held on to him and exhibited patience were rewarded handsomely.
In 2011, Johnson had a bit of down season by posting 76 catches, 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns – all decreases from 2010. When you consider he played through a nasty groin injury that required surgery, those totals are still impressive. As such, the Bills re-signed Johnson a five-year, $36.25 million contract, with $19.5 million guaranteed this off-season.
Johnson does have a knack for making foolish mistakes and needs to get his head on straight, but there’s no doubting his ability. The Bills quarterback situation is still of great concern, but if Johnson can put up great numbers with the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm, what could he do with Matt Barkley or Logan Thomas?
If you’re looking for a solid WR2 who is a little bit undervalued in many dynasty league circles, Johnson may just be your man.
The Bills haven’t had two great receiving options for years and have been searching for someone else to step up. It seems Jones may have the inside track of doing just that. In his first two seasons, he has compiled 41 catches, 444 yards and two scores. The stats don’t blow you away considering he started for half the season, but he has shown some ability.
This off-season has featured Jones playing in multiple spots, including the slot. It’s tough to see exactly how this is going to pan out, but at this point, it looks like he has the most immediate upside of the receiving corps outside of Johnson.
Nelson manned the slot for the Bills last year and was mildly effective, posting 61 catches for 658 yards and five scores. He isn’t overly dynamic, but his catch total keeps him in the top fifty scorers in most PPR leagues. The problem with Nelson is the fact he’s a prime example of a “DRE” (dynasty roster eater) at this point – he’s good enough to be on most rosters, but not someone who you’d likely play very often. With Jones practicing in the slot and the existence of Derek Hagan and T.J. Graham on the roster, the future for Nelson is cloudy.
There was a time when Hagan was a coveted asset in dynasty leagues. After all, he was electric at Arizona State and looked like he had a ton of potential. Unfortunately, his inconsistency has derailed his career. In his six year career, he’s made stops with the Dolphins, Giants, Raiders and now with the Bills.
The light doesn’t typically turn on this late for a receiver and Hagan will be battling hard for a roster spot this Summer. However, you shouldn’t completely dismiss him. If he earns a starting spot opposite Johnson, he’d be worth monitoring.
If there’s one thing we know about Graham, it’s that he doesn’t lack speed as he’s been clocked consistently between 4.35 and 4.40 in the forty. At this point, he looks like a return specialist who can hopefully develop into something more. His potential is likely similar to that of Roscoe Parrish. However, the Bills do see him as a player who could develop into an outside receiver, so monitor his progress closely.
We’ll focus on Easley more in our sleeper focus for the Bills.
If your league scores quadruple points for wildcat and gadget plays, here’s your guy!
Roosevelt is yet another Bills receiver who has shown promise at times, but isn’t roster worthy. It’s possible he could emerge into something useful. I just wouldn’t say it’s likely.
Chandler paid his dues and developed slowly after being originally drafted by San Diego back in 2007. He bounced around and finally found his home on the Bills active roster. If anything, he’s a good red zone target since six of his 38 catches went for touchdowns last season. The Bills believe he can develop into something better, but it’s hard to envision him ever being a weekly fantasy option. Like so many on the Bills offense, time will tell on Chandler. He’s best served as your third tight end on a dynasty roster.
We’ll continue our team-by-team capsules with the Carolina Panthers up next.
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