The 2017 NFL regular season has concluded, so it’s time to briefly examine the state of each team’s skill positions for fantasy purposes with an eye towards next season. Having covered all of 2017’s non-playoff NFL teams, it’s time to review the rest, with the next squad being:
Buffalo Bills (9-7)
Tyrod Taylor did his best to make lemonade out of lemons in the Bills’ vanilla offense, though it ultimately wasn’t enough in the eyes of the coaching staff to prevent a mid-season benching. Fifth-round rookie Nathan Peterman was so laughably bad in his first career NFL start (a Week 11 loss to the L.A. Chargers in which Peterman tossed five interceptions in one half of football) that it forced Bills head coach Sean McDermot to tuck his tail between his legs and send Tyrod Taylor back on to the field. Taylor then managed to lead the team to their first post-season berth since 1999. Earlier this month, Taylor was shipped off to Cleveland in exchange for the Browns’ 2018 second-round draft pick, while the Bills signed former Bengals backup A.J. McCarron to a two-year $10 million contract. While McCarron currently looks to be the favorite for 2018 starting duties, the Bills possess the 12th and 22nd selections in this April’s draft, and are widely expected to use one or both of those picks as ammunition to try and move up and select one of the highly coveted available rookie signal callers. If/when that does happen, the Bills could be looking at a quarterback competition this Summer.
While LeSean McCoy did manage to play his first 16-game season as a member of the Bills, his team’s lack of supporting weapons allowed opposing defenses to key on the run game, resulting in McCoy posting a career-low 4.0 yards-per-carry (YPC). That said, McCoy was able to somewhat make up for his rushing struggles with a team-high 59 receptions and his 448 receiving yards were the most since 2013. Turning 30 this July, McCoy should be able to provide at least one more season of mid-tier RB1 production as the Bills’ do-it-all back. McCoy’s status as a workhorse leaves little in the way of touches for the rest of the Bills’ backfield. Mike Tolbert (currently a free agent) operated as McCoy’s primary backup, though isn’t expected back with the team in 2018. Tolbert’s replacement appears to be Chris Ivory (signed earlier this month via free agency), who could be worth stashing on 2018 fantasy benches as an insurance policy for the aging McCoy. Pass game specialist Travaris Cadet was also re-signed to a one year contract, though he doesn’t figure to see more than a few touches per game.
The Bills’ receiving corps was in such a sad state last season their receiving yard leader at the position (Deonte Thompson) didn’t even begin the campaign with the team. Cut from the Bears’ roster after Week 4, Thompson was scooped up by the Bills just days later, and managed receiving lines of 4-104-0 and 7-81-1 in Weeks 5 and 7 before mostly disappearing the rest of the season. Thompson just recently signed on with Dallas in a free agent deal and will not be back in Buffalo for 2018. With the Bills struggling to find able bodies to play wideout, second-round rookie Zay Jones was handed a golden opportunity to join the starting lineup during last Summer’s training camp, and fell flat on his face. Jones’ 36.5 percent catch rate was dead last among NFL players who saw at least 70 targets, a mind boggling statistic considering he finished first in FBS receptions (158) and second in receiving yards (1,746) as a senior at East Carolina University the year prior. Last January, a report surfaced that Jones may have been playing through a torn labrum, thus contributing to his miserable statistics, however, of greater concern is Jones’ recent arrest for vandalism. While the charges against Jones were ultimately dropped, the incident could be indicative of a larger issue.
Acquired via a trade with Philadelphia early last August, Jordan Matthews was never really healthy for any of the 2017 season. Matthews missed all of the preseason with a chest injury suffered on his first day of practice with the Bills, and while he was able to get cleared in time for Week 1, he then suffered a thumb injury in Week 4, which Matthews ended up playing through until a knee injury landed him on injured reserve in December. Coming off an extremely injury-riddled season, Matthews is currently a free agent and is all but certain to be playing elsewhere in 2018. Kelvin Benjamin is another big-name wideout the Bills landed from a trade, and like Matthews, almost all of Benjamin’s time spent with the Bills was marred by injury (specifically, a torn meniscus suffered in Week 11 that he ultimately played through). However, unlike Matthews, the 27-year old Benjamin is under contract with the Bills for 2018, and expected to operate as the team’s no. 1 wideout, giving Benjamin sneaky fantasy value as a potential target hog in the Bills’ bare-bones wideout corps. While it’s fair to question how effective Benjamin can be on the field after suffering two major knee injuries over the past two years, the volume should be there. Andre Holmes was once a hyped fantasy prospect several years ago, and while he did lead the Bills in touchdown receptions, the former Oakland Raider will turn 30 this June, meaning it’s likely his window for becoming a fantasy contributor is shut for good.
Even though he missed three games, Charles Clay ended up leading the Bills in receiving yards. Perpetually underwhelming from a fantasy perspective since signing a huge free agent deal back in 2015, Clay has plenty of play-making chops, but is constantly nicked up, having only played a 16 game season once in his career (2013 with Miami). Clay will remain a bye week option for 2018, and is always good for a big game here or there, though predicting when they will happen is near impossible. Second-string tight end Nick O’Leary had at least 51 receiving yards in three of the four games Clay was either hobbled or absent, and was given an exclusive rights tender by the Bills earlier this month, which would indicate the Bills continue to view 2015 sixth-round pick as part of their future. O’Leary could carve out streaming appeal if (when) Clay misses time during the 2018 regular season.