The 2018 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 and/or beyond. I will be reviewing each team in the reverse order of the final standings.
Buffalo Bills (6-10)
The 2018 Buffalo Bills had the distinction of starting a total of four different quarterbacks throughout the duration of the season, with first-round (7th overall) rookie Josh Allen taking center stage among the chaos. A polarizing prospect, Allen showed off his cannon for an arm by leading the NFL (among quarterbacks with at least 128 pass attempts) in average intended air yards (11) and longest completed air distance (63.9). However, Allen stuggled mightily with accuracy, completing an NFL-low 52.8 percent of his passes. while only the Cardinals’ Josh Rosen had a worse 2018 season quarterback rating. Despite underwhelming passing numbers, Allen did manage to move the fantasy needle (QB19 in fantasy points per game) via rushing stats, as only fellow rookie Lamar Jackson compiled more yards on the ground by quarterbacks than Allen’s 631. Nobody said fantasy stats had to be pretty, and Allen proved he’s capable of putting up some monstrous stat line, as he did in Week 17 against the Dolphins with 224 yards passing, 95 yards rushing, and five total touchdowns. So far the jury is still out on whether Allen can be an effective NFL passer, but for fantasy purposes, he’ll be worth monitoring as a potential bye-week replacement or second quarterback in leagues that start two.
Having turned 30 last July, and running behind an offensive line that ranked third-worst in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards, LeSean McCoy experienced the worst-yards-per-carry average of his 10-year career. McCoy tallied 73 rushing yards or more in just three contests, and was held to a measly 52 or less in the rest. The Bills’ front offense has reportedly stated they intend to have McCoy play out the final season of a five-year/$40 million contract signed in 2015, which keeps him in the mix as a volume-based RB2 with lowered upside on an offense doesn’t figure to take a major leap forward in the scoring department (16.8 points for per game in 2018, 30th in the NFL). Backups Chris Ivory and Marcus Murphy are also under contract for 2019 as well, though Ivory could find himself on the wrong end of a business decision if the Bills decide to save $1.4 million in salary cap space by cutting the soon-to-be 31-year old running back. Since the Bills currently have nobody on their roster as a viable heir apparent for the aging McCoy, it would be not at all surprising to see the team spend a second day NFL Draft pick on a rusher this April.
Zay Jones’ sophomore season was a welcome relief after he posted an abysmal 36.5 percent catch rate (6th-worst all time since 1992 among players that were targeted at least 70 times) as a rookie in 2017. A former second-round draft pick who holds NCAA records for both single season and career receptions, Jones should be able to continue his ascension in Year 3 as a solid possession receiver, and will likely enter 2017 as Josh Allen’s top pass game target. Even more surprising than Jones’ sudden turnaround was the emergence of undrafted rookie Robert Foster, who had never put up more than 174 receiving yards in any of his four years at the University of Alabama. Despite not having much of an offensive role before Week 10, Foster averaged 73 yards per game from that point forward, and finished the 2018 season first in yards-per-reception (20.04) and second in yards-per-target (12.3) among wideouts who were targeted at least 40 times. Despite the small sample size, Foster’s freakish athletic profile suggests he could evolve further as an excellent compliment for Josh Allen’s big arm (akin to a dollar store brand of Tyreek Hill with Patrick Mahomes). Perennial disappointment Kelvin Benjamin was supposed to be the Bills’ no. 1 receiver in 2018 after being acquired in a trade with the Panthers the season prior, though was essentially a non-factor through 12 games until finally being cut last December. When a team as wide receiver-needy as the Bills sends you packing, it’s generally not a good sign for your future career outlook (just ask Corey Coleman). Behind the duo of Jones and Foster, the Bills don’t really have anyone else who stands out as a potential 2019 contributor. Look for Buffalo to be active during free agency, likely bringing in a dependable veteran or two at the wideout position who can produce right away, and serve as a mentor for their younger guys.
Coming off a NFL career-worst single season statistical performance, the Bills decided to thrown in the towel on Charles Clay and his five-year/$38 million contract (signed in 2015) by releasing the veteran tight end earlier this month. While the Bills are still on the hook for half of Clay’s $9 million 2019 salary, they were able to jettison a guy who was continually plagued by inconsistency and nagging injuries despite a contract that made him one of the highest paid tight ends in the NFL. With Clay gone, the Bills are left with only second-year former undrafted free agent Jason Croom under contract for 2019, as converted quarterback Logan Thomas is headed to free agency. Assuming pending free agents Eric Ebron and Jared Cook stick with their respective clubs, the crop of tight ends hitting the open market this March isn’t one to get terribly excited about, so expect the Bills to aggressively pursue the position during the 2019 NFL Draft, as the erratic Josh Allen could use a dependable big body in the pass game.