2014 Team Outlook: Buffalo Bills
QB E.J. Manuel, BUF - Bye Week Fill-in
Buffalo's brass has done a decent job of setting the table for Manuel to have a successful season (and that's without Stevie Johnson). They acquired Mike Williams from the Buccaneers. They then paired him with first-round pick Sammy Watkins. Robert Woods and field-stretcher Marquise Goodwin were already in place, plus the Bills have a couple of running backs who are apt receivers. The question is whether Manuel can take full advantage of his situation. He completed only 56-percent of his passes with as many touchdowns as turnovers prior to an October knee injury that sidelined him for a month. He put together some better games once he returned, but it was still a very uneven rookie campaign. It's worth noting that Manuel (who has a capable running ability) has undergone three knee surgeries since entering the league. His athleticism and continued maturation as a passer could lead to a bright future, but it's unlikely that Manuel finds his stride in his second season. He's not off to a good start if spring practices are any indication. He is a low-end QB2 on most days.
QB Thaddeus Lewis, BUF - Not Draft Worthy
Lewis wasn't horrible in five starts last season while Manuel was sidelined due to injury, but the 26-year-old is only a low-ceiling backup quarterback at his highest aspiration. He has a significant lead on Jeff Tuel and Dennis Dixon for the No. 2 QB job. The Bills must be crossing their fingers that they don't have to call upon him to start a handful of games again. He has no draft value.
RB C.J. Spiller, BUF - Solid/Safe Pick
YOU GOTTA BELIEVE: It is understandable if a large number of fantasy owners skip over this section of the article. Spiller was a first-round pick for many of them last year. He was going to be the focal point of the Bills' offense. Then an ankle injury hampered him for much of the season, and he burned his owners so badly with inconsistent outputs that some may never forgive him. It also didn't help that he was misused by the Bills' coaching staff even when he was running at full strength. Hopefully they learned the error of their ways, because Spiller remains this team's most dangerous weapon on offense. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry on just 201 totes last season. And there's reason to believe he will see much more work this season. Similar things have been spoken regarding Spiller before, but there is no denying that he presents massive upside when healthy. And right now, he is. The former Clemson alum could be a major steal at his current third-round average draft position.
Editor's note: Last year, Spiller was typically drafted around the middle of the first round of fantasy drafts. He was supposed to be the next big thing. He still can be; you just have to take the risk to glean the reward.
RB Bryce Brown, BUF - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Here's the reason why Jackson is probably headed out of Buffalo after this season (or at least the Bills hope Brown shows them enough to make them feel safe in letting the veteran go). At first glance, Brown (a former top collegiate recruit) looks like a future star back. He is big, fast and runs with impressive power. The following glances show a player who doesn't follow his blockers enough, has struggled at times holding onto the ball and tries to break off 50-yard gains on every play instead of taking what the defense gives him. The Eagles gave up on Brown after two seasons for a fourth-round pick in 2015. Now it is Buffalo's job to take his raw talent and mold him into more of a disciplined runner. He could see some action this season, but he is an even better guy dynasty leaguers need to track. Spiller can also opt out of his contract after this season, which could grant Brown a huge opportunity.
RB Fred Jackson, BUF - Fantasy Handcuff
Jackson played a full slate of games last year after a couple of injury-shortened seasons, and he responded by gaining more than 1,200 yards from scrimmage to go along with 10 touchdowns. However, he is clearly Buffalo's No. 2 running back entering 2014 and will see his role reduced as the Bills try to get Spiller involved more often. Given Spiller's rather slender build and history of getting dinged up, Jackson makes for a wise mid-round selection as an insurance policy. He caught a career-high 47 passes and averaged 4.3 yards per rush in his age-32 season, so he's definitely got some gas left in the tank. Jackson said he wants to play a few more seasons in the NFL, but they will likely come with some other team as he is in a contract year.
WR Sammy Watkins, BUF - Quality Backup
Can Watkins be an immediate difference-maker for this offense? If he lives up to some early comparisons, yes. Prior to the draft, NFL Films' Greg Cosell said he considered Watkins the best wide receiver prospect to enter the league since A.J. Green and Julio Jones in 2011. Both of those players gained more than 1,000 total yards and put up WR2-worthy fantasy totals as rookies. Buffalo didn't trade up to draft Watkins and then trade Stevie Johnson just to let Watkins sit and learn. He will be thrown into the fire and looked at as the team's No. 1 wideout from the get-go. His level of first-year success is largely tied to Manuel's own improvement, but he should see enough targets to make 1,000 yards a distinct possibility. It should also go without saying that he is one of the top picks in dynasty drafts.
Editor's note: If there was one thing Manuel could do in college, it was throw screen passes. This limitation might actually work in his favor with Watkins due to the receiver's uncanny skills after the catch. Lots of potential here; it just may take a season to full ripen.