QB A.J. McCarron – After riding the bench for most of his last three seasons for the Bengals, McCarron will have a short window to prove he belongs in the top 32 QBs in the league. He’s made three starts (2-1) in his NFL career with his best game coming in 2015 vs. the Steelers (280/2). His completion rate (64.7) in the pros falls in a range with his college resume (66.9) where A.J. won two National Championships with Alabama as a starting QB. Over three seasons as a starter in college, McCarron passed for 8,630 yards with 77 TDs and 15 Ints. His ability to minimize mistakes should give him a full season window as the starting QB for the Bills, but wins will determine his ultimate playing time in 2018. Buffalo has a very good pass catching back, and Kelvin Benjamin still has talent. I don’t know what to make of Zay Jones after his offseason incident. In the end, the Bills have below league average talent across their receiving positions. They will struggle to make scoring plays in the passing game in the red zone. McCarron is undraftable in the Fantasy market. His winning days behind a great offensive line in college are miles away in the rear-view mirror. For him to prove his worth in the NFL, he needs to make the players around him better while doing a winning job in a ball control type offense.
QB Josh Allen – Allen was asked to do a lot over the last two seasons at Wyoming. In his 25 games in 2016 and 2017, he passed for 5,015 yards while gaining another 727 yards on the ground. Josh had 44 passing TDs and 21 Ints in his college career with another 12 scores on the ground. His accuracy (56.2) isn’t where it needs to be to be successful early in his NFL career. Allen has a Vinny Testaverde feel with better wheels. His arm is top shelf while needing to prove he has the skill set to read NFL defenses and make better throws under a shorter passing window. Josh will be tough to tackle, but he needs to improve his pocket presence and decision making. The comparison to Carson Wentz could be a trap and push a team to draft him higher than his true value. I see more of a project than a Super Bowl winner. With the right team and coaching staff, his game has a chance to be much higher. The Bills will give him a year or two to improve his game, but fans may clamor for Allen to start if Buffalo is losing games at a high rate in 2018.
RB LeSean McCoy – After a special season in 2016 where McCoy delivered 1,633 combined yards with 14 TDs and 50 catches leading to the 4th highest ranking at RB in PPR leagues, LeSean was tough to pass up on draft day in 2017. He’s a perfect case where stats from the previous season shouldn’t dictate draft value. In the end last year, McCoy finished with comparable yards (1,576) and catches (59), but regression in TDs (8) and less room to run (4.0 yards per rush compared to 5.4 in 2016) led to a 7th place ranking at RB in PPR leagues with 264.60 Fantasy points. The rub here is the next RB drafted in many leagues last year was Todd Gurley won outscored LeSean by more than 120 Fantasy points. McCoy will start 2018 at age 30 with six seasons with over 1,000 yards rushing and five years with 50 catches or more. He has a high floor in most weeks with a chance to get more than 20 touches per game. Over the last eight seasons in the NFL, LeSean has 11 missed game in 108 possible starts. His stats point to another top 10 finish at RB in PPR leagues, but his offensive line has weakness plus the loss of a running QB will free up another linebacker to limit his ability to break into space. It is tough avoiding a player with a long resume of success, but the direction of this offense suggests more regression. Possible 1,400 yards with a chance at another 50 catches and below ten TDs. At best a second piece to the puzzle with risk on his late-season value.
Update: 7/27/18 > McCoy reported to camp on time, and he remains positive on his playing time despite a huge legal case looming over him. Fantasy owners must follow LeSean’s off the field news in August as it could turn on a dime. With more information released, his season could be lost and possibly his career if he’s found tied to the incident vs. his ex-girlfriend at his house in Georgia.
I’m avoiding him for now until I have more information on his backstory. I expect McCoy to lose value in Fantasy drafts, which may end up turning him into a great value if he’s clear of any wrongdoing.
Update: 8/14/18 > The ex-girlfriend saga isn’t going away for McCoy. She filed a personal injury lawsuit against him this week while the home invasion is still under investigation. At this point, LeSean may just pay her off to put the issue to bed. Either way, he plays his hand, the NFL could come and drop the suspension bomb on him at some point in 2018 if this case breaks in the wrong direction.
Dr. Roto’s Take on Shady:
Buffalo Bills RB LeSean McCoy aka “Shady” has been one of the most consistent running backs in Fantasy Football over the last eight years. He can usually be counted on for 1000+ yards rushing (he’s done it in six of the past eight years), and 50+ catches out of the backfield (five of the past eight years). However, as we head into 2018, many question marks are surrounding whether McCoy is still worthy of being an RB1 for a Fantasy team.
I cannot picture drafting McCoy this year in the first three rounds as there are plenty of worry spots for me. Firstly, QB Tyrod Taylor is now in Cleveland, and A.J. McCarron and/or Josh Allen will be the new starting quarterback in Buffalo. While it is true that Taylor was not a terrific passer, he was a mobile runner out of the pocket. Normally defenses would have at least one linebacker spying on him in case he decided to take off and run. Now with Taylor gone and a new pocket passing QB in place, there might be fewer running lanes for McCoy. McCarron and/or Allen are both new to the offense and are pocket passers who need time and protection to be effective. This will shut down potential running lanes for McCoy and force the OL to do a better job of finding him room to run.
Getting the OL to open enough holes might be a problem as the Bills have lost three of their starting offensive lineman from last season. Center Eric Wood is retired, OL Richie Incognito retired, wants to come back and has been red-flagged for off-field mental issues so he is probably out of the game, and OT Cordy Glenn is now in Cincinnati. Where is McCoy going to find running room if he doesn’t have veteran blockers in front of him?
The Bills have also brought in RB Chris Ivory to be his backup. Ivory is a very tough runner who has great vision but has dealt with a myriad of injuries over the course of his career. The Bills brought in Ivory specifically, so they could feel comfortable about reducing McCoy’s game to game workload. With Ivory around stealing about one to two series per half (and some short yardage carries), McCoy will probably have closer to 225 carries than 250. While this does preserve his career, it doesn’t help McCoy’s overall numbers.
The Bills have virtually no passing game outside of WR Kelvin Benjamin. And while I like Benjamin, he is not a stretch the field type of receiver so opposing safeties might play closer to the box defensively. Additionally, last year’s early round draft pick WR Zay Jones was a huge disappointment as he showed that his game is not pro ready just yet. With no deep threat in the passing game, defenses will key on McCoy even more than they did last season.
There is no doubt that McCoy will have some Fantasy success in 2018 mainly because he will have a significant amount of touches. Players who get touches are normally effective players, but I expect McCoy to slow down considerably this season. So, while McCoy will still be draftable, it will be more like in the fourth round as opposed to a first or second-round draft pick.
LeSean McCoy’s Predicted Stats: 225 carries – 1003 rushing yards – 7 TDs & 45 catches – 421 receiving yards – 2 TDs
RB Chris Ivory – The Bills added Ivory for RB depth in the offseason. He failed to make an impact in two years with the Jaguars, which wasn’t helped last year by the addition of Leonard Fournette. Chris was at his best from 2013 to 2015 with the Jets when he gained 3,074 combined yards with 18 TDs and 50 catches. His yards per rush have faded in 2016 (3.8) and 2017 (3.4) suggesting that his better days are behind him at age 30. His passing catching ability has improved over the last four seasons (18/123/1, 30/217/1, 20/186/0, and 21/175/1) to help add value to his skill set. Only a low-level handcuff with a chance to get about 100 touches in 2018.
WR Kelvin Benjamin – Over his first eight games in 2017, Benjamin had 32 catches for 475 yards and two TDs on 51 targets with the Panthers. His pace was still in range to beat his best season in 2014 (73/1008/9) with a few more chances. Unfortunately for him and Fantasy owners, Kelvin was shipped to the Canadian border to start for the Bills. He battled a knee issue for most of the year leading to three missed games with Buffalo. Benjamin only caught 16 of 27 targets over six games with the Bills for 217 yards and one TD. In the offseason, he tried to get in better shape to prepare for 2018. Last year Buffalo only attempted 476 passes with WRs catching a league-low 115 of 224 targets for 1,475 yards and nine TDs. The change at QB should lead to a minimum of ten percent growth in passing attempts. Benjamin should be the top receiving option on the roster, but his opportunity can’t be much higher than a WR4 Fantasy option in PPR leagues. Possible 60 catches for 900 yards with five to seven TDs seems like a fair evaluation heading into 2018. Benjamin has scoring ability in the red zone, but he tends to struggle to get open deep on the outside leaving him in many jump ball situations.
WR Zay Jones – Over four seasons at East Carolina, Jones caught 399 passes for 4279 yards and 23 TDs highlighted by his senior year (158/1746/8). He did most of his damage close to the line of scrimmage, which led to short yards per catch (10.7). His hands grade well, but tighter coverage in the NFL will challenge his ability to catch the ball. His game may work better early in his career vs. zone coverage. Zay needs to prove he can beat press coverage while improving his route running. I don’t see a huge edge as an open field runner while lacking explosiveness in the deep passing game. His best asset early in his career with be his quickness and short area speed. In his rookie season, Jones barely had a pulse (27/316/2 on 74 targets) thanks to a poor catch rate (36.5). He teased Fantasy owners over a three-game stretch mid-season (6/53/1, 4/68, and 3/33/1) on 24 combined targets. A torn labrum required surgery after the season. Jones had a strange incident in LA in March, but the case was dismissed by the police after he accepted responsibility for his actions and the apartment building decided not to press charges. Volume WR with a lot to prove in 2018. His college resume gives him a chance to be much improved if his shoulder issue was truly a big part of his failure in his catch rate.
Update: 8/11/2018 > Jones is behind the curve in his preseason training with a slow recovery for his 2017 injuries. He’ll have more competition for targets this year with Corey Coleman added to the roster.
WR Corey Coleman – Over three seasons at Baylor, Coleman caught 173 passes for 3,009 yards and 33 passing TDs highlighted by his 2015 season (74/1363/20). Corey also had 33 rushes over his sophomore and junior seasons for 164 yards and a TD. He has excellent speed (4.4) with upside in his leaping ability helping him win many jumps balls. On many of his highlights, Coleman had a free release off the line of scrimmage creating an instant winnable window. His quickness and strength should help him against press coverage in the NFL. Corey has some wiggle leading to solid value in the open field. Over two injury-plagued seasons in the NFL, Coleman has 56 catches for 718 yards and five TDs on 131 targets. His opportunity is much lower in his third year in the league with Josh Gordon back in the starting lineup, and Jarvis Landry added to the Browns’ roster. Only a low-grade insurance policy while being the fourth option in Cleveland’s passing game.
Update: 8/11/18 > Coleman was traded to the Bills in early August for a late round draft pick. He’ll complete with Zay Jones for the WR2 job in Buffalo. Corey does have a slight hamstring issue.
TE Charles Clay – Clay produced three playable games (4/53/1, 6/39/1, and 5/112) over his first four starts, but a knee injury led to three missed game. Over his last eight games, he had 29 catches for 300 yards with no TDs on 46 targets. Over the last four seasons, Charles caught 215 passes for 2,243 yards and 12 TDs on 322 targets while missing nine games. He’s battled a knee issue over the last couple of seasons, which makes him tough to trust at age 29. Only a backup TE with short-term or injury cover value.
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