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Andy Behrens

Juggernaut Index No. 30: The Buffalo Bills

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The Juggernaut Index is our annual ranking of NFL teams for fantasy purposes. Repeat: FOR FANTASY PURPOSES. This is not an NFL power ranking. We're not predicting wins and losses here. In fact, we don't care about such things. Instead, we're reviewing each team's projected fantasy contributions — that's it.

If we were playing Bill Walsh College Football '95 and you allowed me to run the Wishbone with Buffalo's current offensive personnel, I'm confident that I could guide them to a bowl game. My Sega Genesis skills were fairly impressive back in the day.

But it's tough to see how anyone could possibly direct the present-day Bills — a team with three talented running backs and zero talented quarterbacks — to a successful season in real-life. The triple option attack isn't really viable in today's NFL, so the 'Bone is out. Buffalo can't have Fred Jackson(notes) pitching to CJ Spiller(notes) all day, even though it sounds awesome. Every team has to throw the ball downfield eventually. Bills head coach Chan Gailey will have to name someone his starting quarterback, and that player will immediately have less job security than anyone in the league.

At the moment, the three candidates to lead Buffalo's offense in Week 1 are Trent Edwards(notes), Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) and Brian Brohm(notes). There's very little apparent upside with any of those QBs. Edwards is shell-shocked and injury-prone, Fitzpatrick is inconsistent and inaccurate, and Brohm is … well, we can't say exactly what he is, because he's only started one NFL game. But we can state unequivocally that his one start was awful. Brohm went 17-for-29 against Atlanta in Week 16 last year, throwing two interceptions and no touchdown passes. He was sacked twice, his team scored three total points, and he finished with just 146 passing yards and a QB rating of 43.2.

Basically, the Bills have three low-end backup quarterbacks on their roster, and they're without a credible starter.

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This fact obviously destroys the outlook for the passing game, even though the team has a serious weapon at wide receiver in Lee Evans(notes), a burner with a pair of 1,000-yard seasons to his credit. Behind Evans, however, there's nothing noteworthy in Buffalo's receiving corps. It's ex-sleeper James Hardy(notes), Steve Johnson(notes), Chad Jackson(notes), and UConn rookie Marcus Easley(notes). Given the messy quarterback situation and the presumed emphasis on the ground game, you really have to consider Evans to be a low-ceiling fantasy option and the rest of Buffalo's wideouts to be no-ceiling options.

If it weren't for the interesting collection of names in the Bills' backfield, this team would be dead-last in the 2010 Juggernaut rankings. But there are a couple pieces here worth owning. Fred Jackson is a max-effort player coming off a 1,062-yard rushing campaign, although we should note that he gained 20 percent of those yards against the Colts' junior varsity defense in Week 17. He's a capable pass-catcher (46 REC) who breaks the occasional tackle and his backstory is delightful, but on the NFL talent spectrum, he's just another guy — totally ownable in fantasy, but just another guy. Jackson has clearly usurped Marshawn Lynch's(notes) lead role in the Buffalo rushing game — Beast Mode is essentially a trade chip (and a fabulous interview) — but he's not the most dynamic skill player on the roster.

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When the Bills selected Clemson running back CJ Spiller with the ninth overall pick in the NFL Draft, they finally acquired an elite, high-upside, game-changing talent. Check the tape. He's just an uncommonly skilled player.

No, we don't know exactly how Spiller will be deployed in his first season, so if you're targeting him in fantasy, you'll need to have the internal monologue about ceiling vs. floor. A responsible guess at his workload would be 15 touches per game — maybe 8-12 carries, 4-8 targets. You'll see him in the slot on occasion while F-Jax is on the field. Spiller is a sensational athlete with blistering speed (4.37 at the combine), ridiculous balance, great vision, and outstanding hands. At his current Mock Draft Central ADP (60.0), he's a solid risk/reward play. The rookie is selected 15 picks ahead of Jackson and 77 picks ahead of Lynch in a typical mock; no Bills are drafted as every-week starters. The offensive line is a sketchy group — the unit placed No. 30 in Jason Cole's ranks — so Buffalo's backs will have to be creative.

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We shouldn't need to tell you to avoid the Bills defense in standard fantasy leagues. They were horrible against the run last season, ranking next-to-last in the AFC (156.3 YPG), but very good statistically versus the pass (184.3 YPG, 28 INTs). When you see an odd imbalance like that, it often means that a defense is simply playing a shell game, hiding its flaws from play to play. Great Ds simply stop everything. Buffalo is transitioning to a 3-4 system this season, so there will no doubt be a few hiccups.

In IDP formats, you'll still target Paul Posluszny(notes) (110 tackles in 12 games), Jairus Byrd(notes) (9 INTs, 45 tackles), and George Wilson(notes) (103 tackles). Aaron Schobel(notes) registered 10.0 sacks last year, but he's reportedly undecided about returning for a 10th season, and leaning toward retirement.

And that's all we've got on the Bills. Don't make us go on. Instead, please predict Rian Lindell's(notes) 2010 PATs in comments. Best guesser wins the EX-NM Haven Moses.

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