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BillsVoice: Position by position fantasy outlook for the AFC East

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LeSean McCoy courtesy of usatoday.com

LeSean McCoy courtesy of usatoday.com

Saturday night the Buffalo Bills host the Pittsburgh Steelers in their third preseason match up. It will be an important one for the Bills, as the third game is regarded as the “dress rehearsal” for the regular season, but more importantly, the game will likely decide (or show to the public) who the week one starter will be at quarterback. 

But this weekend also marks peak of fantasy draft season. Starting Friday night through Labor Day, more fantasy football drafts will be held than any other time of the year. To help get you ready for the big week let’s take a position by position look at AFC East and what it has to offers for your fantasy team. Today we’ll look at quarterbacks and running backs, tomorrow, we’ll see wide receivers and tight ends. This won’t be your typical sleeper, bust, or rankings column. We will look at the best player at a position (“Best in Show,”) Best Value (“Boom for your Buck,”) Sleeper (“Don’t forget about…”) and NO TOUCHING (Self explanatory, and a joke for you arrested development fans.) We won’t talk about every player, and there can be multiples players from one team listed in a category.

Quarterbacks:

Best in show: Tom Brady

Things are bleak in terms of fantasy quarterbacks in the AFC East. We don’t know who the Bills quarterback is yet, Ryan Tannehill has looked good but still fairly unproven in fantasy, Geno Smith got knocked out, and then there’s Tom Brady… Deflated balls or not (side note, shot out to Mighty Taco for the terrific parody,)  Tom Brady is the best real football QB, and still likely the best fantasy football QB in the division. You could make a case for Tannehill here as well, but whenever Brady does take the field his safety is what put him here over Tannehill. 

There is of course Brady’s four game suspension still undecided, and honestly I think at this point he’s just as likely to get a stay of execution and play the entire season, as he is to serve all four games. The suspension may actually be helpful to Brady because it’s lowering his draft value. Brady finished with decent numbers 2015, but they was largely inflated by a strong middle third of the season, he was very hot and cold. I’m not targeting Brady this year even if his suspension gets reduced. However, if you’re waiting on quarterbacks on draft day and you miss out on the player that you are targeting, think about getting Brady in round 10 and taking a high upside player like Sam Bradford later as a solid plan B strategy.

Boom for your buck: Ryan Tannehill

Tannehill finished 2015 as a top 10 fantasy quarterback. He’s getting love from all over that fantasy community as a potential breakout player, but don’t we do this every year with a young up-and-coming QB? In the past it’s been Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, or Sam Bradford’s year to breakout and become a top-5 fantasy QB, and they’ve almost always disappointed. We absolutely shouldn’t place lofty expectations like that on Tannehill, but still, it’s where you can get him in your draft that earned him the “Boom for you buck” title. On NFL.com he’s going in Round 7 and on ESPN he’s going in round 10. In a lot of drafts you can get him after guys like Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Matt Stafford, and Tom Brady. Guys like Ryan and Brady may be safer, but Tannehill has a lot of upside, and if you want to be the last person in your draft to take a starting QB he’s a got a great chance to give you a positive return on your investment.

Don’t forget about…: Ryan Fitzpatrick

I wouldn’t draft him unless you’re in a two Quarterback league, but Fitz has been starter worthy plenty of times through out his career. If you are streaming QBs keep an eye on Fitzpatrick’s match ups early on in the season, at least until Geno Smith gets healthy.

 

The Bills Quarterback/ Jimmy Garoppolo

Look I do think that if Tyrod Taylor wins the starting job he’s got a chance to have value because if his running ability, but I’m not willing to bet my season on it. There are way better options at any point during the draft. Keep an eye on Taylor during the season if he wins the job, but otherwise stay away. It’s not even worth drafting any of these players keeping them on your bench. Also, don’t feel like you have to draft Jimmy Garoppolo if you draft Tom Brady. As I said before there are much better, more reliable options available at any point in the draft that you can bide your time with until Brady gets on the field.   

Running Backs

Best in show: LeSean McCoy

Like most running backs that are going early in drafts, Shady certainly has his warts. He injured his hamstring in training camp and is coming off a year in 2014 where he battled through injuries. He also had his second straight 300+ carry season, and at the age of 27 many are wondering if he can handle that again. But most are sour on McCoy in 2015 because last season he was drafted as a top-3 back but didn’t finish in the top 10 (He finished 12th.) There has been much said about him doing too much  east-west running and enough not north-south runs up field. That’s a fair point, but let’s look at this numbers from 2013 to 2014. McCoy’s yardage was down from 1,607 in ’13 to 1,319 last season. Total TDs dropped from 11 to 5, and receiving yards from 539 to 155. The majority of NFL backs would be thrilled to rush for 1,300 yards so the glaring differences between the two season to me is in the touchdowns and receiving yards. I feel like Fred Jackson could vulture some short-yardage touchdowns from McCoy this season, but five TDs is tied for lowest number Shady has scored since become a lead back in 2010 so that number is likely to go up. I more certain that the receiving yards will  up. He’s never had less than 300-receiveing yards before last season, and think about the Bills QBs, now of them are gunslingers who will be throwing the ball deep on a consistent basis. Most of the time they’re going to keep it close and try and hit players in space close to the line, perfect for McCoy’s skill set. If I’m go WR in round one, I’m taking LeSean McCoy as my number 1 RB in round 2.

Boom for your buck: Lamar Miller

Miller quietly had a top 10 fantasy season 2014, and I expect him to grow on that this year. Miller is unlikely to win you a week (he only topped 100-yards rushing two times last year, one of which was in week 17,) but he was consistent as they come, rushing for over 45-yards all but one time. As quarterback Ryan Tannehill, along with young receivers Jarvis Landry and Devonta Parker develop, less and less attention can be focused on stopping the ‘fins run game. It should also be know that rookie RB Jay Ajayi has been very unimpressive during camp, making Miller a true feature back. Barring injury he certain reach top ten numbers once again, and you can get him in round 3. I like him more as my RB2 but for those picking around the turn in snake drafts, Miller is a safe RB1 likely available to you if you go receiver-receiver with your first two picks.

Don’t forget about…: Fred Jackson/ Chris Ivory

Before the start of training camp I wouldn’t touch a Jets RB with a ten foot pole, but as the preseason moves along, Chris Ivory is being featured in a lead back role. Going back to his early days with the Saints, the talent has always been there for Ivory but lack of opportunity and injuries have always dipped his value. Now the opportunity seems to be there for the 27-year-old back, and if he can stay healthy long enough he could have a huge return on investment for owners that take a mid-round flyer on Ivory. He’s currently being drafted as the 29 and 30 RB on NFL.com and ESPN respectively.

As for Fred Jackson, if you are going to invest a high draft pick in McCoy, do yourself a favor and handcuff him with Jackson. It seems no matter what we say going into the season, Jackson ends up as the back you want to own in Buffalo. I don’t see that being the case this year, but protect yourself if history repeats itself (again.)

NO TOUCHING!!!

The Patriot backfield

Don’t. You. Do. It. You will regret it. I know it’s tempting but remember: NO TOUCHING!!! Sure, Legarrette Blount it going to have his weeks…so is James White, so is Brandon Bolden, and so will  Jonas Grey and some other running back they pick up after roster cuts are done. Don’t do it. And when someone else beside Blount has a great game, don’t pick him up. If you do, he won’t do a thing for the next three weeks and just when you’re about to cut bait, he’ll have another good game and the whole thing starts all over again. I’m sure there are numbers to back up this statement, but we don’t need them, just ask anyone who  tried to own a New England RB in the last three years and they will wholeheartedly agree with me.