by Dan Trader (@RotoNostra)
In fantasy football, only single players are highlighted and given room to shine, regardless if they’re on a great or horrible team in real life. So what I chose to do instead of standard power rankings was take a look at all 32 NFL teams and rank them based on their fantasy relevance for the 2016 season in standard leagues, considering their current rosters, systems and surrounding conditions as criteria. Much can change between now and the opening of the regular season, but the following rankings are merely opinions from my perspective based on the current state of affairs and are ranked in the order in which I would invest in them, not based on which teams will have the best records at the end of the season.
The rest of the rankings can be found here.
Rex Ryan’s first season in Buffalo had surprises, but all in all, the Bills still missed the playoffs for a league-high 16th consecutive year. Going into 2016, there are both areas of encouragement and concern. If everything falls their way, the Bills offense could be highly productive. As of right now though, I probably feel more skeptical than anything.
Rushing to Judgment
One area where I’m not too concerned is the run-game. Ryan and OC Greg Roman lived up to the expectations from a game-style approach, running the ball 509 times, which penciled them in at second highest in the NFL. Whether you think the next statistic is germane or otherwise, the Bills also led the league in yards per carry.
Shady McCoy, who is currently being drafted in mocks as the RB12 and #32 overall , presents relatively intriguing value, considering the Bills won’t deviate from being a run-heavy, ground-and-pound offense, and McCoy’s touchdown total should swing in his favor (only three rushing scores in 2015), especially when you factor in the four-game suspension handed down to Karlos Williams for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
McCoy’s only 28, but it’s widely known that he has a lot of wear and tear due to remaining among the group of backs who take the most carries since his rookie season. He also has durability concerns after missing a quarter of the 2015 season. But Shady remains a talented runner, and a return to form or bounce-back performance is certainly within the range of possible outcomes, in which case he will have a good chance to at least meet or marginally out-produce his ADP.
Up in the Air
Tyrod Taylor was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens to be the potential starter; it was only because of an injury that gave Joe Flacco the opportunity. Fast forward to 2015, Taylor was given a chance to beat out an underwhelming duo in EJ Manuel and Matt Cassel and he didn’t disappoint. He exhibited exceptional rushing ability, which eventually led to acquiring the nickname ‘T-Mobile’, and won the starting gig by a mile.
But he also proved to be a pretty accurate passer. By season’s end he had 242 completions out of 380 attempts (almost 64%) in 14 games (missed two to knee and ankle injuries), and he finished the season as Football Outsiders #14 in 536 DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement), which, in their words, measures “the value of the player’s performance compared to replacement level, adjusted for situation and opponent and then translated into yardage.” A mouthful, maybe, but basically reflects a player’s complete season-long value. In laments terms, their research finds or suggests that Taylor would have out-produced any backup QB in similar situations by 536 yards. DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) “represents value, per play, over an average player in the same situations.” Taylor finished eighth at 9.8%.
But Taylor’s legs are ultimately what brought him into fantasy relevance, rushing over 100 times for nearly 600 rushing yards and four scores. He did fumble twice, but his 586 rushing yards and 133 DYAR were both good for second best in the league behind Cam Newton. You may have heard of him.
I love Tyrod’s rushing upside and value as he currently is being drafted in mocks as QB17 in round 12, behind players like Kirk Cousins and Blake Bortles. Last season was his first as a starter though, so only time will tell if T-Mobile can do it again.
Cause for Concern
My primary concern for the offense is the lack of established receiving weapons apart from Sammy Watkins, who’s coming off of foot surgery, which means he’s no guarantee to be ready by the regular season, let alone be the same player as he would be at full health.
Watkins is a proven deep threat with high upside and he exhibited his ability in the latter-half of last season when he averaged over 18 yards per reception and scored 7 touchdowns. But through his first two NFL seasons he’s had difficulty staying healthy. Among many injuries, Watkins most notably required hip surgery following his rookie year and underwent foot surgery this past offseason. The fractured foot injury worries me the most, considering there are rumblings that he played through the injury last season, but more significantly because we’ve witnessed several star receivers struggle with recovering from similar injuries.
Currently being drafted as the WR18 with a mid-late third round ADP, Watkins has true boom or bust potential. Robert Woods is worth a stash due to possible volume but doesn’t present a high ceiling.
The rush-heavy attack of the Bills should be effective and will keep the value of LeSean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor relatively safe. Sammy Watkins could be a star for your team, but I’d like to see his ADP drop a little before I’d feel comfortable drafting him in the third round given his current state. If he misses time though, I could see this team struggling to move the ball through the air..