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2023 Player Outlooks: Buffalo Bills

By Nick Caron | 7/7/23 |

Josh Allen

QB Josh Allen
(2022 QB Rank – No.2, 29.5 FPts/G)

It doesn’t get much better than the incredible run Josh Allen is on in fantasy football. Over the past three seasons, Allen has finished as the QB2, QB1, and QB1 in total points, solidifying the 27-year-old as an elite option at the position and someone who can provide difference-making value even in the early rounds. While he failed to finish as the QB1 this past year, it’s worth considering that he still managed to score 472.4 fantasy points, which would have made him the QB1 (aside from himself) in 2019, 2020, and 2021. It’s just that Patrick Mahomes’ absurd 5,250 yards and 41 touchdowns narrowly earned him the edge over Allen for one season.

Not only is Allen already one of the best players in the game, but the Bills appear intent on helping him get even better, as they spent their first-round NFL Draft pick on tight end Dalton Kincaid, who they took at No. 25 overall. There are some grumblings about star wide receiver Stefon Diggs being frustrated and there is a world where he’s actually moved this offseason, but Allen provides a high-end rushing ability floor with elite arm strength, which makes him one of the safest players in all of fantasy football. In fact, with a whopping 38, Allen already has the fourth-most rushing touchdowns of any quarterback in NFL history, despite having only played five seasons. He’s also gone over 750 rushing yards in back-to-back seasons.

It’s true that Allen still turns the ball over too often through the air, which was really the main thing that kept him from being the QB1 in 2022 for what would have been the third straight fantasy season. Still, despite some cringe-worthy picks from time to time, Allen is absolutely worthy of being one of the quarterbacks who managers actually prioritize in the early rounds. In fact, it’s completely reasonable to select him above Mahomes given the fact that he’s out-scored the Kansas City quarterback by a total of 56.2 points over the past three fantasy seasons combined.

RB James Cook
(2022 RB Rank – No.45, 5.4 FPts/G)

James Cook was one of the fantasy football community’s favorite late-round “sleepers,” but as it turned out, fantasy managers were left snoring at his weekly box totals. A disappointing rookie season despite bad competition that included Devin Singletary and Zack Moss means that Cook didn’t do enough to really stand out to the coaching staff and guarantee himself a role here in 2023.

The lack of performance wasn’t necessarily due to a lack of efficiency, as the rookie running back averaged the second-highest yards-per-carry of any rookie running back, with only Breece Hall being slightly higher. He fumbled the ball just once (on his very first NFL carry) on the season and caught 21 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown. The problem seemed to primarily be opportunity driven as he saw double-digit carries just five times, including the playoffs, and none of them came in back-to-back weeks, making him an extraordinarily difficult player to start in fantasy.

Buffalo got rid of Zack Moss during the 2022 season and Devin Singletary moved on, which means that Cook should get the first opportunity to start for the Bills here in 2023. The team did at veterans Damien Harris and Latavius Murray, but neither of those players seems likely to shoulder a truly difference-making workload. Unfortunately, being the “starting running back” for the Bills hasn’t exactly translated into a ton of fantasy production. For example, Singletary has started 16 games for the Bills in each of the past three seasons, but he never saw more than 188 carries and never exceeded 40 receptions in any season. Most importantly, he scored just 16 total touchdowns over those years as the Bills’ starter. Much of that lack of fantasy success is due to the fact that the Bills are perfectly content with letting the offense go through Josh Allen, particularly in the red zone. Allen actually scored 21 rushing touchdowns over the past three seasons, which certainly hurt the Bills running backs who have managed to score just 28 rushing touchdowns between all of them combined over the same span.

The Bills are almost certain to remain one of the league’s most pass-happy teams, which can mean a lot of scoring, but it can also lead to some frustrating weeks for fantasy managers who start their running backs. Cook is currently being drafted outside the top 30 at the running back position, so his cost isn’t likely to be a killer for fantasy teams. Still, he’s someone whose upside is probably limited unless Josh Allen has an injury that somehow allows him to continue to pass the ball at a high level but doesn’t allow him to be quite as mobile as he normally is.

RB Damien Harris
(2022 RB Rank – No.50, 6.7 FPts/G)

While James Cook is currently projected to be the starter in Buffalo, the Bills did bring in two other between-the-tackles grinders to help shoulder the workload, one being Damien Harris and the other being Latavius Murray. After spending the past couple of seasons as the “1B” in New England, Harris is currently being projected to be the second option in this backfield and he could find himself getting some goal-line work this season in one of the league’s best offenses.

What’s interesting is that, while Harris is seven years younger than Murray, there’s a real case to be made that Murray was actually the better back between the two this past season, as he actually looked decent in Denver. In fact, he had two games with over 100 rushing yards in the final four weeks of the regular season.

This isn’t a backfield that fantasy managers will want to invest in, but there’s a chance that only one of Harris or Murray makes the roster, in which case that player probably has some value as a handcuff to Cook if nothing else. The Bills are one of the league’s most pass-heavy offenses, but even a mediocre talent like Devin Singletary was able to see double-digit carries in nine games during the 2022 regular season, so there’s some potential here for fantasy value. Truthfully, though, if both Harris and Murray make the 53-man roster and are active on Sundays then there’s a decent likelihood that neither of them ends up being worth much, as they’ll both likely see too little work to be worthwhile for fantasy.

WR Stefon Diggs
(2022 WR Rank – No.5, 13.0 FPts/G)

Stefon Diggs’ bizarre ongoing issues (or non-issues?) with the Bills have been one of the most talked-about situations in the NFL over the past month or so. The star wide receiver has reportedly been frustrated about his role in the Buffalo offense, which seems odd, considering he’s developed into one of the league’s most productive wide receivers over the past three seasons since arriving in Buffalo. Things seem to have cooled down recently, however, which should give fantasy managers some confidence that the 29-year-old will be returning to continue his dominance with superstar quarterback Josh Allen.

From a skills and situation standpoint, there’s really not much to be concerned about for Diggs. The real worry is that he’ll be turning 30 years old in November, which is a scary age for wide receivers as we’ve historically seen a lot of top-level pass-catchers drop off once they hit this milestone. Of course, it’s not as though there’s just a sudden drop-off and the player becomes unusable, but it’s something we’ll need to be at least aware of, and potentially be willing to address early in the year if Diggs is starting to not quite look like himself.

Nevertheless, the Bills really didn’t do much to address the pass-catching competition in their offense, so it seems likely that Diggs should remain one of the league’s most highly-targeted weapons again in 2023. The only real significant addition that the team made was with rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid and rookie tight ends don’t often do much in their first season. The other players in the offense have been around Buffalo and just don’t offer a compelling enough reason for Allen to start targeting them over Diggs, so feel free to draft this stud wide receiver early and often yet again this season.

WR Gabriel Davis
(2022 WR Rank – No.24, 8.4 FPts/G)

The 2021 playoff breakout from Gabe Davis had some fantasy managers making absolutely wild projections heading into this past season. Davis had never reached even 600 yards receiving in a regular season throughout his first two years, but that magical 2021 playoff run which saw him catch five touchdowns in two games, had people relying on him to be their WR3 or even WR2 for fantasy in 2022. The season started off hot, with Davis scoring a touchdown in Week 1, before scoring three more times prior to Week 6. But then things came crashing down, with the big play wideout failing to reach 100 yards in any game and scoring just three total touchdowns in his final 10 regular season contests. In short, he was essentially unusable for fantasy purposes following his short run of fantasy excellence.

Now heading into his fourth season, Davis again has some fantasy managers salivating at the idea of a breakout. In fairness to them, he did have his best season yet, producing career highs in receptions (48) and yards (836) while tying a career-high with seven touchdowns. The Bills didn’t really add any significant threats to his role and team management has reiterated its belief in Davis throughout the offseason. Still, his streaky nature makes him an extraordinarily difficult player to project on a weekly basis, so be prepared to be frustrated if you’re relying on him.

The big positive here is that Davis is still offering essentially the exact same upside in 2023 that he did in 2022, just at a significantly reduced cost. He’s going two, three, or even four rounds later (depending on your service) than he was a season ago and he should still have a significant role in the Buffalo offense. Whether that pans out to be a more consistent fantasy option remains to be seen, but the price tag makes him a lot more palatable this year than he was in 2022.

WR Khalil Shakir
(2022 WR Rank – No.129, 2.2 FPts/G)

The Bills’ slot receiver role has delivered some nice fantasy production in recent years, with Cole Beasley even turning in a Pro Bowl season back in 2020. Beasley was significantly less productive in 2021, which led to the team moving on from him this past season and instead giving the job to Isaiah McKenzie. McKenzie wasn’t particularly great, catching 42 passes for 423 yards and four touchdowns and his lack of performance resulted in the Bills actually bringing Beasley back to the roster toward the end of the year.

Now with both Beasley and McKenzie gone, all signs seem to point toward second-year receiver Khalil Shakir getting the first crack at manning the slot for the Bills. Shakir played half of his snaps out of the slot as a rookie and while he didn’t do much on the stat sheet, his 4.43 speed along with his 6’0, 190 lb frame makes him an interesting weapon at the position who could also move to the outside in some situations. Unfortunately, he does have some competition from the likes of veteran free agent signings Deonte Harty and Trent Sherfield, as well as tight ends Dawson Knox and Dalton Kincaid.

It’s unlikely that Buffalo has another 2020 Beasley-like season from their slot receiver, but if there’s one player who could potentially break out and become fantasy relevant in that position on the Bills roster, it’s probably Shakir. He’s a late-round dart throw in deep leagues, but one who could break out early in the year and make a splash, or simply fall flat on his face and be an easy cut for fantasy managers.

TE Dawson Knox
(2022 TE Rank – No.10, 5.8 FPts/G)

Fantasy managers have been patiently waiting on a breakout season from Dawson Knox, but aside from his impressive nine-touchdown performance in 2021, we just haven’t seen enough from him to make him a weekly must-start even at a weak tight end position. Not only have fantasy managers mostly moved on from him, but the Bills also made it clear that they’re looking for more from the position when they drafted another tight end, Dalton Kincaid, in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft.

The Bills plan to use both players, which will likely result in a fantasy dud of a situation, but we’ve seen situations like this happen plenty of times throughout the years and it’s almost always true that the rookie tight end takes a back seat in his first season while the somewhat-productive veteran sees most of the work in an offense.

The long-term play is probably Kincaid, but for this season, if you absolutely have to bet on a Bills tight end, Knox is still the better bet. He’s been disappointing, but he’s still managed to score 15 touchdowns over the past two seasons, which is slightly more than one score for every two games he’s played. The tight end position is bad enough throughout the league that we’re mostly hoping for 50 yards and touchdowns out of the vast majority of starters, so Knox is capable of delivering that from time to time. Still, he should see enough competition from Kincaid that it’ll be tough to justify drafting him, let alone starting him on a weekly basis.

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