2024 Buffalo Bills Fantasy Preview

2024 buffalo bills fantasy preview

Josh Allen

2023 Stats (rank)

Points per game: 26.5 (6th)

Total yards per game: 374.5 (4th)

Plays per game: 65.6 (5th)

Pass Attempts + Sacks per game: 35.2 (15th)

Dropback EPA per play: 0.153 (5th)

Rush attempts per game: 30.1 (5th)

Rush EPA per play: 0.010 (2nd)

Coaching

Buffalo’s offense was decidedly run first under Joe Brady once Brady took over as offensive coordinator last season in Week 11 following the team’s unceremonious split with Ken Dorsey after a humiliating primetime loss to the Broncos. Brady’s Bills were efficient too, ranking sixth in EPA per play from Week 11-18 and averaging 27 points per game. Buffalo finished the season on a 6-1 tear. They had the league’s seventh best rushing success rate over that late-season stretch.

Brady made every effort to shift away from Dorsey’s emphasis on the pass. The Bills under Dorsey passed at a 60 percent clip in neutral situations (with the game within seven points) — that was the tenth highest rate in the NFL. That neutral pass rate plummeted to 53 percent under Brady; only six teams were more run heavy in neutral situations. With Brady calling plays, the Bills turned hard toward the run when they had a lead: Only the Steelers, Falcons, and Ravens had a lower pass rate while leading from Week 11-18. Josh Allen had the 20th most drop backs over the regular season’s final month.

Passing Offense

QB: Josh Allen, Mitchell Trubisky

WR: Khalil Shakir, Marques Valdes-Scantling

WR: Curtis Samuel, Chase Claypool

WR: Keon Coleman, Mack Hollins

TE: Dalton Kincaid, Dawson Knox

In his 2018 rookie campaign, Allen led the league with a 19.7 percent deep ball rate — meaning roughly one in every five Allen passes traveled at least 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. In 2019, that rate shrunk to 14.8 percent. It fell to 12.5 percent in 2020 and 11.8 percent in 2021. After a brief spike in 2022, Allen’s downfield passing rate was 13 percent in 2023.

Allen, like every NFL quarterback over the past few seasons, has seen a heavy dose of so-called shell coverages: Two safeties stationed well off the line of scrimmage, stubbornly refusing to give up the big play to the cannon-armed Bills quarterback. It’s why Buffalo coaches all but begged Allen in summer 2023 to stop taking chances downfield. Allen has responded in kind. His average depth of target (aDOT) has dropped in all six of his NFL seasons and his rate of screen passes has climbed since his rookie season. In 2023, he completed a whopping 50 more passes within ten yards of the line of scrimmage than he did in 2022. Allen completed 29 passes for 962 yards on attempts of over 20 yards, way down from 41 completions for 1,386 yards in 2022. Allen, who can sling the ball 50 yards flatfooted, has joined a generation of Checkdown Charlies.

Buffalo’s increase in short throws could be tremendous for Dalton Kincaid after his PPR scam rookie campaign in which 75 percent of his targets came behind the line of scrimmage or within nine yards of the line. That’s the good stuff. Kincaid’s 6.3 air yards per target ranked 33rd among tight ends who saw at least 20 targets last season. That’s good too. Kincaid should have a fine weekly PPR floor as a reliable underneath target for Allen.

Samuel could join Kincaid as an interesting little PPR scam in the conservative Brady-run Buffalo offense. Samuel in 2020 posted career highs in receptions (77) and yards (851) in Brady’s Carolina Panthers offense. His signing with the Bills makes more than a little sense in that light. Samuel in 2020 ran 72 percent of his pass routes from the slot at a shallow aDOT (7.5). Similar usage in Buffalo this season could make Samuel a weekly flex option.

Khalil Shakir led all NFL receivers last season in success rate, something I did not anticipate in researching the seldom-used third-year wideout. Shakir has sure hands and has proven tough to take down for defenders. Last year, Shakir led the Bills with seven yards after the catch per reception. He had 119 fewer yards after the catch than Stefon Diggs despite Diggs seeing 120 more targets than Shakir. He could easily emerge as Buffalo’s primary big play threat this season if he (finally) sees a full complement of routes.

Bills coaches have heaped praise on Claypool since he signed with the Bills in May. The journeyman wideout who had more than 800 receiving yards in each of his first two NFL seasons has a decent shot to make the team’s final roster, but remains a long way from fantasy relevance barring training camp/preseason injuries for Bills receivers. If Claypool can overcome questions about his work ethic and effort, he could function as a rotational big slot option for Allen.

Valdes-Scantling, after earning a target on a stunningly low 9 percent of his pass routes with the Chiefs in 2023, will be little more than a straight line runner hoping to clear out space for Buffalo’s primary pass catchers. MVS will have next to no fantasy intrigue in 2024.

Allen remains an on-and-off erratic passer. He ranked 15th in completion rate over expected last year on throws between 10-19 yards; his adjusted net yards per attempt on those pass attempts was on par with Gardner Minshew and Baker Mayfield. And Allen’s 50.3 percent passing success rate in 2023 is well below his career mark (56.7 percent), set in 2020. His rushing covers up any passing struggles he might encounter though. Allen averaged a hefty nine rushing attempts per game during Brady’s time as OC last season. He had 20 rushes in two postseason games. That Bills coaches didn’t spend all spring saying Allen should be a pocket passer probably means he’ll continue running -- and pouring on the fantasy points.

Rushing offense

RB: James Cook, Ray Davis, Ty Johnson

OL (L-R): Dion Dawkins, David Edwards, Connor McGovern, O’Cyrus Torrence, Spencer Brown

Only ten running backs had more carries than James Cook over the final seven weeks of the 2023 season with Brady calling plays for the Bills. Once relegated to split-backfield status, Cook averaged 16.6 rushes in Brady-called games. Cook was used sparingly in the passing game (3.7 targets per game with Brady calling the shots) but target volume for the entire offense fell during that stretch. Cook was 16th in expected fantasy points among running backs from Week 11-18; suffice it to say being the primary back in a run-first offense is a valuable role. He’ll enter 2024 running behind an offensive line graded by Pro Football Focus as 2023’s 17th best run blocking unit. The Bills last year ranked ninth in yards before contact per rush, a stat that correlates closely with explosive rushes.

This is where things get slightly complicated. The Bills used the 128th overall pick in the 2024 draft to acquire RB Ray Davis out of Kentucky. A five-year college player, the aged Davis — who had 1,063 rushing yards over 12 games in his final collegiate season — could take on short yardage and possibly goal line duties in the Buffalo offense.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler said in May that the stocky Davis could have a “sneaky big impact” on the team’s rushing attack, a sentiment echoed by some Bills coaches during OTAs and minicamp. Though Cook was never going to have the backfield to himself — no back does these days — Davis taking the team’s goal line opportunities would gash Cook’s upside. Fantasy managers would do well to remember Josh Allen is the team’s primary goal line option.

Win Total

Only the Chiefs, Ravens, and Niners have a higher win total (10.5) than the Bills for 2024, per DraftKings Sportsbook. For a team engaged in what might kindly be described as a “competitive rebuild,” that seems awfully generous. I don’t expect the Bills to fall off too terribly much as they exit their Super Bowl window: Allen’s hero ball can keep the offense afloat and head coach Sean McDermott has proven adept at making the necessary defensive adjustments. But I would take the under on 10.5 wins, if only slightly.

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