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Expert fantasy football advice: Breaking down Buccaneers at Bills

Quarterback

Team Pos Player Pass Pass Yds Pass TDs INTs Rushes Rush Yds Rush TDs Standard
BUF QB Tyrod Taylor 29.1 210.5 1.4 0.4 5.9 29.0 0.2 17.4
TB QB Jameis Winston* 39.7 291.3 1.3 1.2 2.6 10.5 0.1 17.3

 

Both Tyrod Taylor (BUF) and Jameis Winston (TB) project as middle-of-the-pack QBs this week, making them usable in seasonal formats but not ideal targets. In DFS, a lower price tag on Taylor makes him a viable option on DraftKings, allowing you to pay up for the stud RBs in play this week. The matchup is strong for Taylor. While the Buccaneers defense is getting healthier,  they now rank 31st in Football Outsiders' defensive DVOA and 31st specifically against the pass.

Taylor has lacked upside this season, as the offense has taken a step backward in terms of efficiency, eliminated Taylor's home run threats, and has not been as creative using him in the run game. As a result, he is a better cash game target than tournament play, where you want to focus on players with a higher ceiling.

Given the favorable matchup, as noted above, Taylor does seem stable, a situation where the math lines up with a more "feel" approach. We're not expecting Taylor to stray too far from the projection of a low volume of passing yardage made up by 1-2 TDs in the air and roughly 3 fantasy points from rushing contributions. Using the RotoViz game splits app, Taylor has produced more favorably as a favorite (+2.71 fantasy points) and at home (+3.83 fantasy points) since 2015 (35 total games).

Winston left last week's game with an injury, but he practiced on Friday. It sounds like he will be able to play this weekend. Winston is blessed with weapons in the passing game that Tyrod Taylor is not: an archetypical WR 1 in Mike Evans, a field stretcher in DeSean Jackson, a chain mover in Adam Humphries, and an efficient TE in Cameron Brate. Those weapons and increased ceiling on the volume front give Winston a higher ceiling than Taylor.

However, Winston's median projection is held back by a low team total (19 points) and a difficult matchup. Pro Football Focus ranks the Bills as a Top 5 pass and run defense. Looking at more traditional statistics, the Bills rank 9th best in limiting opponent yards per play and first in points allowed per game.

Running Back

Team Pos Player Rushes Rush Yds Rush TDs Receptions Rec Yds Rec TD Standard PPR
BUF RB LeSean McCoy 18.7 78.7 0.6 4.7 37.9 0.2 16.7 21.4
TB RB Doug Martin 13.9 63.8 0.4 1.3 10.1 0.0 10.1 11.4
BUF RB Mike Tolbert 7.6 25.7 0.3 1.3 10.3 0.0 5.9 7.2

 

The conversation around LeSean McCoy (BUF) for seasonal formats is boring; you're playing him as long as he is healthy. It is much more interesting in DFS formats this week, though. McCoy's salary is a clear cut below other top RBs on the week, making him a strong value play in all formats.

There are some legitimate concerns over McCoy's performances, between Mike Tolbert spelling him more often than expected, overall offensive systemic risk, and Rick Dennison's unwillingness to form his offense around his player's strengths. According to Sharp Football Stats, McCoy has a 40 percent success rate and paltry 2.7 YPC when Taylor lines up under center. When the team is in shotgun, McCoy has a 53 percent success rate and 5.5 YPC. This isn't a fluke; historically, McCoy has been a much more efficient runner out of shotgun formations. Yet, McCoy has taken just 17 percent of his carries out of shotgun formations. When McCoy posted awe-inspiring efficiency last season, 73 percent of his runs came out of shotgun.

Despite these concerns, the Bills should have a modicum of success against Tampa Bay's struggling defense, and the overall context as home favorites is favorable. McCoy has yet to find the end zone, which is a bit fluky. According to JJ Zachariason on Twitter, McCoy has been one of the unluckiest backs based on expected TDs, derived from attempts and yards, compared to actual TDs:

What makes McCoy most exciting this week, though, is his expected usage in the passing game. McCoy's 24 percent market share of targets on the season is second only to Christian McCaffrey among RBs; no other RB is above 18.23 percent (Tarik Cohen). With Charles Clay out and Jordan Matthews questionable, there is no reason to expect McCoy's volume in this department to dip. Usage in the passing is one of the most important aspects of RB fantasy production.

Doug Martin (TB) is on the RB2/3 fringe this week, projecting just inside the Top 25 overall backs. One of the difficulties in projecting Martin is figuring out Tampa Bay's pass/run distribution. They would like to be a run-heavier team, but it's something they have gotten away from in recent weeks, throwing the ball 67 percent, 71 percent, 63 percent, and 82 percent over their last four games. When you combine that uncertainty of volume with the stout run defense of Buffalo and a satellite back to content for targets with (Charles Sims), Martin projects simply as okay this week. He's unnecessary in DFS contests.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Team Pos Player Receptions Rec Yds Rec TD Standard PPR
TB WR Mike Evans 5.8 73.2 0.4 9.9 15.7
TB WR DeSean Jackson 3.9 62.8 0.3 8.0 11.9
TB TE Cameron Brate 4.5 50.1 0.3 6.7 11.2
BUF TE Nick OLeary 4.2 43.2 0.3 6.4 10.5
TB WR Adam Humphries 4.6 45.8 0.1 5.1 9.7
BUF WR Zay Jones* 2.0 31.2 0.2 4.3 6.2
BUF WR Kaelin Clay* 1.5 36.8 0.1 4.6 6.2

 

Mike Evans (TB) is a monster. While the Bills trade up to grab Sammy Watkins in that draft class was wrong for a different reason (cost), a good argument can be made that they also drafted the wrong WR. According to PlayerProfiler.com, Evan was in the 94th percentile in College YPR and 88th percentile in Breakout Age. Combine those rankings with his size (6'5, 231 lbs) and athleticism (96th percentile in Speed Score, 94th percentile in Catch Radius), and Evans projects as an archetypical WR 1.

Given that profile, Evans' elite upside makes him an every week start in seasonal formats. He's a tough spend in DFS leagues, however. The matchup is poor. An increase in ancillary weapons for Tampa (drafted OJ Howard, signed DeSean Jackson, utilizing Adam Humphries) has taken his target totals from elite to very good. Evans has a strong tournament profile but ranks outside the Top 20 point per dollar plays this week.

Similarly, DeSean Jackson (TB) is a clear start in seasonal formats as a back-end WR2 with a boom or bust profile (more of the former recently). Recent strong performances have increased his price on DraftKings and opportunity cost around his price tag on FanDuel is high, so he's not a core target in DFS contests.

The Bills WRs carry an asterisk because of the uncertainty of Jordan Matthews (BUF), who has managed to practice the entire week but did not receive optimistic coach comments. These projections assume Matthews is out. You can make a case for Matthews as a cap relief play on DraftKings if he is able to suit up. He's the one Buffalo WR we have some semblance of confidence in from a talent perspective, and the Buccaneers have allowed by far the most schedule adjusted fantasy points per game to the WR position, according to 4for4.

If Matthews does not suit up, you're avoiding all Buffalo WRs. We'll try to hold off on a rant about how pathetic it is that no WR would project for 5 standard league points in that scenario. Reduced overall pass volume, a lack of WR talent, spread out WR market shares, and higher than average MS of targets going to the RB/TE positions all contribute to their poor projections.

At the TE position, Cameron Brate (TB) has seen rising snap totals over the last two games and has out targeted rookie OJ Howard in four straight games. Brate has quietly posted efficient numbers throughout his career and is at 9.37 yards per target this season, after finishing 2016 at a solid 8.15. He's just outside the Top-12 projected TEs this week.

In DFS formats, Nick O'Leary (BUF) surprisingly is a more interesting option due to a low salary on DraftKings, where cap relief is necessary. Given the Bills' lack of targets to the WR position and the injury to Charles Clay, we're expecting O'Leary to step into a somewhat significant role right away for the Bills, assuming a target share of 19 percent (with room to grow). O'Leary lacks the desired athleticism at the NFL level, but he's a good route runner with good hands who has made the most of his limited NFL opportunities (258 yards off of 26 career targets).

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