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Offseason Primers: Buffalo Bills

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Bills entered 2012 with a lot of optimism. They were active in free agency after spending big money on Mario Williams. Their offense looked in place with Ryan Fitzpatrick signed to a new contract and a strong backfield with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. And plenty of prognosticators picked them to finish second in the AFC East behind New England and challenge for a playoff spot.

Then came Week 1.

2012 Touches Leaders
953 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
C.J. Spiller 250 (207 car., 43 rec.) 26.2%
Fred Jackson 149 (115 car., 34 rec.) 15.6%
Steve Johnson 79 rec. 8.2%
Tashard Choice 51 (47 car., 4 rec.) 5.3%
Scott Chandler 43 rec. 4.5%
All Others 381 39.9%

Buffalo got hammered by the Jets 48-28 and everything went downhill from there. Jackson was injured again, Fitzpatrick struggled and Williams never lived up to his contract. The Bills limped to a 6-10 finish, and coach Chan Gailey was fired at the end of the season.

Doug Marrone was hired as the new coach, and again there's some optimism in Buffalo. The Fitzpatrick experiment is over now that he was released, and Kevin Kolb was signed to help turn things around. Spiller is expected to replace Jackson and become a star, and the Bills also need to find another receiver to play opposite Steve Johnson.

Fantasy owners might find just two starting options on the Bills in Spiller and Johnson, with Jackson as a key reserve if he's back in Buffalo. Scott Chandler is coming off a torn ACL suffered in Week 16, and T.J. Graham has some sleeper appeal in deep leagues. But the Bills don't have a lot of offensive firepower coming into the season.

C.J. Spiller -- Breakout

2012 Target Leaders
511 pass attempts
Steve Johnson 148 28.9%
Scott Chandler 74 14.4%
Donald Jones 67 13.1%
T.J. Graham 58 11.3%
C.J. Spiller 57 11.1%
All Others 107 20.9%

Can we really call Spiller a breakout after he was the No. 7 running back in 2012? Yes. Spiller had just 207 carries and 43 catches last year with only nine starts. He's scheduled for a bigger role, especially if Jackson is released. But Spiller averaged 6.0 yards per carry and 10.7 yards per catch. If he gets close to 300 total touches -- all six running backs in front of him in Fantasy points (Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, Arian Foster, Marshawn Lynch, Alfred Morris and Ray Rice) all had more than 300 touches -- then he could be the No. 1 Fantasy running back in 2013. Rice, by comparison, had the fewest carries of the guys in the Top 6 with 257. Give Spiller those 50 carries at his rushing average, and he comes away with 300 more yards, which equals 30 more Fantasy points. That would bump him from 211 points to 241 and put him ahead of Morris at No. 5. As you can see, he's not that far away, so we hope he gets the increased workload. Spiller is worth drafting as early as No. 4 overall behind Peterson, Foster and Lynch.

Ryan Fitzpatrick -- Player on the move

The Bills decided to part ways with Fitzpatrick and start fresh at quarterback. Kolb or Tarvaris Jackson could earn the starting job, but the Bills are expected to also draft a new quarterback this season. Fitzpatrick signed with Tennessee, and he will be the No. 2 quarterback to Jake Locker. It's almost a guarnantee that Fitzpatrick's days as being Fantasy relevant are over, even with Locker's injury history. Fitzpatrick also proved to be an inconsistent Fantasy quarterback at best with consecutive years with 20-plus turnovers. Maybe he would improve with an upgraded receiving corps, but we don't expect to see Fitzpatrick on many Fantasy rosters going forward.

Steve Johnson -- Coaching impact

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Kevin Kolb Undrafted
Tarvaris Jackson Undrafted
C.J. Spiller 4-10 overall
Fred Jackson 70-80 overall
Steve Johnson 68-75 overall
Scott Chandler Undrafted

Johnson has been an underrated Fantasy receiver the past three years. Over that span he has at least 76 catches, 1,004 yards and six touchdowns in each year. He's done all that despite a commitment to the running game and poor quarterback play. We'll see what happens with Kolb or Jackson, but the new coaching staff in Buffalo is already talking about moving Johnson around. He'll see time in the slot, which could help him increase his catch total. Johnson definitely has the potential to be around 90 catches, 1,200 yards receiving and double digits in touchdowns, but the Bills need to focus on him more. Until that happens, even with the move to the slot, he remains a No. 3 Fantasy receiver with upside and should be drafted with a mid-round pick.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Patriots exercise option for Nate Solder
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(1:39 am ET) The Patriots have picked up the fifth-year option on tackle Nate Solder's contract, according to a report by CBSSports.com NFL Insider Jason La Canfora Wednesday. Solder has started 44 of his 47 games through three seasons, while missing just one game.  

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(4/23/2014) Free agent quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who spent last season on injured reserve recovering from a torn labrum, is hoping to latch on with a new team. He won't be back with the Panthers.

Clausen, 26, said his arm is at 95 percent and he's ready to compete for a backup job somewhere.

“I'm still really young," Clausen told USA Today. “I'm going into my fifth year in the league. I feel great. This is probably right now the healthiest I've been since my junior year in college, to be honest with you.”


Marcus Trufant retiring as a Seahawk
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4/23/2014) Seattle will sign cornerback Marcus Trufant to a one-day contract so he can retire as a member of the Seahawks. Trufant played for the team from 2003-12 before signing with Jacksonville last offseason. The Jaguars released him before the season.

Trufant started 125 games and made 21 interceptions.


Mikel Leshoure skips voluntary minicamp
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4/23/2014) Running back Mikel Leshoure is one of four Lions not participating in the team's voluntary minicamp, reports MLive.com. Leshoure is No. 4 on the team's depth chart and was active for only three games last year.

Andrew Luck working on timing with Hakeem Nicks
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4/23/2014) Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was extremely pleased about the signing of Hakeem Nicks. Now he's throwing to Nicks, trying to develop chemistry and timing.

"It’s very good to get the rhythm, get the consistency down, get the timing down because I’ve learned, playing two years, that timing is everything in this league," Luck said. "It is so important and when you feel it, you feel the rapport. When T.Y. (Hilton) came on at the end of the year, like it is with Reggie (Wayne), it makes things just feel a little more simple."

Luck said Nicks is a Super Bowl champ who "knows how to win."

"I think any time you can add that experience with a phenomenal football player, it really helps us out," Luck said. "I’ve been talking and picking his brain about what it takes to make deep runs and how he likes things. I think it’ll be a great addition here."


Cowboys sign Caleb Hanie
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4/23/2014) Quarterback Caleb Hanie signed a one-year deal with the Cowboys. He hasn't played in an NFL game since 2011, when he threw three touchdowns and nine interceptions in six games for the Bears.

T.Y. Hilton: Reggie Wayne is 'going to shock the world'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4/23/2014) Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton saw teammate Reggie Wayne recently and said the 35-year-old is coming back strong from his torn ACL. “He’s going to shock the world. I saw him the other day and he looks great, like he never left," Hilton said. "It’s just a blessing to have him around."

The entire offense trusts Wayne, Hilton added.

"He’s always there, no matter what. Andrew (Luck) trusts him, we all trust him," Hilton said. "He’s been here the longest and he knows the ropes. He knows pretty much every defense, so he’s a great guy."


Jeff Demps prioritizing football over track
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4/23/2014) Buccaneers running back Jeff Demps is putting his track career on hold for the foreseeable future and focusing solely on football, reports the Tampa Tribune. Demps projects as a dangerous return man in 2014.

Lovie Smith raves about Doug Martin
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4/23/2014) Buccaneers running back Doug Martin tore his labrum Week 7 and underwent surgery, ending his 2013 season. New coach Lovie Smith said Martin is showing no ill effects.

"Did he have an injury last year? It doesn't look like it right now," Smith told the Tampa Tribune.


Toby Gerhart: Lack of wear and tear a plus
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4/23/2014) New Jaguars running back Toby Gerhart received just 86 carries over his last two seasons in Minnesota. That's a plus, he told ESPN.com.

“It’s been an opportunity to get experience over the years and also learn,” Gerhart said. “I’ve stayed fresh, stayed strong and healthy, and I’m ready for my shot now.”

Gerhart has averaged 4.7 yards per carry in his career. The Jaguars hope he'll become their featured back, the report said.

"There’s always a prove-yourself situation, especially coming in to a team," Gerhart said. "I was one of the first running backs signed in free agency. Coming in where Maurice [Jones-Drew] was, there’s definitely going to be that added pressure to prove yourself.

"I haven’t had the opportunity to play a full 16 games as a starter so I think a lot of people are going to wait and see before the jury’s out on me. I’m excited about that and ready to show what I can do."


 
 
 
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