Because of the uncertainty of their quarterback situation, I will not project either of their quarterbacks. Neither should be drafted.
QB EJ Manuel (Buffalo)
8/25/13: EJ Manuel hasn’t officially been named the starting quarterback of the Bills, but he’s been by far their best quarterback this pre-season and he may win it by default regardless because of Kevin Kolb’s potentially career threatening concussion. The Bills signed veteran Matt Leinart, but he’s only insurance in case Manuel misses time after minor knee surgery. His status is in doubt for the very early part of the season, but when he does play, he could post QB2 numbers because of his rushing ability. Ryan Tannehill’s rookie numbers should serve as a template for Manuel’s He’ll be the starter by the time bye weeks roll around and he faces New Orleans’ pathetic defense week 8 so he could be a smart backup for a team with a starting quarterback with a bye week 8.
Projection: 3300 passing yards, 13 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 300 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns (202 pts standard, 228 pts 6 pt leagues)
RB CJ Spiller (Buffalo)
New Head Coach Doug Marrone was one of the run heaviest coaches in College Football, running more than they passed in all 4 seasons as Syracuse’s Head Coach, and they want to make life as easy as possible for Manuel. CJ Spiller will be the workhorse, playing every down including on the goal line, and the Buffalo website predicted he could see 30 touches per game. That would be an absurd 480 touches over the course of the season. That won’t happen, as is often the case with lofty touch expectations for backs because some games just force you to throw out your game plan and pass more than you’d like.
However, Marrone said he wants to feed Spiller the ball “until he throws up” and he runs a very up tempo fast paced offense so he’ll definitely get 30 touches in some games. 360 touches (300 carries and 60 catches) over the season wouldn’t be absurd. Spiller certainly has plenty of talent. He’s averaged 5.4 yards per carry in his career, including a ridiculous 6.0 yards per carry last season. He was 6th in the NFL with 1703 yards from scrimmage despite just 250 touches. He probably won’t maintain his rates because that’s near impossible for anyone to maintain, especially getting as many touches as Spiller is expected to, but all signs are pointing to the 9th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft being one of the NFL leaders in all-purpose yardage and having a Pro-Bowl breakout year.
Projection: 290 carries for 1480 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns 55 catches for 500 receiving yards (258 pts standard, 313 pts PPR)
RB Fred Jackson (Buffalo)
Fred Jackson is a talented back as well, but he’ll be a pure backup this season. That’s good for him as he heads into his age 32 season. He doesn’t have as much tread on his tires as most 32-year-old backs, not making his NFL debut until his age 26 season and touching the ball just 1141 times over the last 6 seasons, but he still seems to be breaking downs. He’s missed 12 games in the last 2 seasons combined and managed just 3.8 yards per carry in 2012. He’ll see still some work as the #2 back in a run heavy offense, but he’s unlikely to post big numbers unless Spiller gets hurt. He did average 5.5 yards per carry in 2011 before getting hurt though and has averaged 4.5 yards per carry for his career, so he is talented. He’s a handcuff for Spiller owners and a solid late round choice.
Projection: 130 carries for 570 receiving yards 4 total touchdowns 23 catches for 170 receiving yards (98 pts standard, 121 pts PPR)
WR Steve Johnson (Buffalo)
Johnson has been very consistent with 82/1073/10, 76/1004/7, and 79/1046/6 seasons and hasn’t missed a game despite playing through various ailments, but he could see his numbers dip this season. He has a raw rookie quarterback and the Bills will run more. He’s largely a volume receiver, averaging 138 targets per season, but could see that drop down to 120 this season.
Projection: 63 catches for 900 receiving yards 6 touchdowns (126 pts standard, 189 pts PPR)