Credit: USA Today
By: Jason Malloy
When thinking of great wide receivers in Bills history some names that come to mind are Andre Reed, James Lofton, Peerless Price, and Eric Moulds. But, there’s the fan favorites and more recent wide-outs like Stevie Johnson, Lee Evans, and even Sammy Watkins. None of the Bills new wide receiver additions carry the reputation a lot of these players had. This article’s going to take a look at the fantasy outlook for two of the new Buffalo Bills wide-outs.
First we’ll take a look at the speedster the Bills added to the receiving corps, John “Smokey” Brown. Brown may not have the massive stat line that a number of teams top receivers have, but his speed and athleticism is unquestionable. Brown's best year was in 2015 where he had 65 catches, 1003 yards, and 7 touchdowns. During that season Smokey was the the #2 target on a very good Arizona Cardinals team behind the future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald. Brown received 101 targets, but Fitzgerald was targeted a whopping 145 times. The target share between a #1 and #2 receiver is clearly obvious. Naturally this will lead to lower production for the less targeted wide-outs.
In the right system Brown will flourish like when he was in Arizona. If you look at the projected stat line Brown would’ve had if he was given a similar amount of targets as Fitzgerald it's impressive. Had Brown been given 145 targets he would’ve been on pace for just over 90 catches, 1300 yards, and 10 touchdowns. These numbers would’ve put Brown with the top 10 wide-outs in the league last year. On a more recent note, these past two games Brown is ranked as a WR1. He’s received 18 targets resulting in 14 catches, 195 yards, and 1 touchdown. Brown’s on pace for 144 targets this season. If Brown can keep that pace he’ll have 112 catches for a whopping 1,560 yds and 8 TDs. The great thing about Brown he’s not touchdown dependent to have a WR1 fantasy day. There’s no doubt Brown is currently the Bills #1 wide-out. I’ve personally grabbed Brown in the late 7th/early 8th round of all my drafts if not later. That’s the most amazing benefit about grabbing Smokey, you can draft him as a flyer and receive WR1 production. I think Brown is going to ball out this year.
The next and truly last fantasy contributing Bills wide-out currently is Cole Beasley. Cole is now and has always been your shorter “quick not fast” slot receiver. He’s no doubt a safety valve check down kind of guy. Cole is another receiver who’s never put up sexy or flashy stats but was an intricate part of helping Cowboys franchise quarterback Dak Prescott take the next step. One can only hope for the same results with our leader and current franchise QB Josh Allen. This year Cole has looked the part doing what he does best, catching short 5-10 yard passes. This makes it easier for 3rd downs, while also grabbing the occasionally big gainer. This was on display last week in the Giants game when Beasley grabbed an Allen missile for a 51 yard gain. Currently Beasley has been targeted 13 times for 9 catches for 123 yards. That puts Beasley on pace for 104 targets and if Beasley can keep up he’d haul in 72 catches for 984 yards. At first you would look at these numbers and think wow,”Cole would break his career high in both categories.”
However, I believe these numbers don’t do him justice. We’ve been able to watch Beasley and Allen connect quite a few times during the preseason. The Carolina game sticks out to me personally. In that game in the first 10 minutes Beasley was targeted 5 times hauling in all 5 targets for 44 yards. I believe Beasley will have games where he’s targeted 13-17 times and games were he receives 4-7 targets. However, even with the ups and downs in his target share Beasley provides a safe floor of somewhere around 4 catches for 40-50 yards and the occasional touchdown. The good side of things is Beasley will also have games where he hauls in 11-12 catches for just over 100 yards and a TD. This makes him one of the safer flex players in the fantasy world. I’d love to see Beasley help Allen to take that next step and I think he will. However, for now I’ll be content with Beasley providing a low risk/high reward slot in my fantasy lineup. P.S. Beasley is going in the last and second to last rounds in most drafts.
There’s no doubt these first 2 games have provided the feeling Buffalo Bills fans are all too familiar with. It ranges from excitement, to anxiety, to the occasional fan so overjoyed with just a few wins they proclaim “Super Bowl BABY!”. Beasley and Brown have given us some answers at one of our biggest positions of need. If either Brown or Beasley are still available in your fantasy leagues I advise you give them a chance. After all nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills!