It’s the Sean McDermott show with the Buffalo Bills after Rex Ryan was canned at the end of last season. McDermott will bring toughness and a culture change to Bills who hold the longest playoff drought in the NFL (1999). If Buffalo wants to make the postseason this year they will need Tyrod Taylor on top of his game, another big year from LeSean McCoy, and an improved defensive unit. Heading into training camp, what should we watch for with the Buffalo Bills in 2017?
3 Position Battles To Watch:
- Fullback: Patrick DiMarco, Mike Tolbert
The entire league has moved away from fullbacks, but the Bills oddly decided they needed two. The Bills did have an effective running game in 2016 leading the league in yards per attempt (5.3 yards as a team). Sean McDermott utilized a heavy run game with LeSean McCoy in Philly and will likely do the same during his Bills tenure. Whether it’s Tolbert or DiMarco, the Bills figure to be one of the few teams to utilize the fullback spot.
2. Linebacker: Ramon Huber, Gerald Hodges, Matt Milano, Tanner Vallejo
The return of Reggie Ragland from injury gives this unit a huge boost. Let’s not forget the emerging star of Lorenzo Alexander as well adding 12.5 sacks out of nowhere a year ago. The other outside linebacker spot seems a bit underwhelming at the moment. My pick to win the job is Hodges as a recent defection from the 49ers.
3. Free Safety: Jordan Poyer, Bicarri Rambo
Again, not much to smile about here. Micah Hyde, the free agent pickup from the Packers, will man one safety spot. Hyde can do a little of everything playing nickel corner in sub packages. Both Poyer and Rambo will likely see playing time regardless of who wins the starting job.
Ready To Breakout: Ronald Darby
Darby seems like a player who is ready to ascend into a number one type of corner. After a dominating rookie season, Darby took a bit of a step back in 2016. Now with Stephon Gillmore heading to New England, Darby will have to lock down the team’s best targets each and every week. If not, Tre’Davious White from LSU has that kind of prowess.
Rookie To Watch: Zay Jones
I love Zay Jones. The former ECU product is the NCAA leader in receptions, that’s all you need to know. Scouts questioned his ability coming from an air raid offense, but Jones is the real deal. He may already be just as good as Sammy Watkins. For more on Jones, check out some of my draft coverage here.
Fantasy Sleeper: Sammy Watkins
Watkins has underachieved, we know that much. Watkins, the former 4th overall pick in 2014, has battled injuries throughout his career and only caught 2 touchdowns in 2016. Heading into year 4, Watkins has a chip on his shoulder. Why do you ask? Well, the Bills declined his 5th-year option. With a potential pay day looming, it’s now or never for Watkins to fulfill his potential. Don’t forget, sometimes it takes wide receivers longer to live up to the hype. Learning the route tree in an NFL offense is just an entirely different ball game.