2QB: Manuel, Cassel, and Tyrod Taylor – The Murky Bills QB Situation

Photo Credit: USA Today Sports

At times in two-quarterback leagues, you are required to dig into the refuse to find starting quarterbacks. You might not like Mark Sanchez as an NFL quarterback, but he became 2QB gold for some owners last season. Anyone with a starting gig in the NFL becomes an asset to 2QB owners, after all.

To that end, it is worth looking at the quarterback situation in Buffalo. The Bills barely meet our criteria: They are an NFL team, and they will almost certainly start someone at quarterback this season. Beyond that, they are uninspiring and unlikely to improve their passing numbers under Rex Ryan this season.

But what can we make of this murky quarterback situation? Who is likely to start, and what should we expect for fantasy purposes?

Is Matt Cassel on His Way Out?
OTAs are typically a time for puff pieces and praising a team’s upside. It’s a chance for reporters to get the fan base excited about the upcoming season. (No, that’s not actually in their job description, but many beat reporters take it upon themselves.) So it is concerning when a player is getting hammered rather than praised, and that’s just what we saw with Matt Cassel in June. Here’s a glance:

Matt Cassel had a brutal day early in June, missing deep throws and throwing interceptions. Then, ESPN’s Mike Rodak said Cassel is on the Bills’ roster bubble. And OTAs closed with a Vic Carucci report that Cassel looked the worst of all three quarterbacks in camp.

Although Cassel was brought to the Bills with talk he would immediately become their starter, history didn’t back up that narrative. As we can see from the RotoViz NFL Career Graph App, Cassel has been an inefficient passer in recent years, failing to match E. J. Manuel in nearly any category.

EJ Manuel Matt Cassel Chart

If I were Rex Ryan and the Bills leadership, I would prefer Manuel to Cassel, if only to see what potential I have in my young quarterback. Matt Cassel, now age 33, isn’t the team’s future, and he doesn’t provide any win-now edge either.

In 2013, when both quarterbacks last started significant games, they finished 25th and 29th in fantasy points per drop back, per Pro Football Focus. PFF ranked them as the 31st- and 35th-best quarterbacks that season — hardly inspiring. For our sake, the pertinent point is that Matt Cassel, in his ninth NFL season, could barely outperform E. J. Manuel, a rookie.

If you’re stuck drafting early this offseason, don’t buy into any narrative that sells Matt Cassel as the sure starter in Buffalo.

Tyrod Taylor: Your Dark Horse
The sneaky name, at this point, is actually Tyrod Taylor. Head coach Rex Ryan reportedly showed interest in Tyrod Taylor back when Ryan was with the Jets, and he hand-selected Taylor as an addition in Buffalo. While nothing is certain this early in the offseason, there is a legitimate possibility Ryan gambles on Taylor to start Week 1. So what do we know about Tyrod?

Taylor has been in the league since 2011, but he has only played one real NFL game to this point. Taylor is an athletic quarterback who would add a rushing dynamic to the Bills offense. One sign of hope is that coming into the league, Tyrod Taylor’s profile wasn’t that different from that of Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson, per the RotoViz Box Score Scout:

Tyrod Taylor Chart

On the other hand, inaccurate college quarterbacks almost never become accurate NFL quarterbacks, and nothing in limited NFL action suggests Taylor has turned that corner as a pro. If named the starter, Taylor would be unlikely to post impressive passing totals.

That said, Taylor’s rushing ability would add a powerful fantasy dynamic that Manuel and Cassel lack. Rushing ability boosts the scoring floor for inefficient quarterbacks, and it also tends to improve a team’s running game, which would benefit LeSean McCoy’s projection this season.

I’m skeptical that Taylor will succeed if named the starter, but I am even more hesitant to expect Rex Ryan and Greg Roman, traditionally conservative coaches, to utilize him effectively. I’m taking a wait-and-see approach, but I am not too optimistic Taylor turns into a fantasy asset.

Fantasy Value
None of the three presents much fantasy value if named the starter, but Tyrod Taylor would probably receive the most hype. Because of his rushing ability, combined with the appeal of an unknown asset, Taylor would likely be drafted higher than either of the other two. I would, however, caution you against jumping in too quickly. We saw in previous seasons that rushing phenoms like Tim Tebow, Terrelle Pryor, and an aging Michael Vick don’t always hang on to their starting jobs and are prone to extreme volatility in fantasy scoring totals.

No matter who starts, it is unlikely the Bills will become a passing offense good enough to support a top-20 option at quarterback. In six seasons with the Jets, Rex Ryan never led an offense to finish better than 17th in pass attempts, and those teams were more recently in the bottom third of the NFL. Rex and offensive coordinator Greg Roman are likely to pound the football and rely on ball control and strong defense, rather than airing the ball out often.

If I were laying odds, I would say E. J. Manuel is the most likely to start the majority of Buffalo’s games this season, and I also think he presents the best fantasy option in the back half of the season. Manuel is young, posted decent — although not impressive — numbers in his first two seasons, and he will now be throwing to Sammy Watkins, Charles Clay, and Percy Harvin, none of whom were on the team during his rookie season’s 10 starts.

No matter who is named the starter in Buffalo, they will go into Week 1 no higher than 28th in my own quarterback rankings. I don’t recommend investing in anything but the deepest 2QB leagues, and I will preach patience if Tyrod Taylor is named the starter and begins to see the Tebow/Pryor type hype as we approach draft season.

Photo Credit: USA Today Sports

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