On January 7th, Syracuse Orangemen head coach Doug Marrone agreed to leave the college ranks and become head coach of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, replacing Chan Gailey. For those who don’t know, Marrone was the first OC under Sean Payton in New Orleans. All the while they had less than subpar talent at the running back position with the likes of an aging Duece McCallister, Pierre Thomas, Aaron Stecker and at that point an underwhelming Reggie Bush. Doug Marrone has his history on the offensive side of the ball. As offensive line coach of the New York Jets, he oversaw the grunts that paved the way for Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin. As the offensive coordinator of the Saints from 2006-08, although Sean Payton called the plays, Marrone was instrumental in helping that potent offense flourish. By his second year, in 2007, the Saints were averaging over 410 yards and just under 29 points per game, both league highs. Finally, at Syracuse, he turned around a team that hadn’t had a winning record since 2001 into two winning seasons in four years and two bowl game victories, running the Saints offense. What does Marrone’s hiring mean for us fantasy football degenerates? Let us delve into that, shall we?
My fantasy prospects surrounding the Bills revolve around three players; CJ Spiller, Steve Johnson and Fred Jackson. With the indecision surrounding Ryan Fitzpatrick and his iffy status as a fantasy quarterback I would rather look elsewhere and focus on these three dynamic fantasy studs (sorry Tashard Choice lovers) and yes, I do believe Fred Jackson can and will be a fantasy stud this year. Although the Saints are known for airing it out, their offense is actually a run first type to open up the passing game and Marrone loves to use multiple running backs, substituting regularly in different packages and utilizing the screen pass to perfection. This is why Buffalo’s prospects for this season and beyond, and our prospects from a fantasy standpoint hinge on these three players.
Fake Pigskin Exclusive: Join Monkey Knife Fight and Get an Instant 100% Deposit Match PLUS a Free $5 Game!
CJ Spiller arrived last year. The former 8th overall draft pick had been previously viewed as a bust, as he couldn’t beat out the aging, but reliable, Fred Jackson for the starting job in Buffalo for three consecutive offseasons. After Jackson went down with an injury Spiller took over, rushing for over 1,200 yards despite only getting 207 carries, averaging an astounding 6 YPC! He also caught 43 passes to go over 1,700 yards from scrimmage on the season, ranking number seven in fantasy scoring for all running backs. In this new offense I fully expect Spiller to be a top-five running back this season and would feel lucky to get him in the first round of my fantasy draft. If you are targeting him in your draft don’t expect him to be on the board past the 8th pick in a 12 team league.
Johnson has had three consecutive seasons of over 75 catches and 1,000 yards receiving, but for some reason always leaves me wanting more. The former 7th round draft pick has all the tools to be an elite receiver in this league. Maybe it was Chan Gailey’s playcalling. Maybe it was the inconsistencies of his quarterbacks. Maybe he was being played at the wrong WR spot. Whatever the reason, that empty feeling in my stomach at the end of the season regarding Steve is going to change this year. With the announcement that he will be playing the slot this year his numbers should explode in this offense. I’m predicting 90 catches, 1,300 plus yards and double digit TD’s. Johnson will be a quiet pick this offseason. I recently picked him up in the 5th round of my way too early first DLF mock draft of the year! He gets no fanfare playing in Buffalo and being overshadowed by all of the “diva” receivers elsewhere, but he is a great pick in the 4th-6th rounds.
Oh Fred Jackson… On some kind of personal level from a fantasy perspective, I love this guy. He has been a member of my redraft teams for three consecutive seasons. He has been a great guy to plug in at the Flex spot or at RB2 during the bye weeks and I could always count on some production. He is underwhelming, not the fastest guy on the field, and now the tragic “injury prone”, but i still love the guy. He is only one year removed from over 1,300 yards from scrimmage despite only playing in 10 games. His injury last year, coupled with the emergence of CJ Spiller and the coaching change may have prolonged his career. Remember, Marrone loves to use multiple backs. Jackson will still have a large role on this team. He is a better blocker than Spiller, so I expect him to be in on passing downs, where he will have chances in the screen game; think of a more talented Ronnie Brown in San Diego last year. I’m still going to count on Jackson to be a top-25 scoring RB in fantasy leagues next year, being the top backup in the league and outscoring a few starters.
Now don’t go out and draft all three of these guys to your team. Use some diversity and watch how your draft is going. If you are getting into the backups at the RB spot and still need a solid flex play then Fred Jackson is your man. If you used your first three picks on running backs, then grabbed a QB and still want a solid #1 WR, take a flier on Steve Johnson. And finally, unless you have the number one pick in your draft (Adrian Peterson), you can make a solid argument on taking CJ Spiller 2nd overall. Good luck and have fun!