It didn’t take long for the Buffalo Bills Head Coach, Doug Marrone, to make the inevitable switch to recently acquired back-up Quarterback Kyle Orton. It was rumored shortly after the Free agent acquisition that Marrone didn’t want to sign Kyle Orton, and EJ Manuel was his guy (Insert Lovie Smith/ Rex Grossman drop here). After one quarter of the season in the rear view mirror, Marrone certainly had a large enough sample size to realize the fashion connoisseur, EJ Manuel, may have worn his last pair of skinny jeans as the starting quarterback of the 2-2 Bills.
The Bills are surprisingly in the hunt for the AFC East Division Title, and Manuel has done just enough to not lose. That isn’t going to cut it for this team, especially given their rejuvenated defense.
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Let’s take a look at the performance-to-date of EJ Manuel and his impact on Sammy Watkins:
Stats per Pro-Football-Reference.com and ProFootballFocus.com
As you can see above, Manuel has been lack-luster at best, and a switch was warranted as Manuel has severely limited the upside of an underrated wide receiver corps.
Bring on the Neck Beard
As long as Orton has enough time to sweat out the previous night’s gallon jug of Jack and Coke, he’s an immediate upgrade over Manuel. Many would argue that Sammy Watkins is an elite talent stuck in a poor situation. Orton has a good track record with throwing the rock to good talent. In fact, Orton loves to throw to his main guy.
Between 2009 and 2010, Orton threw the ball to Brandon Marshall and Brandon Lloyd while starting for the Denver Broncos. I’m using this sample since he started full seasons these years respectively and also threw the ball to good and elite level receivers as his main guys.
Let’s take a look at Sammy Watkins’ performance alongside Manuel, and then see what this might have looked like if we simply insert Orton’s historical production in Manuel’s place.
We immediately see the bump in AY/A from Manuel’s 6.4 to Orton’s averaged 7.05 between 2009 and 2010. Based on both the bump in AY/A and the increase in FPs/Target, we realize an additional 3 plus fantasy points a game for Watkins.
Let’s go one step deeper.
|EJ||131 ATT||24.43 TMS|
With Manuel slinging the rock (Would errantly lofting the rock be more appropriate?), Watkins accounted for just over 24% of the overall Target Market Share. It’s worth noting that this is in line with Doug Marrone’s historical Target Market Share for his WR1 from both the NFL and his coaching days at the collegiate level. It’s possible, however, that Orton takes his WR1 Target Market Share history with him to the tundra.
Again, this increase in target market share is reflective of Orton’s past, not so much Marrone’s. At a minimum, this does portray how much Orton depends on his WR1, and we should expect more of the same at a much healthier level of efficiency.
This Kyle Orton era is going to be short-lived, but the short term impact this change will have is nothing short of great news for Sammy Watkins owners in dynasty football. For the long haul, the Bills will need to get creative with all of their trade investment losses to secure Watkins, but the talent in upcoming drafts is plentiful and able to provide the similar uptick we will see in the short-term and likely until a smooth transition takes place.
In addition to the performance increase we’re about to witness for Sammy Watkins, I’ll let you decide if it’s a good thing we’re about to see more of this:
And less of this: