Last year, the Buffalo Bills were a veritable goldmine for IDP owners, thanks in large part to a defensive line that propelled the Bills to a league-leading 54 sacks. However, the arrival of new head coach Rex Ryan brings some big changes in Western New York, not all of which will leave IDP owners smiling.
The change that will leave IDP owners screaming at their laptops comes with the installation of a 3-4 defensive front. That, in turn, cost both Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes their positional eligibility as defensive linemen with some fantasy providers. Both were top-5 fantasy options in 2014, and both remain IDP DL1 if you can play them in that slot. As linebackers, however, the pair are high-variance fantasy options best suited to IDP leagues that award highly for sacks.
The positional monkey move-up continued with Kyle Williams, who will move from the three-technique tackle spot to a five-technique defensive end in Ryan’s defense. The 32-year-old put up big numbers for the Bills playing in a three-man front two years ago and retains some value as at least depth up front, but that’s little consolation to IDP owners in leagues that require defensive tackles.
That leaves tackle Marcell Dareus, who will man the nose. The 25-year-old, who is entering a contract year, rode 10 sacks last year to a top-25 fantasy finish and top-five finish among tackles. With that said, the 3-4 tackle spot isn’t generally fantasy-friendly. Last year’s numbers probably represent a best-case scenario statistically for Dareus in 2015, and a backslide is a real possibility.
Inside linebacker Kiko Alonso was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in the deal that brought LeSean McCoy to the Philadelphia Eagles, leaving Nigel Bradham and second-year pro Preston Brown to man the inside linebacker spots for the Bills in 2015. The $64 IDP question then becomes who mans which spots, and whether both young players will stay on the field in subpackages.
As John Wawrow of The Associated Press reports, it was Brown who was calling the defensive plays in OTAs, and he drew praise from new defensive figurehead (I mean coordinator) Dennis Thurman. “He’s a smart guy, and you very seldom have to repeat things to him,” Thurman said. “Usually a coach’s kid is going to have that mental aptitude because he’s been around the game for a long time. He’s taken to the call. He seems very comfortable in the huddle.”
Assuming that holds, it’s Brown who would have the most IDP value as a value LB2 pick, while Bradham would slot just outside the top 25 at his position.
The IDP uncertainty in Buffalo extends into the secondary as well, as the safety spots are still in more than a bit of flux. Veteran Aaron Williams appears a pretty safe bet to start at free safety, but the starting spot beside him is still very much in play. While speaking with WGR Radio, defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson gave a vote of confidence to third-year pro Duke Williams.
“Oh, well heck, I think I’m pretty good at the other one too with Duke Williams sitting there getting his opportunity,” Henderson said. “He’s a kid that’s been in this program three years now himself. The last two years I’ve sent some safeties out of here with a lot of money, so he’s looking at it the same way – he’s ready to go get him some money.”
Unfortunately, Williams is a liability in coverage – so much so that the Bills have been toying with sliding cornerback Corey Graham to safety in subpackages. Until we get more clarity, any defensive back in Buffalo is a speculative IDP pick at best.