Every summer, we take a deep dive into the fantasy football average draft position (ADP) of players on each real-life NFL team. We do this so that we can determine which guys are undervalued, overvalued, or valued just right. As we Goldilocks this ADP, our draft board forms based on our opinions of players and where they go in fantasy football drafts. Since drafters draft (mostly) by site algorithms, site algorithms drive ADP on that site. So, we use FantasyPros’ aggregate average draft position data in order to smooth out those edges. To really smooth out the edges, I will use half-PPR average draft position, which you can find here.
The Buffalo Bills came within a wide-open Travis Kelce catch-and-run of the AFC Championship Game last year, and the AFC Championship Game represents their floor for their 2022 expectations. They shook up their fantasy football-relevant depth chart, adding James Cook, Jamison Crowder, O.J. Howard and others, while jettisoning Cole Beasley from their roster. While the Bills have a potent offense, they also have crowded position rooms at all the fantasy football-relevant positions. So, who is the sleeper, the breakout, and the bust for 2022 fantasy football from the Buffalo Bills?
Sleeper: James Cook, Running Back (RB46, 139 OVR)
Here at Football Absurdity, we are big fans of running backs who catch passes. After all, pass-catching running backs represent some of the biggest draft returns on investments, generally going as RB4s and finishing as back-end RB2s. That’s why James Cook is an intriguing pick in the later part of your fantasy football draft.
The rookie running back isn’t there to supplant Devin Singletary, so don’t get this twisted. He’s there to work alongside Devin Singletary to give the Bills’ offense a new element: pass-catching out of the backfield. The Bills clearly made this a priority in the offseason, making an aborted play for J.D. McKissic before signing Duke Johnson and drafting James Cook at the end of the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft. While I don’t believe James Cook has the catch volume in him to finish as a top-fifteen running back, the concerted efforts to add a pass-catching running back to their stable speaks volumes about his expected usage in 2022. I could easily see James Cook becoming in a 2020 Cordarrelle Patterson-style season in a better offense, as he is younger, more athletic, and a better pass catcher than CPatt, and he will get passes from Josh Allen, not Matt Ryan. For that reason, I love snagging him as a fourth-or-fifth running back just to see if he can work as a PPR plug-in during bye weeks. I don’t have much hope that he supplants Devin Singletary, but Zack Moss’ days are numbered.
I express concern about his overall upside because, up to this point, we haven’t seen Cook handle a full workload. He maxed out at 12 carries for Georgia in 2021 as he shared the backfield with new Raider Zamir White (White out-touched Cook 169-150 in 2021, but Cook had three times as many catches). If Cook can handle a full workload, then he’s the top back in Buffalo or at least a potent 1B to Devin Singletary.
Breakout: Gabriel Davis, Wide Receiver (WR35, 83 OVR)
Gabriel Davis is the #2 downfield threat for Josh Allen, one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. Gabriel Davis ranked eighth in average depth of target in 2021 and finished with just 63 targets. Because of this, he finished with an average of just 2.2 receptions for 34.3 yards per game. Davis also tied Emmanuel Sanders for the Bills’ lead in 2021, with 8.7 yards gained per target. Now, Sanders is a free agent, and the Bills have a bunch of short-area receivers (Jamison Crowder, Khalil Shakir & Isaiah McKenzie) around deep threats like Davis and Stefon Diggs. With downfield defenses worrying about Diggs, I don’t know how a Gabriel Davis who gets 90+ targets doesn’t breakout.
After all, the last time we saw Davis, he finished with 8 catches for 201 yards and four touchdowns on ten targets. The talent is all there, and the Bills have cleared out their downfield depth to be just Diggs and Davis. He should be among the air yards leaders in 2022, which means tons of production potential for him.
Bust: Dawson Knox, Tight End (TE9, 95 OVR)
While Dawson Knox’s 2021 résumé isn’t as damning as 2020 Robert Tonyan’s, I still dislike Knox for the same reason. Knox had just 49 catches for 587 yards on 71 targets last year, which ranked fifteenth, eighteenth, and twentieth among tight ends, respectively. However, he finished 2021 as TE8 thanks to one thing and one thing only: touchdowns. Knox had 9 touchdowns, which tied him for the most in the league last season. Four tight ends had 9 touchdowns last season: Knox, Mark Andrews, Travis Kelce, and Hunter Henry. While drafters have correctly marked Henry for touchdown regression (TE14 off the board, 120 overall), Knox gets a pass.
Knox is due for a hard touchdown regression, as he caught a touchdown once every 8 passes, which is twice the average rate among tight ends in 2022. I just can’t trust Knox in 2022 when the only thing that differentiates him from Hunter Henry, who goes three rounds later, is his offense. Knox had a touchdown every 15 targets in the same offense in 2021. I’m not reaching in on Knox at his price point to get burned by him turning into Hunter Henry.