It’s almost July, which means that it’s high time we turn our attention to fantasy football sleepers, breakouts, and busts for every NFL team. The ADP is per 4for4’s ADP data, pulled in the last week of June. We will start with the AFC East, and the Buffalo Bills. Can Josh Allen & Co. beat the Madden Curse? Can they finally make the AFC Championship Game? Will Anthony Fauci admit that Damar Hamlin is a clone? We answer none of those questions, and more, with the Buffalo Bills’ sleeper, breakout, and bust!
Sleeper: Deonte Harty, Wide Receiver (WR108, Pick 257 Overall)
I first saw Deonte Harty when the 49ers played at the Saints back in 2019. Harty was Deonte Harris back then, but he was still every bit as dynamic, just a bit more under the radar than I hope he gets in 2023. He had just one catch for 13 yards and one rush for 8 yards in that game, but it was his 5 kick returns for 155 yards, and two punt returns for 37 yards that made me excited.
Fast forward to 2021 and Jameis Winston, and had a stretch of eight games wherein he had at least five targets per game every game, except the one where he left after just two snaps… but one of those snaps was a 72-yard touchdown pass from Jameis Winston. Following his return from that injury, and before he faced a suspension related to a DUI arrest, he averaged 6 targets, 3 catches, and 48 yards per game. That was with notable chaotic Jameis Winston. Now he has notably chaotic (but a much better player) Josh Allen throwing him the football. We got ourselves all in a tizzy about Gabriel Davis as Josh Allen’s #2 wide receiver last season, and that went nowhere.
Now, burned by Gabriel Davis, we have someone who just might be the #2 receiver for the 2023 Bills, and he’s going at pick 257 overall. What makes me think he would be that #2 receiver? Well, he is going to be the slot receiver for the Bills, and that position, in the aggregate, had over 100 targets in each of the last four seasons. If Harty locks down that job, he should shine for dirt cheap.
Breakout: James Cook, Running Back (RB30, Pick 96 Overall)
I’m not the biggest fan of James Cook, and I don’t mean that in the colloquially, “I don’t really like James Cook,” sort of way. I’m just saying that I temper my expectations regarding the Sophomore back. A lot of folks out there want to make a case that Cook has top-ten or top-eight upside as the main back in a Josh Allen Bills offense. While I like Cook, I can’t countenance that stance, as he faces the same issue that Devin Singletary faced: competition. Josh Allen’s eleven carries inside the five-yard line last season ranked ninth in the league, tied with Josh Jacobs and Miles Sanders for eleventh in the league. This marks the second time in the last three seasons that he’s gotten double-digit carries inside the five. This will obviously limit Cook’s overall upside.
But, I am supposed to make a breakout case for him: he’s the best running back on the roster by a wide margin. The Bills backfilled the position with hard-running backs like Damien Harris and Latavius Murray. Both should have a role on the roster, but neither can really do what James Cook does best: catch the football and chew up yardage in space. Cook finished 2022 with 32 targets on just 109 routes run last season. For reference, Devin Singletary ran 296 routes, the eighth-most in football last year, and 53 targets. James Cook isn’t much of a rusher, but he has a definite role in that offense, and it’s catching passes. Never forget that a catch is worth a ten-yard run in a PPR league, so if James Cook gets 50 catches next year… he definitely could… it’s the equivalent of an extra 500 rushing yards in fantasy points before you even get into the receiving yards.
Bust: Dalton Kincaid, Tight End (TE11, Pick 125 Overall)
By ADP, there are teams out there who are drafting Dalton Kincaid as their starting tight end. It’s like Kyle Pitts taught them nothing. But even then, a “generational freak athlete at his position who has ‘the greatest to ever play the position’ in his range of outcomes” makes for a compelling case to take a rookie tight end as your starting tight end. None of that is true about Dalton Kincaid. The argument comes down to, basically, Josh Allen exists. The case people are making for Kincaid is that he’s a talented tight end (he is) who the Bills took with a prime draft pick (they did) and also Dawson Knox was… TE14 last year? And Knox is still on the team, by the way. The case for him is as wobbly as they come and was also true of guys like Hayden Hurst, Eric Ebron, T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant, O.J. Howard, and David Njoku. All of those guys failed to live up to cobbled-together cases for them in their rookie campaigns, and I doubt Dalton Kincaid, who has to share a tight end room with TE14, who we cobbled together a case for last season, has limited upside in his rookie campaign.