E.J Manuel Fantasy 2013
The 2012 Buffalo Bills were very similar to the Buffalo Bills of the entire 2000′s. A team with a couple highly skilled football players who ultimately underachieved due to an overall lack of talent. The Bills finished 6-10 and again earned a top 20 draft pick. With the selection of EJ Manuel, they finally decided to address the barren wasteland that has been their QB position since Jim Kelly orchestrated the offense.
The 6-10 record, at first glance, is deceiving. The Bills are not the Oakland Raiders. They are not a floundering organization, with no real talent or direction. They have playmakers, CJ Spiller, Stevie Johnson, Fred Jackson, rookie Robert Woods, and a young, up and coming defense. Their defensive line features more early picks than Mark Sanchez in a morning game. What they lack, is leadership. Coach Chan Gailey and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick just weren’t getting it done. And in the NFL, when your QB and coach aren’t cutting it, you aren’t winning many games.
Enter Doug Marrone and EJ Manuel. Marrone brings his fast paced offense to Buffalo, while EJ Manuel brings athleticism and a huge arm that Buffalo hasn’t seen in years.
In fantasy history, rookie QB’s haven’t exactly been a recipe for success. Until last year. Rookies Andrew Luck, Russel Wilson and RGIII changed how we viewed the fantasy rookie QB, and while it may not be fair to this new crop, we will now expect first round QB’s to come in and make a difference from day one.
In 2012, Manuel completed 263 out of 387 passes for 3,392 yards and 23 Tds. A 67% clip, not too shabby. He also ran 103 times for 310 yards and 4 Tds. He is no RG3 when it comes to running, but he is no Drew Bledsoe either. Manuel can move around the pocket and is athletic and big enough to do some serious damage when the pocket collapses. There won’t be a ton of designed runs for him this year, but with his size and the fact the C.J Spiller has not yet been used as a goal line back, he could earn a few rushing TD’s in 2013. Fred Jackson will get his fair share of goal line carries, but with his recent penchant for injury and declining production, expect Manuel to get a lot of those carries inside the 5. It’s often hard to predict what a new coach is going to do offensively with his new team. Especially a college coach making his first jump to the NFL. But, for reference, let’s use what Marrone did at Syracuse last year as a guide. Marrone used his QB, Ryan Nassib on rushes 87 times last year. He scored 2 td’s. Nassib is far less athletic and nimble than Manuel, so you can expect those numbers to be better. Nassib also threw 472 passes for 3,753 yards. Almost 100 more attempts than Manuel at FSU. Syracuse averaged 80.4 offensive plays per game. Compared to Florida State at just 70.5. That’s 10 extra plays per game, or 160 more plays this year for Manuel. He averaged just 27 attempts per game, while Nassib averaged 36. That’s 10 more plays and 9 more passes per week. Of course the level of competition will be much higher, so his success rate will drop. But, with all these extra attempts, he will have plenty of opportunities to prove his worth.
Stretching the Field
Clearly Fantasy owners want nothing more than big numbers from Gridiron Experts ninth ranked fantasy running back C.J Spiller. The passing game will play a major role in Spiller’s success, not only as a target himself, but as a way to get defenses to focus on other threats in the Bills offense. Stevie Johnson has the ability to take any catch to the house and is one of the most underrated WR’s in fantasy. Johnson caught 79 balls for 1,049 yards and 6 Tds in 2012. A nice season for a WR2 or a great season for a WR3. All of that with erratic play from the QB position. Stevie also will have more help than ever in 2013. With the emergence of TJ Graham, the additions of prized rookies Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin, the Bills have a formidable WR corp. The addition of these other skilled pass catchers will give Johnson the chance to work from the slot more often this season. His size and playing style are a perfect fit for a slot receiver, but with the lack of talent opposite Johnson the last few years, he was too often depended on to play wide and be used as their lone deep threat. Add in the fact that Ike Hilliard was brought in as wide receivers coach, and big things are expected from this years receiving corp.
While Fitzpatrick didn’t scare anyone, Manuel has big play ability. Defenses won’t be able to stack the box focusing strictly on Spiller. If the new Bills Rookie can improve his accuracy on long balls, he will be able to open up a whole new element to the Bills offense. He certainly has the weapons to do it.
Expect big years from CJ Spiller and Stevie Johnson in 2013.
After Two Weeks: Preseason Recap
While E.J Manuel hasn’t officially been named the starting QB for the Buffalo Bills, the title seems to be somewhat of a formality. E.J opened his pro career with a dynamic debut against Indianapolis, going 16-21 for 107 yards and a TD. He also ran 3 times for 28 yards including a highlight 24 yard scamper.
Bills head coach Doug Marrone had promised to rotate the QB’s in the preseason, so Kevin Kolb opened up under center in the Bills second game against Minnesota Friday night. But Kolb did what Kolb always seems to do. He was inaccurate and ineffective, finishing 13-21 for 111 yards and an INT. After the uninspiring play, it seemed the job was Manuel’s by default. But, instead of resting on his laurels, Manuel came in and delivered. He led the Bills 80 yards on his opening drive, going 6 for 6 and capped off by a 4 yard touchdown pass to Brad Smith. E.J Manuel finished the night 10-12 for 92 yds and the TD in just 3 series. He only ran for 1 yard on 1 carry, but his legs weren’t needed on this night.
Manuel has looked poised, dynamic and completely in control of the Bills offense in his first two games.
Update: On Saturday morning after the game an MRI revealed swelling in E.J. Manuel’s left knee, and he needs to undergo a “minor knee procedure.”