Fantasy Profile 2017: WR Zay Jones
Bills rookie wide receiver, Zay Jones, had a phenomenal career at East Carolina University. In college, he was able to set the FBS record for receptions. In four years, he caught 399 passes for 4,279 yards and 23 touchdowns. It’s also important to note that he progressed each season as well. It’s impressive that Jones was able to light it up in the collegiate level but will that translate into the NFL?
The Bills were able to land WR Zay Jones in the second round of the 2017 NFL draft with pick No.37. Jones stands at 6 foot two inches tall and weighs around 201 pounds which, is a great size for the receiver position. When posting record numbers at East Carolina University, people began to take notice. Here is what PFF had to say about Jones during the pre-draft process:
Bottom line: Jones’ incredible production alone should raise eyebrows and earn him an opportunity to contribute in the NFL. His ability to improve in separating from defenders and beating press coverage will most likely decide his fate and will impact whether he can be full-time starter in the league. However, his ability to find the soft spots in the zones and pluck the ball out of the air can make him a useful part of an offense, likely in more of a possession role.
With the Bills, Jones lands in a great spot to be an immediate contributor for fantasy purposes. Looking at his situation alone, he figures to start opposite Sammy Watkins (Who know’s how long he can stay healthy, anyways.). The Bills lost Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, and Justin Hunter at the wide receiver position during the offseason. That alone is 167 targets left on the table. It’s also important to note that Sammy Watkins only played in eight games last season and the Bills also added WR Andre Holmes.
Besides that, Jones’ opportunity might be good enough for a late round gamble. Also, his quarterback is Tyrod Taylor. He has proven to be an efficient quarterback that can move the chains. An offense that can move the chains, gives the playmakers more opportunities to score. Jones figures to be a part of that.With all of this looking good, it’s important to remember that Buffalo is a run first offense. In 2016, the Bills were ranked first in rushing the ball and 30th in passing. They were behind the Cleveland Browns and the Houston Texans. With Taylor having the ability to use his legs and the Bills relying on an elite level running back, LeSean McCoy, it makes sense why they depend on the run game. They’re good at it.
But, the Bills also brought in new OC Rick Dennison and added talent at the wideout position. Sammy Watkins, Zay Jones, Andre Holmes are not all that exciting names but they provide more talent than last season for the Bills and for this reason alone, may allow them to be more comfortable passing the ball.
Let’s take a look at Dennison’s history as OC with the Denver Broncos in 2015. During the 2015-2016 season, the Broncos went 12-4 and eventually beat the Carolina Panthers for the Super Bowl. While their defense was top tier, they had the offense to get the job done and credit is due to Rick Dennison.
That year, there were many questions at quarterback for the Broncos. Manning struggled mightily and then Brock Osweiler came along and while he looked serviceable, he struggled as well. That didn’t stop the two receivers from getting the ball though. Both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders got over the 1,000-yard mark. Thomas caught 105 passes out of 177 targets for 1,304 yards and six touchdowns. On the other side, Sanders caught 76 passes out of 136 targets for 1,135 yards and six touchdowns. Both starting receivers did well and were used throughout the season regardless of how much the quarterbacks struggled. Dennison moves into a similar situation with Sammy Watkins and Zay Jones but has a better quarterback in Tyrod Taylor.
The quarterback also has a brief history with Dennison when their time overlapped in Baltimore in 2014. It’s always a positive when a quarterback has any experience in a new system that is being brought in. It should help the transition period go by smoother and ultimately help the players around him.
According to Pro Football Reference, here are Dennison’s passing offense ranks as an OC through the years:
The stats are ranked out of 32 NFL teams. So arguably, Dennison’s best year as an OC for passing would have come with the 2008 Broncos where he ranked third in the league in attempts and yards. I personally like to look at attempts because that will show how much a coordinator is committed to the passing game. Last year, Dennison had Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemien as his quarterbacks and well, Tyrod Taylor should be a lot better than both of them.Even with subpar quarterbacks, Dennison’s offense still ranked 17th in pass attempts which are a good sign for the Bills. A team with LeSean McCoy should be able to rely more on the run game and have the passing game complement it. With Dennison’s experience as an OC, I am confident he will be able to utilize Sammy Watkins and Zay Jones in that offense. He’s proven to do so with Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas.
With that, where is Jones’ current ADP? According to Fantasy Football Calculator, in a 12-team standard scoring league, Zay Jones is currently going off the board in round 14 around pick 157th overall. For value purposes, Jones might be a great gamble that late in a draft. When you head into round 14, you should have most of your team and all of your projected starters. It may be worth the flier on the rookie.
Jones is coming into an offense where he projects to be a starter immediately, he has already an efficient quarterback and a new OC who has shown commitment to both the pass and run game. Everyone in the fantasy world has taken notice of Sammy Watkins inability to stay healthy throughout a season too. In the past two seasons, Watkins has missed 11 games. With a healthy Watkins, that only should help take some pressure off of Zay Jones. But if for some awful instance that Watkins has to miss more time, Zay will be a prime candidate for more targets which should lead to more chances to score.
With Jones coming into a good situation in Buffalo and having such a late ADP, he is worth the risk at that point in the draft for me. I don’t think he will blow up on the scene like Odell Beckham Jr. did in 2014 but he may be able to contribute to your roster. Even if he is a rotational matchup player on your roster, it is worth the draft pick in round 14.
Jake Hamilton is a senior at SUNY Geneseo where he is pursuing a degree in Business Administration. He has commissioned a very successful and fun fantasy league for the last seven years. His friends think he has an addiction to mock drafts and it’s true. Recently, Jake finished up a 4-month internship with the Buffalo Bills where he contributed to their team blog and interviewed multiple players. Jake always enjoys good fantasy conversation so, feel free to reach out to him at anytime.