After watching Avengers: Endgame, I couldn’t stop thinking about the multiverse. Then, my mind drifted to the Projection Machine, which acts as a fantasy football time machine. Every little tweak in the timeline of fantasy football can have a wide range of repercussions that echo across the league. So, in this series, I’ll dial up that Projection Machine to examine players who could experience big swings in fantasy value if certain things break the right way.
Sean McDermott’s Tenure
The first team we’ll look at is the Buffalo Bills. In Sean McDermott’s tenure as head coach, Buffalo hasn’t passed on more than 52% of its plays. McDermott’s offenses have also ranked around or slightly below league average in the total number of offensive plays per season.
McDermott’s offenses have also ranked slightly below league average in the total number of offensive plays per season.1
What Will Probably Happen…
Buffalo managed just six wins last season and they landed at a 52% passing rate so we’ll set that assumption in the projection machine and give them about 1.5 fewer plays per game than league average.
Zay Jones’s current ADP is WR60, which makes him approximately a 15th-round pick. Jones established a solid connection with quarterback Josh Allen down the stretch in 2018. His current ADP may not properly price-in his upside.
Once Allen returned from injury, he was a different QB, and Jones was one of the primary beneficiaries from Allen’s development. Last week, we saw the Allen-Jones connection carry over to the first preseason game as Allen targeted Jones on five of his first 10 pass plays.2
The next step in exploring potential scenarios in the Projection Machine is to input the target percentages for the WRs. Jones is the WR1 below.
My absolute floor projection for Jones is about 118 points, which would’ve landed at WR60 last season. That projection puts him with basically no touchdown luck and has him being out-targeted by John Brown and seeing the same targets as Cole Beasley.
What Could Happen…
Most sportsbooks project the Bills for six wins in 2019. Teams with a preseason win total between 5.5 and 6.5 wins have averaged a pass-rate of 55.7% during the regular season.3 That same group has averaged just under 970 total plays. We could see a jump in passing volume if McDermott and Brian Daboll are forced into pass-heavy game scripts.
If we give Jones a slight bump4 in catch percentage and one more touchdown on top of the added volume, his season-long numbers go up nearly 10 points. In this scenario, both Brown and Beasley are still outscoring Jones.
But, if his connection with Allen deepens, just how much upside could Jones offer? Depending on Allen’s sophomore development, we could see Jones smash his ADP. If Buffalo uncharacteristically increases their pass rate, or if Jones improves his touchdown percentage, these projections would be even better.
Currently, that upside projection puts him at 162 PPR points for the season. That total would have ranked 36th among WRs in 2018, and that still doesn’t consider a true breakout like we saw from Tyler Boyd last year. You’re getting Jones in the 15th round — even as late as the 19th in some FFPC drafts. He’s a steal at his price.