Fantasy Impact: Bills Defense Could Be Down Five Starters Week 1

Fantasy Impact: Is the Bills defense still draftable after all the recent suspension and injury news?

There has been a ton of chaos surrounding the Bills defense this season. If you were thinking about drafting them in your fantasy league you should have a number of reservations about taking them right now. Here’s a recap of all the drama.

It all started when it was announced that 1st round draft pick and projected starting outside linebacker Shaq Lawson underwent offseason shoulder surgery. He is currently expected to be back around midseason but it was a major blow to the team to lose a projected starter at a position without much depth.

That depth got even thinner when the two top players projected to replace Lawson were also injured. Manny Lawson tore his pectoral muscle trying to bench press over 400 pounds. He will likely miss the entire preseason in an attempt to get him back for Week 1.

He is back practicing but he might not play Week 1 if the reports of his possible suspension for one game due to a potential violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy are true. Lawson and his agent have acted surprised by the news, so hopefully it’s not true.

The other player projected to slot in was IK Enemkpali who tore his ACL in the Bills first preseason game and was waived with an injury designation since he will be out for the year. The Bills added Kroy Biermann in his place. If Manny Lawson is out Week 1, Lorenzo Alexander is the favorite to start at outside linebacker for the Bills.

The hits kept coming on the injury front. Second round draft pick Reggie Ragland tore his ACL and will miss the entire season. Middle linebacker was the Bills biggest weakness on defense and now there is a three-way battle between Zach Brown, Brandon Spikes and David Hawthorne to win the starting job. Zach Brown should prevail.

Leading up to the Bills first preseason game safety Aaron Williams collided with Dez Lewis and suffered a concussion. He is currently in the NFL concussion protocol and there is no expected timeline for his return. He is the only starter mentioned here who might be able to return for Week 1 but concussions are unpredictable. Duke Williams would be the favorite to start if Aaron misses any time.

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Nickell Robey-Coleman appeared in a walking boot last week. He got out of the boot and practiced on Monday of this week. He didn’t remain healthy long suffering a quad contusion on Tuesday. Rookie Kevon Seymour has been playing well and this could give him an edge in winning this role.

The last and biggest hit came when it was announced that the Bills best defensive player and the middle of their defense Marcell Dareus will be suspended for the first four games of the season due to a missed drug test. Dareus is their highest paid defensive player and this was a crushing blow to the team. He recently checked himself into rehab.

Corbin Bryant will step up and play the nose position mostly in the 3-4 scheme. He did well filling in for Kyle Williams last year but let’s face it he is no Marcell Dareus and that’s why he doesn’t have a contract worth over $95 million. Jerel Worthy has also played admirably in the preseason.

The defense has played great this preseason so far. The first game they didn’t get many of the stats that rack up points in fantasy but they played well against the Colts and penalties are the reason why they gave up most of the 19 points against.

This past week against the Giants, the Bills defense looked fantastic. They shutout the Giants which means they have never given up points in their newly renamed stadium New Era Field. Let’s hope it stays that way. On top of that they created four turnovers with two fumble recoveries and two interceptions. It would have been a great fantasy performance if it was the regular season.

So how does this affect fantasy football? Before all this negative news I would have projected the Bills defense to be somewhere between the Top 5 to Top 10 in fantasy football this year. Now with the injuries and the suspensions I think that pushes them back more in the Top 10 to Top 15 range. Still in the top half of the league but in most leagues that would make them borderline startable based on how powerful of an offense they play.

There is no way to hide it, all these starters missing games is going to hurt the team. Sure the Bills defense should perform better than their abysmal season last year where they finished 20th in fantasy points in Yahoo, but it’s unlikely they can be an elite fantasy defense with all these players missing.

It may make sense to pick them up towards the middle of the season when hopefully Manny Lawson, Marcell Dareus, Aaron Williams and Shaq Lawson return. When those players are back the Bills defense should be much better. They could be a good value to pick up or you may be able to trade for them on the cheap.