We Should Worry About Tyrod Taylor in Fantasy Football This Year

With Sammy Watkins gone and a new coordinator in town, Tyrod Taylor may struggle in fantasy football this year.

Two weeks ago, veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin signed a one-year deal with the Buffalo Bills. This wide receiving group could be decent, I said to myself when it happened, referring to Boldin, rookie Zay Jones, and stud Sammy Watkins.

Today, well -- today that cluster of wide receivers is...a cluster.

Watkins was traded to the Rams soon after Boldin signed his deal, and Sunday, Boldin retired from the game of football. The Bills did trade for Jordan Matthews after dealing Watkins, but, man, this passing game has sort of become a mess.

For more reasons than just the wide receiver personnel, too.

A New-Look Offense

There are loads of questions surrounding the Bills' offense right now, but let's start with the new regime that's in town this year, with Sean McDermott as head coach and Rick Dennison as offensive coordinator.

We've seen the Bills as a run-heavy team over the last two years with Tyrod Taylor under center. In fact, they've been the most run-friendly team from a play-calling perspective over this time.

Year Pass-to-Run Rank Rush Attempts Rank
2015 0.91 32nd 509 2nd
2016 0.96 32nd 492 2nd

But Dennison's offense will more than likely look different than this. As offensive coordinator in Denver over the last two seasons, the Broncos had pass attempt-to-run ratios of 1.39 and 1.47, respectively, which hovered along the average side within the context of the entire league.

Dennison comes from the Mike Shanahan coaching tree and uses a West Coast-style offense that features quick, easy short passes and timing patterns that help set up the run. That's been evident over the last couple of seasons when looking at the Broncos' deep ball tendencies.

Year Team % of Passes Traveling 15+ Yards Through the Air
2015 BUF 23.66%
2015 DEN 20.13%
2016 BUF 20.25%
2016 DEN 16.84%

While the Bills have been near the top of teams that have a high percentage of their throws travel 15 or more yards through the air, Denver's been closer to the other side of the list, especially last season, when Trevor Siemian saw the majority of the team's snaps under center.

As the coordinator for the Houston Texans, Dennison's offenses averaged 17.41% of their throws traveling 15 or more yards through the air, a number much lower than what Buffalo's seen with Taylor.

That could have big fantasy implications in an offense led by Tyrod. In 2016, only five players saw a larger percentage of their yards come on deep-ball (15-plus air yard) tosses. More importantly, 52.94% of Taylor's passing touchdowns came on those types of throws, which was the highest rate in the NFL.

Two seasons ago, things were no different: Only two quarterbacks had a higher chunk of their passing yardage total come from long balls, and 65.00% (!!!) of Taylor's passing touchdowns came on throws that traveled 15 or more yards through the air. That was by far the most in the NFL.

Those marks are a far higher percentage than historical Dennison offenses.

Year Team 15+ Yd Percent of TDs
2011 HOU 25.00%
2012 HOU 18.18%
2013 HOU 26.32%
2015 DEN 26.32%
2016 DEN 25.00%

2010 data removed from the table above to reflect when passing efficiency jumped in the NFL.

Over the last six seasons, the average rate of touchdowns that came on throws that traveled 15 or more yards through the air has been a little over 30%. Dennison's offenses haven't come close to that.

And it's not like the Bills have made moves -- it's not like they've shown actions -- that tell us they want to allow Taylor to continue his deep ball ways. They freaking just traded one of the best field stretchers in the game in Sammy Watkins. Among the 179 wide receiver seasons over the last two years in which a wideout saw 50 or more targets, Watkins' 2015 ranked fourth in air yards per catch while his 2016 ranked fifth.

Even without the potential offensive philosophy change, not having Watkins should be a big deal for Taylor this year.

StatWith WatkinsWithout Watkins
Passing TDs/Game1.590.91
Yards Per Attempt7.776.91
Rushing TDs/Game0.240.45
Fantasy Points/Game19.1718.03

Over the last two seasons -- and the table above excludes the fantasy football worthless Week 17 -- Taylor has been a far worse passer without Watkins than with him. Shocking, I know.

What's kept his numbers alive has been his ground-game work, as he's been more dependent on rushing touchdowns and rushing yards without Watkins active. But his passing touchdowns per game and his average yards per attempt have suffered a good bit without Sammy.

And then you want to pile on a new offense that may not allow Tyrod to play his style?

Maybe Taylor will adjust. Maybe this offense will fit him. Maybe he'll still be a top-10 quarterback in fantasy football.

But there's certainly a lot of downside.