<
>
Insider

Evans, Bills offense looking up with Fitzpatrick

10/29/2009

The Buffalo Bills have certainly played better offensively with Trent Edwards out of the picture, though I think it's a bit premature to say all is well with this team. Once-moribund wide receiver Lee Evans has seen a jump in his fantasy value, Marshawn Lynch is pointing in the right direction ... and could there be a new quarterback for us to think about?

A year ago, the Cincinnati Bengals were an atrocious team once Carson Palmer got hurt, though obviously his injury wasn't the lone reason. When most observers picked on the lack of fantasy value for Chad Ochocinco -- wait, wasn't he Chad Johnson then, I can't recall -- and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, they pointed to poor Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Harvard-schooled backup quarterback who rarely threw effectively downfield. Between them Johnson and Houshmandzadeh averaged less than 10 yards per catch, which is a stunning, telling stat. Fitzpatrick was seen as the reason why, fair or not.

Turn the attention to 2009, and when Edwards left Week 6 early with a concussion, it elevated Fitzpatrick to the top spot. Oh no, here we go again, right? See Bengals, 2008! Terrell Owens is already one of the biggest disappointments in fantasy so how can things get any worse, while on the other side of the field ... wait a minute, what's Evans doing catching touchdown passes? With Edwards slingin' it, Evans was a non-factor and most fantasy football owners had no interest in playing him. Knowing how Fitzpatrick performed in 2008, how could a player like Evans, so dependent on the long pass, be thriving these days?

Though it's a small sample size, the early take on the Bills quarterback change has been a positive one for Evans and really, the offense as a whole and it might be time for fantasy owners to buy in. I might have done just that when it came to evaluating Evans, as I ranked the wide receiver in my top 20 this week, but let's face it, the matchup against the Houston Texans is a good one. Evans' fantasy value seems to have been lifted by this quarterback change, as he's scored in consecutive weeks, with the touchdown this past week on a 2-yard play. The Bills probably adjusted the playbook a bit, as Edwards was more dependent on his running backs and tight ends than Fitzpatrick seems to be. Still, it's only two weeks. Fitzpatrick isn't likely to take the Bills to the playoffs either. Maybe he beats the Texans and keeps the job for Week 10 at Tennessee. If he does, knowing how bad the Titans are, he'll probably be a knee-jerk fantasy pickup based on the matchup.

I did rank Fitzpatrick No. 21 at quarterback this week, but it's honestly more an indictment on others than trust in his upside. There are only 26 starting quarterbacks to rank with six teams on bye, and let's face it, JaMarcus Russell and Derek Anderson are unplayable. I had to rank one of them. Want perspective? Jake Delhomme was my No. 19 quarterback, and we know how brutal he has been. Add Fitzpatrick to your team if you like, because for all we know he might continue to be somewhat productive, but with only two/three top-10 quarterbacks on bye this week -- Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, maybe Palmer -- you shouldn't need to use him. Evans, however, seems like one of those hot wide receivers you should take a look at.

As for Terrell Owens, he says his statistics are "pathetic." Well, who are we in the fantasy world to disagree. I read Thursday that his new goal is to outperform former teammate Roy E. Williams. Wow, what a race that should be.