2013 Team Outlook: Buffalo Bills

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2013 Team Outlook: Buffalo Bills

A fantasy football preview of the Buffalo Bills this season. Profiled players include E.J. Manuel, Jeff Tuel, Kevin Kolb, Matt Leinart, and C.J. Spiller.

The E.J. Manuel era can only begin if he is able to unseat Kevin Kolb from the starter's spot. In recent years, outperforming Kolb has not been a challenge. Using anything more than a late-round pick on the former Florida State signal-caller would be a mistake. The upside is there given his big frame and pro-style experience. Kolb's propensity for injury, which has already been a factor, and his limited ceiling could create a ripe opportunity for Manuel to win the starting gig in the second half of the season if not sooner. If the rookie begins the season as the starter, it can be safely assumed that the Bills' coaching staff sees something we don't yet know about. In that case, Manuel becomes a super sleeper with inconsistent, but big-time potential against the right matchups.

Update (8-27): Remember when Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said that he plans to run C.J. Spiller "until he throws up"? This should help that become a reality. Because of injuries to Kevin Kolb and E.J. Manuel, head coach Doug Marrone said Monday that the current plan is to start undrafted free-agent quarterback Jeff Tuel against the Patriots on Sept. 8. Tuel's job will be very simple: Don't trip while handing the ball off to Spiller. Sure, it means that Spiller will face a bunch of stacked boxes in Week 1, but he is basically a lock to see at least 20 touches. That's going to lead to big numbers. However, the Bills and Spiller owners should be hoping that Manuel gets healthy soon. Only teams in 2QB leagues should even contemplate using Tuel.

Update (8-26): Kolb suffered yet another concussion, the latest one coming in Buffalo's third preseason game against the Redskins. This one the Bills fear could be career-ending. Hopefully Kolb's recovery comes swift and without issue, but obviously this puts a crimp into the Bills' plans, especially with E.J. Manuel out.

Preview - If Kevin Kolb is on your fantasy radar, you might be overthinking it. The 28-year old has proven very little throughout his career and was likely brought in on the cheap as an insurance policy if someone else did not emerge. He has never played a full season and turns the football over too often. In all likelihood, the Bills will insert rookie QB E.J. Manuel into the starting lineup to see what he can do. An unproven veteran on a new team does not present enough upside or reliability to earn a roster spot. Kolb's untimely knee injury where he slipped on a rubber mat would be called foreshadowing if this were a novel.

With injuries to E.J. Manuel and Kevin Kolb, the Bills signed free agent Matt Leinart. Undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel is currently Buffalo's projected Week 1 starter, but that could be a disaster. Manuel has the gig whenever he returns, but Leinart should ascend to the backup role before long.

Now entering his fourth season (and likely in his physical prime at age 25), C.J. Spiller will look to build upon his breakout 2012 season. He had 207 carries for 1,244 yards (6.0 ypc) and found the endzone six times. Add another 43 receptions for 459 yards and two scores and Spiller contributes in multiple ways as the biggest playmaker in Buffalo. Using his blazing speed, he is one of the few backs talented enough to make the leap into the upper echelon at his position and perhaps even challenge Adrian Peterson as fantasy's No. 1 back. RB Fred Jackson will poach some carries, but don't let that discourage you, because this is now Spiller's load to bear.

Now 32 years old, Fred Jackson has finished each of the last two seasons with dehabilitating leg injuries and missed 12 games in total. Although he was formerly ahead of RB C.J. Spiller on the depth chart at the start of each of the last two years, that is no longer the case. Jackson will likely take on a change-of-pace role and at best, will poach a few short-yardage scores away from the more fleet-footed Spiller. Jackson's injury risks and reduced offensive responsibilities should keep him healthy which would be useful to fantasy owners for the right value. Unfortunately, he should rarely, if ever, crack your starting lineup unless Spiller goes down with injury.