WR Zay Jones | Buffalo Bills | 2nd Year
2017 Stats: 27 receptions, 316 yards, 2 TD
After a prolific college career at East Carolina, with saw him set the FBS career record for receptions (399) and set the single-season record for receptions as a senior (158), it was easy to tab Zay Jones as a rookie sleeper last year.
But it was not to be, as Jones delivered just 27 catches in 15 games. A run-oriented Bills’ offense did not help, and after the season it was revealed Jones played most of the season with a torn labrum in his shoulder. Knee surgery in May ended his run in OTAs early, but he is expected to be ready for training camp.
The Bills traded Tyrod Taylor, signed A.J. McCarron and drafted Josh Allen this offseason, so Jones will be catching passes from a new quarterback. But 2017 fifth-round pick Nathan Peterman has been deemed a “serious contender” for the starting job, which is an indictment of McCarron and Allen more than anything.
Jones’ 36.5 percent catch rate (74 targets) is obviously not ideal. At first glance the season-high 68 yards he had in the one game Peterman started last year looks somewhat promising, but a look at the play-by-play log shows all of his production (four catches, seven targets) came in the second half of a blowout after Taylor entered the game.
Over his final eight games last year, Jones did improve slightly with 17 receptions for 201 yards (37 targets; 45.9 percent catch rate, 11.8 yards per catch). Catching passes from McCarron, the scatter shot arm that is Allen right now and/or Peterman is not a promising fantasy proposition though.
Kelvin Benjamin is Buffalo’s No. 1 wide receiver, and tight end Charles Clay is sure to remain a prominent part of the passing game. Jones is likely to be third in that pecking order for targets, but Bills’ GM Brandon Beane has said it won’t be handed to him.
As long as he’s healthy, it would be hard for Jones to be worse than he was as a rookie (WR85 in ESPN PPR leagues; 4.7 fantasy points per game). He’s off the grid in ADP data right now (WR78 on Fantasy Pros), with a small passing game pie and quarterback questions. A second-year breakout for Jones could be classified as moving into WR3/WR4/bye week fill-in territory in 12-team leagues.