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Fantasy Football Free Agency: Cole Beasley & John Brown, Buffalo Bills

Davis Mattek March 12, 2019 4:12PM EDT

Cole Beasley & John Brown Sign With Buffalo Bills In Fantasy Football Free Agency

One of the most intelligent things that any NFL team can do when trying to develop a young quarterback is to give that quarterback the best context to succeed in. The Bills ran out a fairly talentless roster last season. Josh Allen was forced to throw passes to T-Rex Arms Nick O’Leary, the always not-trying Kelvin Benjamin, perpetually inefficient Zay Jones, undrafted free agent Robert Foster, the utterly aged Charles Clay, and something called Jason Croom. With the fantasy football free agency signings of Cole Beasley and John Brown, the Buffalo Bills front office has made steps in supporting their young quarterback.

Josh Allen will likely not ever succeed in a ‘traditional’ manner in the NFL. His biggest strengths are his throwing power and his running ability. One way the team could harness those strengths is by finding receiving who can get down the field quickly for those deep throws.

There are many things John Brown is not but one of them is extremely fast. John Brown has long been a favorite of the fantasy football community. Back in 2014, I noted that he was the exact sort of small-school, small-bodied WR who projected well to playing in the NFL. That looked fairly prescient as Brown proceeded to score 12 touchdowns in his first two NFL seasons while gaining 1,669 yards. He tailed off his final two seasons as a member of the Arizona Cardinals while battling injuries and his sickle-cell trait illness. His short tenure in Baltimore was a tale of two halves. While Joe Flacco was under center, Brown averaged 13.19 PPR fantasy points per game and 7.4 targets per game. When Lamar Jackson took over, Brown scored only 58 fantasy points in seven games with only 261 yards. Clearly, his talents were not going to be utilized while Jackson was the quarterback and the Bills saw an opportunity.

Cole Beasley is a bit more of a curious signing. He is as dependable of a slot receiver as you can find in the NFL but as a fit in Buffalo, it is a bit hard to see. Likely, the Bills realize that they need to develop some sort of dependable short passing game or picking up first downs will become too difficult.

Fantasy Football Free Agency: Cole Beasley & John Brown, Buffalo Bills 2

As you can see, Allen was inaccurate in almost all zones of the field but particularly bad near the line of scrimmage. You would expect most quarterbacks to flourish when throwing the ball short distances but Allen was not able to. Cole Beasley has posted four seasons of his career with a catch rate north of 75%. Giving Allen a reliable slot receiver does make some theoretical sense though I would encourage most NFL teams to focus more on throwing the ball downfield. Oddly enough, these twin signings forecast great intelligence (John Brown) and traditional NFL thinking (Cole Beasley) at the exact same time. This is not to say that Beasley is completely without use; when matched up with a linebacker, he is unguardable.

John Brown & Cole Beasley Fantasy Football Free Agency Outlook

Cole Beasley has one season in his career with double-digit fantasy points per game and he is unlikely to add to that total in Buffalo. The Bills threw the fifth-fewest passes in the NFL last season and are unlikely to be significantly higher than that in 2019. Josh Allen’s completion percentage of 52.8% doesn’t bode well for Beasley becoming a PPR starter anytime soon.

I am slightly more optimistic on John Brown, though I acknowledge he makes more sense as a real football free agency signing than a fantasy football one. Brown can win at most levels of the field, as Matt Harmon will never tire of telling you. When Robert Foster was introduced to the starting lineup for the Bills last season, he posted games of 3-105, 2-94-1, 7-104, 4-108-1, and 4-21-1. Assuming that Brown plays a similar type of role, giving him an 18% target share in that offense would project him as a WR3 but with wildly volatile outcomes. If he scores only four touchdowns, it is unlikely he finishes the year as a top-24 WR but scoring 10 touchdowns is in his potential range of outcomes due to the nature of how Josh Allen plays and the role he will be in as a deep threat.

Fantasy Football Free Agency Signings:

Latavius Murray

Devin Funchess

DeSean Jackson

Jamison Crowder

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