Never Too Early to Identify NFL Betting Value
The 2020 NFL free agency period officially began on Wednesday and what typically is a biggest surge of signings and trades has already taken place. I firmly believe there’s worthwhile AFC East Division futures betting value on the Buffalo Bills and here's why.
Stefon Diggs Trade
It's certainly not been a well-kept secret that Buffalo's biggest area of need heading into the offseason was improving their quality depth at wide receiver. Specifically speaking, adding a legitimate #1 wide receiver who can stretch the field vertically was a top priority. The Bills extremely astute General Manager Brandon Bean accomplished exactly that when he acquired bona fide deep threat wide receiver Stefon Diggs and a 7th round draft pick in 2020 from Minnesota. In return, Beane gave the Vikings this year’s 1st, 5th, and 6th round draft picks in addition to a 4th in 2021.
There are some pundits out there who feel Buffalo gave up way too much for Diggs. However, I disagree with those so-called experts who share that opinion. Buffalo owned a surplus of 9 picks in the upcoming 2020 draft. Included in those draft choices was a pair of 5th and three 6th round picks. They acquired the extra 5th round pick from Cleveland in exchange for offensive linemen Wyatt Teller before last season's start. Furthermore, they added an extra 6th round pick in a deal which sent center Russell Bodine to New England within that same proximity of time. Additionally, Buffalo is coming off a 10-6 season and playoff appearance. It was highly unlikely that 9 draft picks were going to make their 53-man roster in 2020. Lastly, to simplify the trade, the Bills in essence gave up Wyatt Teller, Russell Bodine, a #1 pick in 2020, and #4 next year for Stefon Diggs. When breaking it down in this manner, any NFL guru would be hard pressed to challenge the logic within this deal.
With the addition of Diggs, Buffalo acquires a player who has eclipsed 1000 yards receiving during each of the past 2 seasons and had 102 receptions in 2018. Additionally, Diggs averaged an eye-popping 17.9 yards per reception a season ago and scored 6 touchdowns.
Top-Notch Wide Receiver Group
Collectively, Buffalo now possesses arguably the best trio of wide receivers in the NFL with Diggs, John Brown, and Cole Beasley. Brown had a career year which was his first with Buffalo last season. The former Arizona Cardinal and Baltimore Raven recorded 72 catches for 1060 yards and 6 touchdowns in 15 games. All Beasley did was chip in 67 receptions for 778 yards and 6 touchdowns, while working out of the slot position.
Ascending Young Quarterback and Running Back
Bills quarterback and former #7 overall draft choice Josh Allen showed significant improvement last season compared to his rookie year in 2018. The Buffalo brass is thoroughly convinced that Allen is their franchise quarterback. The move to bring in Diggs is indicative of such. Allen will also be playing behind an offensive line which was revamped last year, and subsequently transitioned into a very good unit as the season progressed. All five starters on the offensive will return in 2020 plus their top two backups.
Moreover, Devin Singletary returns after a stellar rookie season which saw him rush for 775 yards and average 5.1 yards per carry. The third round draft pick out of Florida Atlantic also added 29 catches for 194 yards. Not bad for a first year player who missed four games due to injury and didn't become the feature back until after the season's midway point.
The Buffalo defense was nothing short of spectacular last season. They finished regular season action ranked #3 in total yards allowed (298.3 PG), #2 in points given up (16.2 PG), and #4 in passing yards against (195.2 PG).
The Bills lost two defensive linemen to free agency this week. Former 1st round pick Shaq Lawson (DE) signed with Miami and Jordan Phillips (DT) inked a new deal with Arizona. Both players were coming off career best seasons in terms of sacks with Philips registering 9.5 and Lawson 6.5.
Brandon Beane wasted little time in replacing those pieces he already anticipated losing. Buffalo signed former Carolina Panther defensive end Mario Addison who's had 9 or more sacks in each of the previous four seasons and amassed 38 tackles for loss in that span. If Buffalo had a weakness on defense last season it was consistently generating pressure off the edge. Addison will surely be a huge asset in that regard.
The Bills also signed unrestricted free agents in defensive tackles Vernon Butler and Quinton Jefferson. Butler had 6 sacks a season ago with Carolina. Jefferson played in 30 games including 24 starts during the past 2 seasons for Seattle. Also signed were veteran linebacker A.J. Klein who’s expected to fill the hybrid role vacated by the retired Lorenzo Alexander, former all-pro cornerback Josh Norman, and linebacker Tyler Matakevich who tied for the NFL lead in special team tackles last season.
Tough 2020 Schedule
The Bills will unequivocally play a much tougher schedule this season compared to last. They'll face six teams that made the playoffs which comprises of Super Bowl participants Kansas City (home) and San Francisco (away).
Last season's Buffalo opponents finished with a combined 94-114 (.452) record while this year's foes were a cumulative 110-97-1 (.531). Nonetheless, the Bills will be well equipped to face those stiff challenges that lie ahead.
AFC East Futures Odds
Below are the current (3/20) AFC East futures betting odds courtesy of the sportsbook at 5Dimes.
• New England Patriots (+103)
• Buffalo (+158)
• New York Jets (+775)
• Miami Dolphins (+850)
Despite having to play a seemingly more difficult regular season slate in 2020, I still see Buffalo as a 10 or 11-win team, and that will be good enough to be the AFC East Division winner. Especially when considering longtime nemesis Tom Brady is no longer with the Patriots, and how New England fading badly down the stretch last year even with their future Hall of Fame quarterback. You aren't going to get a better futures price on Buffalo to win the AFC East than it is right now.
Ross Benjamin is a top sports analyst and one of the sports industry's most respected handicappers. Follow him on Twitter: @RossBenjamin1 or visit his website at RBWins.com