PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- In essentially swapping Sammy Watkins for Jordan Matthews as part of Friday's trades, the Buffalo Bills dealt away one of the game's more talented receivers and acquired a more reliable and durable target -- or so they thought.
Matthews suffered a chip fracture in his sternum early in Sunday's practice, his first with the team. He is considered week-to-week, which would seemingly put his availability for the remainder of the preseason in doubt.
With fantasy draft season upon us, what should players expect from Matthews and the rest of Bills' receivers? Here are some thoughts on a position group that has seen considerable change in recent weeks:
Matthews: One of the appeals in the Bills trading for Matthews was that he would have a better chance of staying healthy than Watkins, who has missed 11 games the past two seasons and been hampered by injuries in others. Since entering the league, Matthews has missed only two games -- both last season. As a result, his production (225 catches, 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns) has been higher than Watkins' (153 catches, 2,459 yards and 17 touchdowns). However, Matthews' sternum injury will impact how quickly he adapts to the Bills' offensive scheme and develops chemistry with quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Even if Matthews returns healthy for Week 1, it is hard to see him playing a full-fledged role without the benefit of an offseason, training camp and preseason of work with the team.
There is also the issue of passing volume in the Bills' offense. Matthews caught 73 passes last season in an Eagles offense that averaged 38.1 pass attempts per game, sixth-most in the NFL. The Bills last season averaged 29.6 attempts, the fewest in the NFL. Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, while he did not call the plays, averaged 35.6 pass attempts last season with the Denver Broncos, the 17th-most in the NFL. If Matthews had 73 catches in a higher-volume offense in Philadelphia, that number might go down in more of a run-based attack in Buffalo.
Anquan Boldin: After signing Aug. 7, Boldin is now taking a lead role among Bills receivers. He was targeted by Tyrod Taylor on five of his first six passes in 11-on-11 work Monday. Boldin did not play in the Bills' preseason opener last Thursday night, so he has yet to see live game action with Taylor. Boldin, who turns 37 in October, needs his body to hold up, but the current signs are that he could be one of Taylor's more popular targets to begin the season.
Zay Jones: The rookie second-round pick has taken a large chunk of first-team reps since the beginning of camp. That number increased Monday after Matthews was sidelined with his injury. Like most young players, Jones has met some bumps in the road, such as a third-down pass in Monday's practice in which he allowed a Taylor pass, thrown slightly high, to sail through his hands. But on average, the arrow seems to be pointing up. Watkins' departure and Matthews' injury will only help Jones get a chance to develop chemistry with Taylor in practice. He is more of a wild card than Boldin, but Jones has the upside to become the Bills' top receiver by season's end.
Andre Holmes: He has consistently been a part of the top group of receivers since the start of camp. The 6-foot-4 wideout made the play of Monday's practice when he extended to catch a third-down Taylor pass and save the drill for the first-team offense. On other days, Holmes' hands and aggressiveness to fight defensive backs for balls has been suspect. Curiously, neither coach Sean McDermott nor general manager Brandon Beane mentioned Holmes when discussing the position after Friday's trades. When Beane was asked about potential deep threats, he mentioned Rod Streater and Walter Powell -- who is suspended for the first four games of the season -- but not Holmes. Potential fantasy owners should proceed with caution.
Streater: One of the Bills' later offseason signings, Streater gained some momentum at the start of training camp and began receiving some first-team reps last week. His push to find a role seems to have lost some steam over the past several days. He received second-team reps in Monday's practice and dropped a pass over the middle at one point. He is not assured a roster spot and should not register on the fantasy radar for now.