Fantasy football team preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
There is plenty of buzz around the Bucs’ offense heading into the 2017 season. Dirk Koetter seems to have all the pieces in place to execute his play calling to its fullest extent. The team added a pair of playmakers to the passing game this offseason by signing free agent wide receiver DeSean Jackson and investing an early draft pick in tight end O.J. Howard.
After scoring right round a league average 34 and 37 offensive touchdowns the past two years, expect an uptick in the season ahead as Jameis Winston enters his third season under center. The NFC South is loaded with subpar defenses, which should lead to some high-scoring affairs in the season ahead.
As good as the passing game appears to be, there are some questions in the running game that will need to be answered if this unit is ready to take the next step.
Team Offensive Stats
Winston is the only quarterback in the division that has yet to play in a Super Bowl, but if he continues to develop he could certainly reach that level one day. He saw upticks in his passing yards, passing touchdowns, and completion percentage during his second season and he has now passed for over 4,000 yards in each of his two seasons as a pro.
Winston isn’t known his mobility, but he has managed to score seven rushing touchdowns through two seasons while averaging 189 yards rushing per year during that span.
There is still plenty of development needed from Winston, before he can move up into the top fantasy tiers at the position. He was picked off 18 times and fumbled 10 times (six lost) while completing 61 percent of his passes.
Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick was signed this offseason to serve as Winston’s backup. He gives the Bucs an experienced play caller should Winston go down.
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Tampa Bay finished in the bottom 10 in the league in rushing a year ago and they didn’t do much to improve the situation over the course of the summer. The offensive line still has some question marks, especially on the left side where both LT Donovan Smith and LG Kevin Pamphile grade out poorly.
Featured back Doug Martin is suspended for the first three games of season, but still should lead the teams in carries. He’s looked good through the summer, but there are still concerns. He averaged a meager 2.9 yards per carry in 2016, the lowest mark in the league of any back with at least 100 attempts.
In Martin’s absence, Jacquizz Rodgers is expected to see the bulk of the workload. The undersized Rodgers outperformed Martin at times last season, but has mostly been unimpressive during his time as a pro.
Charles Sims looks to be the favorite to handle the passing downs and aims to bounce back after an injury-plagued 2016 campaign. He excelled in this role in 2015, eclipsing both 500 yards rushing and receiving.
Mike Evans has quickly emerged as one of not only one of fantasy football’s best wide receivers, but as one of the elite players at the position in the NFL. At 6-foot-5 and 231 pounds, he is a matchup nightmare and the rapport he has developed with Winston has only helped him take advantage of his size even more in the red zone.
Evans has pulled in 12 touchdowns in two of his first three years as a pro and has put three 1,000-yard seasons on the books before he even turned 23. He led the league with 168 targets a year ago, but had seven drops and only pulled 57 percent of his targets so there is still room for improvement.
The addition of Jackson not only gives the team a veteran presence, but provided the Bucs’ passing attack with a much-needed elite downfield threat. Tampa Bay was the only team in the league a year ago that didn’t get a play of 50 yards or more from a wide receiver. Jackson has scored a touchdown of 60 yards or more in nine straight seasons. Of players to play at least 50 percent of snaps for their team a year ago, Jackson was second with a 16.9-yard average depth of target.
Wide Receiver Sets
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Rookie tight end O.J. Howard has drawn plenty of buzz after the Bucs nabbed with the 19th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. However, fantasy owners should temper their expectations a bit. While his long-term outlook is high, Howard is expected to mostly be used as a blocker during his first season. He wasn’t used much in the passing game at Alabama, catching 83 passes for five touchdowns over his last two seasons, and will need to get acquainted to this offense and the NFL before making a big impact.
For now, the receiving tight end to have in fantasy is Cameron Brate. He came out of nowhere last year to emerge as a fantasy TE1 and has developed great chemistry with Winston. The next time Brate drops a pass it will be the first one he’s dropped as a pro. He pulled in seven of nine catches inside the 10-yard line last year, including six for touchdowns.
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