Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Tampa Bay: Fantasy Football Fool's Gold?

There's been a great deal of excitement building up around the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this off-season, and for many good reasons.  They've got a young, talented QB who was picked first overall, a big, young star wide receiver entering the prime of his career, and they made several moves in the off-season that should arm that young QB with talented weapons all over the field in the passing game, from Evans mentioned above to young tight end Cameron Brate, and including newcomers DeSean Jackson and OJ Howard.  That being said, I think there might be a bit too much excitement about these guys when it comes to fantasy production, and I'll tell you all why.
Jameis Winston has to be who I talk about first, as the QB of this team.  Last season, he ranked 15th overall at the QB position, down from 13th overall in his rookie season.  While his fans will point to throwing for more than 4,000 yards for the second season in a row, and his 28 to 19 TD/INT split overall on the year, what worries me is the final six weeks.  Over that time, the Bucs faced New Orleans twice (Last ranked pass defense in 2016), Carolina (29th ranked pass def), Dallas (26th ranked pass def), Seattle (8th ranked), and San Diego (now LA Chargers, who were 20th in pass def last season).  That's only one top ten pass defense and the rest somewhere south of 20, if not dead last.  Two games against the worst pass defense.  Over that time, Winston threw 117/189 (61.9%, good for 19th in the league) for 8 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, and 1,410 yards (good for 7.46 per attempt, 13th in the league).  And this was against again some of the worst passing defenses in the league.  In one of those games (Carolina) he had a QBR in the 40's.  It was a terrible stretch, and it's hard to forget for someone who owned him last season.
Mike Evans is who I have to target next.  He's a big target, and with the Bucs' struggling to find other players to produce on offense, Winston targeted him often.  MOST often in the league, with 175 targets over the year.  Evans was only able to convert 54% of those targets into catches however, making him the worst catch rate receiver amongst those targeted at least 100 times.  And it wasn't just last season, every year he's hovered around 52-55% catch rate.  I expect his target count to go down to something more like 125 over the course of the year.  With his averages, that should turn into something like 60 catches for 800 yards.  1,000 yards would be a rosy projection in my opinion.
The running back position was a mess of injuries and general instability last season.  While the running backs often produced some fantasy value, it was hit or miss as to whether or not they'd play that week.  Between Jackson, Brate, and Howard, as well as Evans, I expect Winston to throw it 35 times per game or so, splitting those targets reasonably evenly/appropriately.  75-125 targets for each, based on how he settles in with them.  It's hard to tell how comfortable he'll feel with DeSean right now, or if Howard will produce fantasy points in the NFL.  I really feel like I need to see it to trust it.
That's my take on the Bucs.  I know the excitement around them is rising now, and I also know that with hard knocks it'll only increase, but I'm having a tough time buying in on them, and will be generally leaving them alone in fantasy drafts this season.

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