Don’t look now but with legitimate quarterback play, a healthy and motivated Doug Martin and a talented young wideout the Buccaneers no longer signify Fantasy Football wasteland. Rather, Tampa Bay offers core and ancillary options for your respective fantasy teams. Most people didn’t see the “Dougie Fresh” renaissance coming and despite a number of missed opportunities, soon to be 23-year-old, Mike Evans improved on all his counting stats except TDs. And then there was first overall selection, Jameis Winston. We at CPGM figured that Jameis would eventually provide stability and legitimacy to the quarterback position in Tampa Bay. But, he proved to be fantasy relevant in short order as well. Which begs the question, “Can this trio enter the “elite” discussion at their respective positions in 2016?
QB Jameis Winston
Armed with two 6’5 receivers with huge catch radiuses, the league’s 5th ranked rushing attack (2nd leading rusher in Martin), another offseason in now head coach Dirk Koetter’s offense, all the physical tools, intangibles, and confidence to spare Jameis Winston is poised to take a step forward not only from a win-loss perspective, but in the world of Fantasy Football as well. Winston’s 4,042 passing yards as a rookie ranks second among single-season passing marks in franchise history. His 22:15 TD/INT ratio was somewhat expected but Winston did a better job of protecting the football as the season progressed. His SIX rushing TDs were absolutely pivotal in fantasy and reports out of training camp suggest that Winston is in substantially better shape now than he was last season which should only help his functional mobility and underrated athleticism. While the offensive line still remains a question mark from a pass protection perspective, the experience Jameis garnered in 2015 will be invaluable in mitigating pressure from the opposition. The Buccaneers figure to be improved defensively as evidenced by their offseason acquisitions (DC Mike Smith, Brent Grimes, Robert Ayers) as well as their draft selections (Vernon Hargreaves, Noah Spence) and they will continue to lean on Doug Martin; but many of Winston’s best performances weren’t necessarily buoyed by garbage time. An uptick in completion percentage (58.3% in 2015) and TDs is a distinct possibility; coupled with his legs puts Winston in the low-end QB1 conversation in 2016.
RB Doug Martin
2015 brought back memories of the infamous “Muscle Hamster” in 2012. What gets lost in Martin’s performance last season (288/1402/6) is the amount of yardage he racked up after contact. Seemingly, never being tackled by the first defender, Martin rushed his way to a long term deal in Tampa Bay despite being wholly un-effective in 17 contests between 2013 and 2014. Though Winston progressed throughout the 2015 campaign Martin remained the focal point of the Bucs offense which I expect to be the case in 2016. However there are several reasons why Martin is more of a Top 10 RB option as opposed to a Top 3-5 guy.
- His history and running-style makes him susceptible to injury;
- Charles Sims is the favored RB in the passing game;
- Jameis Winston is a TD vulture; and
- He got paid.
I personally don’t think Martin will rest on his laurels since he signed a 5-year $35.75 million deal. However, it isn’t un-common for a player to set the league on fire during his walk year, to then be rewarded and promptly face-plant the following season. I say all of that to say this… Don’t get carried away and take Martin in the first round assuming you aren’t going the “zero” RB route. He’s a second round fantasy draft selection at best.
WR Mike Evans
Health concerns, concentration issues and customary rookie QB play tempered what could have been a special season for Mike Evans. That isn’t to say that 2015 was a complete flop. Evans saw an increase in receptions (74), targets (147) and receiving yards (1,206) compared to his memorable rookie year in 2014. But a paltry “three” touchdown grabs in 2015 (11 in 2014) was particularly disappointing. Entering his third season, with what I expect to be a clean bill of health, another offseason in Koetter’s system and increased rapport with Winston I am anticipating Evans setting new career marks in targets, receptions, yards and flirting with double-digit scores, eight TD grabs at a minimum. His ability to stack the corner and his catch radius make him a difficult assignment for defensive backs and if Evans can get out of his own way we may be talking first round fantasy selection in 2017. He possess that type of raw ability. In order to make that leap he must continue to work on the finer points of the receiver position and minimize mental lapses.
Others of note:
- WR Vincent Jackson
- TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins/Cameron Brate
- RB Charles Sims