Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are fresh off a disappointing season marred by quarterback injury and another underwhelming finish at 5-11. Change could be coming as Jameis Winston has once again gotten into trouble (facing a three-game suspension for assaulting an Uber driver) and head coach Dirk Koetter hasn’t impressed during his tenure. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see both men leaving town following this season, barring some crazy run to the playoffs. The division (Saints, Panthers, Falcons) looks exceptionally tough and the Bucs best hope might be sneaking into the last wild-card spot. All this being said, there is still plenty here to like for fantasy purposes, and I expect multiple players from the Bucs to start on fantasy rosters.
Mike Evans, WR
Mike Evans career has been the envy of most wide receivers with four 1,000 yard seasons in his only four years, following in the footsteps of A.J. Green and Randy Moss. That’s some elite company. In addition, he has seen at least 120 targets in each season with 579 total, or an average of 145 per year. On top of that are his 32 career touchdowns. So, what’s not to like? Well, Evans has a 53.3% career catch rate which places him well below the league average. In addition, his targets were down last year with only 137 and the other weapons got better. Finally, he only caught 5 touchdowns. It seems like Evans really relies on the volume, and that always scares me. It can work (see DeAndre Hopkins), but I don’t like counting on it. Still, Evans can still safely be counted on for 120+ targets, and a minimum WR2 floor with upside of being a high-end WR1 if things break his way. If he could bring his catch rate up, the sky would be the limit.
Ronald Jones II and Peyton Barber, RBs
Tampa Bay has finally moved on from the inconsistent Doug Martin with the addition of rookie Ronald Jones II, whom the Bucs drafted in the second round. He is joined by undrafted running back Peyton Barber. I expect Ronald Jones to carry the load this year and be a viable fantasy option soon enough. What about Barber though? If the team loved what they saw in Barber, then why not give him more of a chance last year? Why draft Ronald Jones? The team was desperate for a lead back last year, and Barber still only saw 100 carries. He came on strong at the end of the season but managed just two 15+ carry games. Is there a chance Barber takes the job? Sure. Who would I bet on? Jones by a wide margin. That being said, this is the type of case where I advocate the handcuffing option, if only for the short term (a week or two). If Ronald Jones were to win the job outright, I like him as an RB2 with RB1 upside and you can drop Barber. If Peyton Barber wins the job, I think an RB2 finish is likely for him. You could draft both (ADP 58 and ADP 207) and then just see how things play out in week 1 and drop the loser. This is especially appealing since Barber is basically free in drafts right now.
Post-preseason EDIT: Well, Ronald Jones sure hasn’t impressed us this preseason. He has more carries than yards and he has looked dismal in pass protection. It should be minimum a couple weeks before Jones gets serious work, if it ever happens. He still has the physical gifts to be an NFL back, but the real question is if he can ever adapt to the game. I would now think of Barber as having an rb3 floor with rb2 upside. However, he is still a guy I expect to lose the job at some point, or to get stuck in some messy timeshare. He is a good early season rental as he should be starting for at least the first 2 weeks while Jones continues trying to catch up.
Jameis Winston, QB
If you asked me in April, I would have said Jameis Winston was a perfect option at quarterback this year. He was being drafted outside the top-12 with an unfair wealth of weapons around him. He is coming into a “prove-it” year and he finished strong last season. However, Jameis had to go and get himself into trouble again. This is becoming a pattern, and I would stay away. In fact, I’d wager that someone else is starting next year. Because of this, Winston is nothing more than a weekly streamer in some cases at best. There is no reason to draft him, save for exceptionally deep leagues or 2-QB leagues.
Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard, TEs
If you put Cameron Brate on a team with a need for tight end and a decent quarterback (say Dallas), he would be an immediate TE1. If you put O.J. Howard on a team with a tight end need and a decent quarterback (say Dallas) he would immediately be a TE1. Unfortunately, I cannot magically rearrange teams at will to suit our fantasy needs. So, we are stuck with two good tight ends on the same team fighting each other for scraps. To make it worse, there is no certainty at QB until week 4 with Winston out. Personally, I wouldn’t want to rely on either of these guys on a weekly basis, but I will pay attention in case either one goes down.
DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, and Chris Godwin, WRs
DeSean Jackson is now 31 and coming off a disappointing season. Coach Dirk Koetter realized this and called out his quarterback for not being able to connect with Jackson. I believe Jackson will see more work and could be on the WR3 radar. Just remember that with his game (speed and deep catches) there will be inconsistency. Adam Humphries is technically the slot receiver right now, but I have no interest. He will be hard-pressed to find enough targets behind four better option (Evans, Jackson, Brate, and Howard) and he could soon be surpassed by Chris Godwin. I would not draft Humphries in any league. Chris Godwin is definitely interesting in long-term leagues (Keeper and Dynasty) but not quite as much this year. As mentioned with Humphries, there are a lot of options in front of him. Unlike Humphries, though, I think he has the talent to break through. If you want Godwin, draft him late and be ready to wait a few weeks for the breakout. I expect his big games to be spotty for now.
Mike Evans: WR1 ceiling and safe WR2 floor.
Ronald Jones II: RB1 ceiling if he gets the workhorse role; beware Peyton Barber and the usage splits.
Peyton Barber: RB2 ceiling if he gets the starting job; use as a handcuff to Jones/ drop after week 1
Jameis Winston: streamer at QB, but undraftable in standard leagues
Cameron Brate: TE1 if O.J. Howard gets hurt/ traded
O.J. Howard: TE1 if Cameron Brate gets hurt/ traded
DeSean Jackson: WR3 with WR2 ceiling; beware weekly volatility
Chris Godwin: young, talented, great for dynasty/ keeper leagues (otherwise, look elsewhere)