INSIDE THE NUMBERS
The running game was the bane of Tampa’s existence last season. They couldn’t run the ball, nor could they stop anyone from running against them. They ranked 30th in rushing yards per game, averaging only 91.1 YPG. That is abysmal. Plus their rushing defense was dead last versus the run yielding 156.1 YPG. Again, abysmal. So, with that in mind, the Bucs, with a new head coach in Greg Shiano, bring a new scheme and new mindset. Whether that means improvement on the field remains to be seen, but there’s nowhere to go but up when it comes to the Bucs rushing game.
The Buccaneers have one of the easiest schedules in football with games vs. the AFC West opponents and the NFC East teams. The Bucs have a great fantasy playoff matchup down the stretch. In Week 15 & 16 they play New Orleans and St. Louis collectively. If you have their offensive players during those pivotal weeks, you could be in for a treat, and perhaps a championship!
Doug Martin was drafted in the first round of the draft, after ownership saw enough out of LeGarrette Blount to know that they needed a more dynamic back. It remains to be seen, if the limited performance of Martin in the preseason is enough to give fantasy owners confidence to draft the former Boise St. running back as a starter. All indications point to Martin being a dual threat, multiple-down running back for Tampa. He has pass-catching skills and the ability to the hit the gaps. Draft Martin as a RB2 as a high payoff type of guy. If you can grab him as a RB3 in a keeper/dynasty league, that’s even more value.
Former stud tight end, Dallas Clark, signed with the Bucs in the offseason. Could this be another target for Josh Freeman? Sure. Absolutely. And Clark is an improvement over Kellen Winslow who underperformed for the Bucs year after year. But, this is not the Manning-to-Clark tight end of the past. Make sure you keep any expectations you have for Clark at a minimum. With the tight end field so rich with talent, Clark really isn’t much a viable fantasy option at this point.
This is a make or break year for Josh Freeman. He’s never had that breakout year, and I likely would’ve put him in this same sleeper category last year, and would’ve been wrong. But this year, is the year (probably) for Freeman. Ownership has surrounded him with more offensive weapons than he’s had in his tenure under center. Freeman threw for 3,500 yards last year, but also threw 22 INTs and only 16 TDs. We will all be expecting the same type of passing numbers, with about 7-10 more TDs and fewer INTs in order for him to pay off for your fantasy squad.
Tampa opened up their wallets and invested in two major offensive pieces this offseason. Carl Nicks was widely considered the best free agent offensive lineman on the market and signed with Tampa. Don’t underestimate the importance of the addition of Nicks to the running game and to the protection of Freeman. And, looking to alleviate the pressure Mike Williams felt as a number one receiver, the Bucs brought in Vincent Jackson to take over that role. Jackson should excel in Tampa’s offense. Look for more than 1,000 yards, 70+ catches and close to 10 TDs from Jackson, and pencil him in as a WR1 in deeper leagues and a sure-fire WR2 in smaller leagues.
Martin and LeGarrette Blount have battled it out in preseason for the starting role in Shiano’s new pro-style offense. That’s a vital role that should get plenty of touches. It appears as though Martin has secured the starting role having started the all-important third preseason game. Additionally, Blount proved down the stretch last year that he is too inconsistent and fumble prone. Martin will get the bulk of the touches in this battle, regardless of who starts. Don’t expect a ton from Blount, but maybe handcuff him to Martin, should you draft him.
Mike Williams broke a lot of hearts last year. He went from 11 TDs in 2010 to 3 TDs last season. That is a gut wrenching drop for fantasy owners who drafted Williams, expecting to get a solid WR2. Williams now has a veteran in Vincent Jackson opposite side of him, who should help get softer coverage for Williams. This means that Williams has to see an uptick in his production this year. He’s had 65 receptions each of his two seasons, so that’s about the number to expect for him. But fantasy owners should also see about 5-6 TDs from him, making Williams a nice bench player for your squad. Don’t invest too much, but stash him away and hope for the best.
Fantasy Football, NFL