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Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2015 Fantasy Football Analysis and Team Outlook

Heading into the season, Fantasy Football Expert Frankie Soler will take an early look into each NFL team's fantasy potential in 2015, keying into some depth chart changes and battles for starting jobs. The series starts off with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After a very disappointing season in 2013, many expected the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to bounce back immediately during last year’s campaign. Unfortunately, those hopes never materialized as the Bucs slipped even further, going from 4-12 to just 2-14 in 2014. It isn’t all bad news in Tampa Bay now, as the team may be beginning to turn the corner after the emergence of wide receiver of Mike Evans and the selection of quarterback Jameis Winston in the 2015 NFL draft. Those two key players, in conjunction with an interesting running back battle, should give Buccaneer fans some hope as we get closer to the new season.

Offseason Acquisitions – QB Jameis Winston, WR Kenny Bell

No Longer on the Roster – QB Josh McCown

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Quarterback

After much debate over which quarterback should be selected number one overall in the 2015 NFL draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers opted for Florida State University’s Jameis Winston. Rookies are notoriously risky when it comes to evaluating their fantasy value. Luckily for us, we have the added benefit of knowing with near certainty that Winston will be the starter come week one. With Josh McCown off to Cleveland, this puts Winston atop the depth chart immediately.

Contrary to last year’s Johnny Manziel debate, not only is Winston the presumed starter but he’s also the more NFL-ready quarterback. Winston’s path to both NFL and fantasy stardom is a lot more straight forward; just perform and get better. It’s a simple formula that we’ll all have the pleasure of watching as the years progress but for now, there’s no rush to roster Winston for fantasy purposes. He may have a productive rookie campaign but there are plenty of other reliable quarterbacks to hang your hat on in fantasy. There’s obviously a chance he could turn into this year’s Cam Newton or Robert Griffin III by putting up monstrous fantasy numbers as a rookie so in that regard he’s worth keeping an eye on if you’re searching for a backup or bye week fill-in.

Overall, however, he’s currently not worth more than a dynasty league pick or a long-shot backup. If you’re playing in a two-quarterback league, then Winston is certainly worth the gamble but even then I would insure that I had a third, more reliable option in the event he doesn’t work out.

The Buccaneers ranked toward the bottom half of the NFL in terms of passing offense, ranking 21st in attempts and 25th in yards per game so it’s not like he’s waltzing into a pass-happy offense. Granted, that was under quarterback Josh McCown so the offense may adjust accordingly. Even still, caution is the wisest way to approach any rookie QB.

 

Wide Receivers

Much to the chagrin of Vincent Jackson owners last season, (myself included) Mike Evans exploded onto the scene in Tampa Bay, reeling in 12 touchdowns on 68 receptions good for 1,051 yards. In a year that was an anomaly for breakout wide receivers, Evans was second only to Odell Beckham Jr. in his class.Evans has the benefit of having already played with what many assume to be a worse quarterback in Josh McCown so even if rookie Jameis Winston turns out to be McCown’s equal, Evans has already proven that he doesn’t need a superstar quarterback to net you serious fantasy production.

Winston should come in knowing who the future of the team is between himself and Evans, establishing a rapport with his new number one receiver rather quickly. On the other side of that coin resides the aforementioned Vincent Jackson. The longtime veteran was the subject of much disappointment last season not just because of Evans and his breakout but also by the severe lack of touchdowns. Jackson finished with just two touchdowns on the year, a bizarrely low number for a guy of his size and talent, as he was held down by nagging injuries.

The overall expectation is that the Tampa Bay offense will be improved with Winston and another year of Mike Evans, which should translate to a bounce back year from Jackson. It’s clear that Evans is the new number one receiver in Tampa, leaving Jackson to sit at number two on the depth chart. We’ve seen plenty of offenses that are able to sustain more than one fantasy relevant wide receiver so as long as Winston proves to be an upgrade over McCown, expect that to be the case in Tampa Bay this year. Evans is a high-end WR2 in all fantasy formats where as Vincent Jackson is more of a flex play with WR2 potential.

 

Running Backs

Raise your hand if you’ve been burned by Doug Martin. Keep your hand raised if you’ve been burned by Doug Martin two years in a row. Continue raising your hand if you absolutely refuse to let that happen to you a third time. That should be your mindset heading into the 2015 fantasy season; don’t be the person who gets burned by Doug Martin after two lost seasons in a row.

Here’s the thing, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected running back Charles Sims during the 2014 draft under new Head Coach Lovie Smith. Since that time, the clock has been ticking on Martin to prove his rookie year wasn’t a fluke before the Bucs decide to move on from him completely. After two years of struggling through both injuries and performance, this is likely the year the Bucs make the complete switch from Martin to Sims. This will be a true running back battle that will end up with one guy taking the lead job, relegating the other to backup duty.

Sims started the 2014 season on the PUP list after having off-season ankle surgery, delaying his debut and forcing him into a slow start. I believe the edge has to go with Sims mostly for the reasons we’ve already touched upon. Martin never returned to his rookie form, has been riddled by injuries, and the Buccaneers showed no confidence in him by selected Charles Sims in the third round. Martin should and will have the shorter leash when it comes to performance. Once he struggles, Sims will gain the edge and beat him out.

As frustrating as it is for us fantasy owners to try and decipher these toss-up running back battles, at the very least we can take solace in the fact that this particular competition will almost certainly net us a clear-cut starter. That is a vast improvement over the dreaded running back by committee approach, even if we have to wait.

 

Rookies and Tight Ends

We’ve already touched upon the big-name acquisition in Winston but the Buccaneers also decided to beef up their offensive line through the draft. That was a much-needed move and one that should benefit the entire offense, particularly the ground game. Austin Seferian-Jenkins looks to be the team’s starting tight end again this season but he’s not really primed to be on anyone’s fantasy draft board. Tight ends pop every year and ASJ is certainly a candidate for that it’s just that there are too many guys ahead of him who are more worthy of your attention. Even outside of the top 10-12 at the position, guys like Owen Daniels in Denver, Jordan Reed in Washington, and Larry Donnell of the Giants have a clearer path to fantasy relevance.

Famous Jameis aside, the Buccaneers should be headed in the right direction both as a fantasy entity and as an NFL franchise. This is a young, developing team that should provide us with some true fantasy studs going forward.

 

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