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Just like loyal fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I had high hopes for the team entering 2017. They had made some key free agent acquisitions including DeSean Jackson, had a defense anchored by Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David and franchise quarterback Jameis Winston had another year to grow. Everything seemed to be in place for the Bucs to improve on their 9-7 record for 2016 and challenge for the division.

Unfortunately, Tampa Bay didn’t come close to meeting those high standards and finished 5-11. The NFC South ended up being much tougher than most anticipated, and the Bucs were the only team to finish with a losing record. This team is littered with fantasy football talent. If they can put it all together, they could produce several fantasy football contributors. It all hinges around one person though.

Here at RotoBaller, our dynasty crew will be reviewing all 32 teams in our offseason Dynasty Team outlook series. Leading up to the draft, we will break down every franchise as they currently stand and will review them again after the conclusion of free agency and the NFL Draft. Which players should you buy and which players should you sell? Who will be sleepers this season and who will be busts? We will cover all the positions and all the angles for you.

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Tampa Bay Dynasty Outlook

Team Record: 4-11 (4th, NFC South)

Fantasy Leaders

QB: Jameis Winston- 201.8 (QB22)
RB: Peyton Barber-85.7 (RB57)
WR: Mike Evans- 203.1 (WR17)
TE: Cameron Brate- 143.1 (TE10)
IDP: Lavonte David- 205.0 (LB15)

 

Quarterback

There is only one person to write about here, and that is Jameis Winston. His performance in 2017 was underwhelming compared to what most owners were hoping for. In dynasty leagues last season, Winston held an average draft position (ADP) of 57.39, which would have been the sixth quarterback taken in dynasty drafts. His finish of QB22 was far from meeting that return on investment.

Winston had shoulder issues in 2017, which is probably partially to blame for his lack of growth on the stat sheet. You could tell he had issues, especially with the deep ball. Winston only completed 30.2 percent of passes 20 or more yards downfield, good for 23rd in the league. When you have weapons like Desean Jackson and Mike Evans, you need to own the deep ball and make teams pay. In all honesty, this was probably the biggest reason for the team’s offensive woes in 2017. This stat alone affects the entire game, but I’ll touch more on that later.

The biggest key to Winston taking the next step is taking care of the football. Since entering the league in 2014, Winston has thrown the second-most interceptions and has 59 turnovers in 49 games. The key to winning in the NFL is ball security. You cannot give teams extra chances to beat you, and Winston has been giving teams as many chances as possible. In losses this year in which Winston played, Tampa Bay lost by an average of just over eight points.

If Winston is able to control the turnovers, I have no doubt he can not only be a successful QB, but one of the best passers in the league. He has all of the weapons around him to do just that. The Bucs need to work on the offensive line this offseason to give him more protection. More time will lead to cleaner pockets, cleaner pockets will lead to less turnovers, which leads to more wins for Tampa Bay. I believe Winston has the chance to come back toward the top 10 QB ranks in 2018.

 

Running Back

After the release of Doug Martin, we all knew the Bucs were going to upgrade their backfield either through free agency or the draft. While I have to admit I am a little upset still that the Bucs passed on Derrius Guice, I don't think Ronald Jones will disappoint. I'll get to him more in the draft recap section.

Jacquizz Rodgers' best season came in 2016, his first in Tampa Bay. He was able to take advantage of missed time by Martin, and turned it into 560 rushing yards and two touchdowns. That did not translate to 2017 though, and he was not nearly as successful. Rodgers is not an every-down back. He’s not a receiving back either. Rodgers is best in short stints to give guys breathers, that’s about it.

Charles Sims is the receiving back of this group. Every year since he has been in the league, Sims has had more receiving yards than rushing yards. Sims has not put up the numbers worthy of being a starter, but he has been owned as insurance for Martin owners or those who thought he could break out and become a legit PPR option.

Peyton Barber was the hot hand at the end of 2017. In four of the Bucs' final five games of the season, Barber averaged more than four yards per carry. He had the look of a two-down back that could potentially lead the backfield for the Bucs. Barber is still worth a look because he is going to compete for the starting job and rightfully so.

The running game as a whole was awful for the Bucs this season. Tampa was 27th with 1450 rushing yards in 2017. To put that in perspective, nine running backs reached 1,000 yards by themselves this season and it would have been 11 if Ezekiel Elliott and Alex Collins played all season. The Bucs feel they did enough to upgrade the position and and hopefully they did. It’s critical that they have a running back to help take the pressure off of Winston. But this is a two-way street. As I mentioned above, Winston had issues with the deep ball in 2017.  When you cannot beat opposing defenses down the field, they crowd the box and keep plays to a minimum. There is no reason Tampa Bay shouldn’t be beating teams down the field. The main reason, is this next group.

 

Wide Receiver

If you are a part of the Tampa Bay front office, and have somehow come across my article, please listen carefully. Do not waste Mike Evans. As a Lions fan that watched the career of Calvin Johnson waste away because the team could not put the talent around him and Stafford to win, it’s not a good feeling knowing you had a generational talent and didn’t win anything. The could very well also be Evans if Tampa Bay doesn’t have the right players and coaching staff in place.

Evans was not only a top 10 dynasty draft pick this past off-season, but he could have been one of the first three players off the board. Evans had a fairly good 2017 season, it just was not the return on investment owners wanted for selecting him that high. He posted his lowest receiving yard total in four seasons and only posted five touchdowns. If you know a frustrated owner in your league, trade for Evans and do it quickly. Evans' value lies in the hand of Winston, which can be scary to think of, but if he can haul in 71 catches for 1001 receiving yards in a down year, the ceiling is worth the risk.

If you believe in things other than stats, keep in mind his touchdown total has skipped years. 12 touchdowns in 2014, then down to three, back up to 12 and down to five this past season. This is hard-hitting evidence and scholarly research that shows Evans is guaranteed 12 touchdowns in 2018. Okay, I’m being sarcastic, but I do think his touchdown goes back to double-digit territory next season because he's a monster target in the red zone.

2017 was only the third time DeSean Jackson did not have at least 900 receiving yards in a season. For a guy who gets a lot of negative marks as being often injured and only being a deep threat, that really is not bad to see. However, Jackson will be 32 this year and speed is something most athletes lose as they age. Since that is Jacksons biggest asset, he won’t be nearly as reliable moving forward. From a fantasy standpoint, his best days are behind him. I don’t see a 1,000-yard receiver anymore and don’t see 90 plus targets waiting for him either. The thing Jackson needs to do is just stretch the field. If he can stay healthy enough to be on the field and just keep opposing defense honest, it leaves more room for Evans to get open. Jackson will continue to be on the field, but his production will take a hit because I see a different star emerging in Tampa Bay.

Chris Godwin was considered by many as one of the top receivers in last year’s class. Things quickly soured as he did nothing in the first half of the season. He finally showed up in Week 9 with a five-catch, 68-yard performance and did enough the rest of the season for fantasy owners to consider him a great buy low option this offseason. He will not replace Jackson as the deep play threat, but Godwin is a big, physical receiver that can cause separation. If Jackson can keep defenses honest downfield and Tampa Bay can fix the run game, Evans and Godwin will tear apart the middle of the field. Those will be two big targets for Winston to find. It doesn’t get any easier than that.

Tampa Bay does not need to do any off-season work in the receiver’s room. If you want to add some depth, all for it. Evans, Godwin and Jackson should form one of the best receiver corps in all of football. Once again though, Winston has to work the deep pass and Jackson needs to stay healthy. The middle of the field will be big plays waiting to happen for Evans and Godwin if defense stay out of the box.

 

Tight End

What follows is a perfect example of Cameron Brate owners after O.J. Howard was selected in the first round of the 2017 draft:

While it seemed like a near-disaster for Brate's fantasy prospects, it wasn't. As a result, I had to take a cue from Michael Scott of "The Office" to all Brate owners prior to last season:

Tight ends do not become Rob Gronkowski as soon as they are drafted. In fact, tight ends typically take longer than other positions to really break out and offer fantasy relevance to owners. There were five tight ends selected in the first two rounds of the 2017 draft and only one finished in the top 100. One of the reasons Even Engram finished 80th overall was because his team literally had no other options to throw to. That is not a knock on Engram, that is just showing it took a perfect situation and a lot of targets to get him into the top 100.

That is exactly what happened. Howard did make nearly a big enough impact to bump Brate as the top TE for Tampa Bay. If you held onto Brate and gambled that he would still offer value in 2017, you got the TE10 for the season in PPR formats. Brate is currently a restricted free agent, but I see the Bucs likely keeping him in town. As Howard advances, they could move to running more two-TE sets, especially if they draft a running back and try to pound the ball more often. Brate is a great red zone threat. He led all tight ends in touchdown catches in 2016 and was fourth among tight ends last season. If you want your franchise QB to succeed, you surround him with as many weapons as possible. If they don’t keep Brate, then another team will be very lucky to acquire the talented tight end.

You don’t spend a first round pick on a tight end if you don’t think they will offer huge dividends as a pass catcher. I like Howard a lot. I think he is a fantastic player that does a lot of things right as a tight end. With that being said, I don’t think Howard ever become a true “fantasy relevant” tight end. If the Bucs let Brate walk or trade him, it’s a bump in value for Howard, but I see Evans, Godwin and a new running back getting more work than Howard. I see him hovering in the TE10-15 range during his career.

 

IDP

When building a fantasy football roster with individual defensive players, linebackers are your most consistent and highest scoring players on the field. Luckily for Tampa Bay, they have two of the best linebackers in the game. Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David are both huge fantasy assets. In 2016, both ranked inside the top 12 overall in fantasy points for all defensive players.

The Bucs could move on from David this off-season as cutting him would on create just over $3 million in dead cap. Even if that happens, David is still young and good enough that other teams would be lining up to sign him. Some make the case that Alexander and David playing on the same team limit their value, but I don’t buy it. Both are good investments at the position.

If it weren’t for an injury that cost Alexander four games in 2017, he would have been towards the top of all defensive scorers instead of 42nd overall. His 14.3 average fantasy points per game ranked 11th for all individual defensive players. Alexander will be more expensive to acquire than David, but offers more upside and won’t be leaving Tampa Bay anytime soon.

 

Draft Recap

The big name the Bucs took during the draft was Ronald Jones from USC who was drafted in the second round. At first I was shocked by the pick. The Bucs passed on a couple of options I really liked, including Guice, to go with Jones instead. As time as worn on, I have become more an more impressed with him. He has some things to work on, but we said the same about Kareem Hunt last season.

Jones will need to work on his pass protection to really find himself in a true three-down role. We have said that about running backs in the past and it doesn't hold them up however. Jones will be a big play threat for the Bucs out of the backfield and that is something they do not currently have at the position. This is why I think Jones ends up finding his way onto the field more than some think.

If the Bucs run more two tight end sets with Jones in the backfield, then have Evans and Godwin or Jackson on the outside, there will be plenty of room to run if Winston can beat defenses down the field. I've said that several times already but it is still true. That will dictate how this offense operates in 2018 and if Jones can truly be the game changer they drafted him to be.

Another pick most did not fall in love with was DT Vita Vea in the first round. The stout lineman out of Washington will help to fortify a rush defense that gave up the second most fantasy points per game to running backs last season. The reason I like this pick so much, is because the pairing of Vea and Gerald McCoy on the inside will help new defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul really dial things back up. Pierre-Paul could be a late steal for someone in an IDP league because his name doesn't carry the same value it once did.

 

More 2018 Dynasty League Strategy