Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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Buccaneers Fantasy Preview

Wednesday, July 18, 2018


Bucs Offensive Profile Under Dirk Koetter

2015-2017 Pass Attempts Rank: 22nd, 16th, 3rd
2015-2017 Rush Attempts Rank: 8th, 7th, 26th
2015-2017 Play Volume Rank: 19th, 6th, 11th
2015-2017 Yards Per Play Rank: 3rd, 22nd, 8th
Unaccounted for Air Yards from 2017 (Rank): 230 (31st)
Unaccounted for Carries from 2017 (Rank): 141 (14th)

Projected Starting Lineup

QB: Jameis Winston
RB: Ronald Jones
WR: Mike Evans
WR: DeSean Jackson
WR: Adam Humphries
TE: O.J. Howard
LT: Donovan Smith
LG: Ali Marpet
C: Ryan Jensen
RG: Caleb Benenoch
RT: Demar Dotson

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Passing Game Outlook

Jameis Winston was suspended three games for violating the league’s conduct policy after allegedly groping a female Uber driver in March of 2016. The ban renders Winston undraftable in re-draft leagues; he’ll be available for just one of the first five weeks because the Bucs have a Week 5 bye. Winston’s poor off-field decision making which led to the suspension was especially disappointing because he is quietly coming off his best season, setting career highs in completion rate (63.8%), yards per attempt (7.9), and passer rating (92.2). After a throwing-shoulder injury cost him three games and parts of two others, Winston finished on a tear with a 316.8-yard average and 9:5 TD-to-INT ratio in the final five weeks, including a Week 17 shootout upset of the Saints. Tampa Bay has surrounded Winston with a high-octane pass-catcher corps of Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, and rising sophomore Chris Godwin. Winston remains firmly in play as an upside QB2/3 in best-ball leagues.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is the favorite over Ryan Griffin to start in Weeks 1-3 against the Saints in New Orleans, Eagles at home, and Steelers at home before Winston’s return. Turning 36 later this year, “FitzMagic” logged weekly fantasy results of QB26 (Jets), QB6 (Dolphins), and QB19 (Falcons) in Weeks 10-12 starts in place of Jameis last season. None of Fitzpatrick’s projected 2018 starts come in favorable matchups, although all three could become high-scoring affairs. Ultimately, Fitzpatrick will be a weak early-season streamer.

Mike Evans played three games extensively with Fitzpatrick in 2017, logging receiving lines of 5/92/0 (Dolphins) and 6/78/0 (Falcons) in Fitzpatrick’s starts and 3/95/1 against the Cardinals when Winston left early and Fitzpatrick quarterbacked 80% of the Bucs’ Week 6 game. Tampa Bay’s weapons upgrades cut Evans’ per-game target average from 10.8 in 2016 to 9.07 in 2017, however, and Evans experienced the negative side of touchdown variance, in large part because he flukily converted just 1-of-9 targets inside the ten-yard line into scores. That 11.1% rate was far below Evans’ dominant previous-career average (57.9%) and makes him an obvious candidate for positive-touchdown regression. Although the Bucs’ deep pass-catcher corps puts a cap on Evans’ volume upside, he remains worthy of drafting as a low-end WR1. Winston’s suspension is much less of a concern. Evans is my WR10 in best-ball and re-draft leagues. The nine receivers I have ranked ahead of him are Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, Keenan Allen, Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, A.J. Green, and Doug Baldwin.

DeSean Jackson’s first season in Tampa did not go as planned, averaging career lows in yards per game (47.7) and yards per catch (13.4) while failing to get on the same page as Winston, a task made tougher by Winston’s shoulder problems, a foot injury that plagued Jackson in December, and an ankle injury that cost Jackson most of Week 15 and all of Weeks 16-17, when Winston was playing his best ball. After the season, Koetter, Jackson, and Winston all publicly stated Jackson was getting open but the passing game left meat on the bone. It’s also true that 31-year-old Jackson’s average yards of separation at target fell from 2.9 to 2.7, and his Game Speed went from elite with the 2016 Redskins to slightly above average for the 2017 Bucs. Tampa Bay coaches have talked up promising Chris Godwin as a breakout player, while the Bucs can save $10 million by cutting Jackson next offseason. In a crowded pass-catcher corps with touch-and-go quarterback play and an iffy role, Jackson keeps moving down my draft board.

Adam Humphries has made himself tough for Koetter’s staff to pull off the field as a reliable possession target, last year finishing No. 3 among all slot receivers in average yards of separation (3.4) with a 73.5% catch rate. The Bucs are wholly uncreative with wideout usage, aligning Humphries in the slot on 82% of his routes while no other Tampa receiver ran more than 21% of his patterns inside. This theoretically gives Humphries a defined, perhaps even uncontested role on a team that showed its affinity for him with a second-round tender in restricted free agency. Ultra-promising 2017 third-rounder Chris Godwin played only 19% of his rookie-year snaps in the slot – less than both Evans and Jackson – and will likely have to earn a full-time perimeter role via either performance or injury to deliver on the coaches’ lofty promises. Godwin is every bit deserving of that role, of course, after leading last year’s Bucs in yards per route run (2.03) and logging receiving lines of 5/68/0, 3/98/0, and 7/111/1 in the three games where Godwin played more than 40 snaps. Although Godwin is fully capable of breaking out, he’s going to need his playing time to cooperate. And I believe he will have to overtake Jackson outright to make it happen.

Cameron Brate landed a “six-year, $41 million contract” this offseason that realistically amounts to a one-year, $7 million commitment because Brate can be cut after the year with no cap penalty. The Bucs use Brate almost strictly as a receiver; Brate ran pass routes on 73% of his 2017 snaps and drew 60% of his targets in the slot. Although he is unlikely to become a true high-volume tight end in a timeshare with O.J. Howard on a deep Tampa Bay passing game, Brate is capable of delivering fringe TE1 production on sheer scoring-position usage. Brate has scored 14 TDs over the past two seasons, finishing second on the Bucs behind Evans in red-zone targets (17, 13) in both years.

O.J. Howard played much more of a combination tight end role as a rookie, blocking on 60% of his snaps and drawing only 19% of his targets in the slot. Howard earned spikes in playing time and routes run as the season progressed, however, and was wildly efficient over his final nine games with a 21/325/5 receiving line on just 27 targets in Weeks 7-15. Howard missed Weeks 16-17 with an ankle injury but was fully recovered by OTAs. Among 43 qualified tight ends, only Rob Gronkowski, Hunter Henry, Travis Kelce, and Zach Ertz averaged more yards per route run than Howard’s 1.85 clip. Although a major jump in target volume is difficult to forecast, Howard’s ceiling is outrageous if he can carve out more passing-game work. He’s one of my favorite tight end picks in the 11th and 12th rounds.

 

Editor's Note: The 2018 Rotoworld Draft Guide provides more than 500 extensive player profiles, tiers, projections, Evan Silva’s Sleepers and Busts and much more. Get the NFL Draft Guide now.

 

Running Game Outlook

The Bucs made Ronald Jones the 38th pick in April’s draft after he broke out for a 261/1,550/19 rushing line as a 2017 junior at USC, averaging 5.94 yards per carry and finishing second among draft-eligible backs in missed tackles forced (PFF). Ala Tevin Coleman, Jones’ game is built on long speed as a former track athlete. Jones caught just 32 passes in 40 college games, however, and stands 5-foot-11, 205, small for an NFL feature back. Jones also caught only seven passes in his high school career and was an inconsistent to poor pass blocker for the Trojans. Nevertheless, Jones’ draft position and the Bucs’ weak backfield depth chart give him instant-impact potential with big-play ability and an abundance of opportunity. Jones is a high-ceiling fifth- to sixth-round pick in re-draft leagues.

Peyton Barber is second in line for work after leading last year’s team in red-zone carries (21), carries inside the ten (13), and carries inside the five (8). Barber (5'10/228) has a 23-pound size advantage on Jones and earned the trust of Koetter's staff down the stretch last year, averaging backfield highs in snaps (37.0) and touches (18.0) in Weeks 13-17. A poor man’s Alfred Morris, Barber ran 4.64 before going undrafted out of Auburn in 2016. He’s still a sneaky candidate for 6-8 TDs. Passing-down back Charles Sims and jack-of-many-trades, master-of-none Jacquizz Rodgers fill out the depth chart as names to monitor in case Jones or Barber goes down.

2018 Vegas Win Total

The Bucs’ Win Total opened at 6.5, was bet up to 7.5, then dipped to 6.5 or 6.0 depending on the book after Jameis Winston’s ban. Warren Sharp rated Tampa’s schedule second toughest in the league, and an 0-5 start is a distinct possibility with Ryan Fitzpatrick starting at the Saints, then versus the Eagles and Steelers in Weeks 1-3, Winston returning for Week 4 at Chicago on a short week, and Tampa visiting the Falcons in Week 6 following its Week 5 bye. The Bucs made several noteworthy defensive line additions, but will likely continue to struggle in the secondary, where they return virtually the same unit that last year ranked 31st in Football Outsiders’ pass-defense DVOA. Even with a tough slate, I was eyeballing the Bucs as an over pick before Winston’s ban. I now fear Dirk Koetter could lose the team early with the wheels falling off. I’m taking the under on 6.5 wins and avoiding this bet at 6.0.



Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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