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Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stadium: Raymond James Stadium (outdoors)
Schedule Strength: 28th
Postseason Weather issues: None (occasional thunderstorms in August and September).
Offensive Line Ranking: 10th
Head Coach – Greg Schiano
Yet another of the league’s defensive-minded head coaches, Schiano played linebacker in college, later becoming a defensive assistant coach for the Chicago Bears. Of course, Schiano is most notably the former head coach for the Rutgers University Scarlet Knights. New to the NFL’s fraternity of head coaches, we’re quickly learning Schiano is managing his team with the mindset of a drill sergeant (toes on the line!). What does this all mean in terms of fantasy football, you ask? Hard-nosed defensive head coaches typically prefer an offensive system predicated upon a strong running attack, of which Schiano himself has confirmed. Given Schiano’s defensive history we should also examine the offensive coordinator with greater scrutiny.
Offensive Coordinator – Mike Sullivan
Hired this past offseason as the Buccaneers’ new offensive coordinator, Sullivan has limited NFL coaching experience, and none as a coordinator. However, Sullivan does boast two Super Bowl rings as the quarterbacks coach for Eli Manning and the New York Giants. The only plausible connection we can make is to the run-and-shoot offensive system displayed in New York. To the contrary, we’ve already heard from Schiano that this team is going to be predicated upon running the football (which sounds great until the defense surrenders 21 points). All told, we should expect a very balanced run-pass offensive system. On a side note, Sullivan is a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and former United States Army Ranger, further substantiating Schiano’s management style.
QB – Josh Freeman
Freeman showed amazing progression in 2010, only to recede in 2011. History also suggests fourth-year quarterbacks make for inconsistent fantasy starters, whereby production is largely dictated upon the offensive system and defensive matchup. As for Freeman, he has shown good vision and mobility for a big man making him hard to tackle further extending the play (very similar to Ben Roethlisberger). Like most big quarterbacks, Freeman also has excellent arm strength allowing him to stretch the field. The addition of a newly acquired wide receiver Vincent Jackson and left guard Carl Nicks, along with a refocused Mike Williams (allegedly) will aid in Freeman’s development. On the downside, Freeman will be learning a new system that looks to be “run-oriented” limiting a quarterback’s production. We should anticipate Freeman’s numbers getting better as the season continues to progress. But entering the preseason, Freeman should be considered a very high-end QB2 with a player rating of 7.5.
RB Doug Martin/LeGarrette Blount
This is yet another of the leagues tough running back by committee situations to predict. The Buccaneers traded up into the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft to select Boise State running back Doug Martin. Touted as one of college football’s most outstanding running backs in all phases of the game, Martin looked to be on the fast track towards fantasy stardom. Except Blount was already there. Two years ago Blount displayed moments of brilliance, scoring 116 fantasy points between Weeks 7-16, placing him 11th amongst all running backs. In 2012 Blount, failed to live up to the predraft hype, finishing the season ranked 30th in running back scoring, burning many fantasy owners who drafted him as early as the third round.
A lack of work ethic later came to the surface. Perhaps threatened by the drafting of Martin, Blount has stated over and again that he is now rededicated to earning the starting job. Although early forecasts had Martin pegged as the Buccaneers’ new three-down-running back, recent reports surfaced that Blount has looked great running with the first-team-offense during minicamp. The upside for both Martin and Blount is playing in run-first system, while playing behind arguably the best run-blocking offensive line in football. What does it all mean for fantasy owners? In a situation that seems to change daily, the preseason action will be our best indicator how the Buccaneers intend to utilize their two-headed monster. As of right now we’ll assume a 50-50 timeshare, meaning Blount would have a slight advantage given his strength at the goal line with a player rating of 7.7. Martin would deserve a player rating of 7.3.
WR1 – Vincent Jackson
No team was more active in signing marquee free agents than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (they had a ton of cap space after being one of the cheapest teams in the league). The spending spree started with the signing of longtime San Diego Charger Vincent Jackson. Jackson is multi-purpose threat due to a lethal combination of size and speed. Jackson is also a red zone threat, leading to more touchdown opportunities. It will take time for Jackson to familiarize himself with his new quarterback, and I expect the Buccaneers to stay committed to the running game early in the season, giving Jackson a rating of 8.2.
WR2 – Mike Williams
First off, I am a huge Williams fan. In his rookie season, Williams displayed eye-popping talent, but attitude and work ethic have been in question dating back to his college days. Williams’ off-field issues were evident last season as rumors surfaced of late night partying and the kind of nonsense that correlates to poor fantasy production (hence the Buccaneers’ losing season and subsequent firing of head coach Raheem Morris). With new head coach Greg Schiano and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, Williams’ antics will not be tolerated. Working against Williams is the acquisition of Vincent Jackson, leading to a reduction in targets, ultimately landing Williams with a rating of 7.4.
TE – Dallas Clark
I realize this name looks appealing as Clark has been a top-tier tight end. However, no Peyton Manning along with an extensive injury history should force us to downgrade Clark. However, during Freeman’s three years as the Buccaneers’ starting quarterback, former tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. averaged nearly 800 yards and four touchdowns per season. This equates to lower TE1 production, worthy of a roster spot. More of a route runner than a blocker, Clark could have late-round flier value with a player rating of 7.6.
D/ST – Tampa Bay
One of the youngest defenses in the NFL, Tampa Bay continues adding pieces through the draft. The Buccaneers still need a few years to mature before earning our trust in fantasy circles. Playing in the tough NFC South will further downgrade them to a rating of 6.3.
K – Connor Barth
The most consistent fantasy kickers are those who play alongside a “prolific NFL offense” or a stout defense. Tampa Bay has neither. Barth should remain undrafted with a player rating of 6.5.
* Player Rating on a scale of 1-10 *
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