by Dan Trader (@RotoNostra)
In fantasy football, only single players are highlighted and given room to shine, regardless if they’re on a great or horrible team in real life. So what I chose to do instead of standard power rankings was take a look at all 32 NFL teams and rank them based on their fantasy relevance for the 2016 season in standard leagues, considering their current rosters, systems and surrounding conditions as criteria. Much can change between now and the opening of the regular season, but the following rankings are merely opinions from my perspective based on the current state of affairs and are ranked in the order in which I would invest in them, not based on which teams will have the best records at the end of the season.
The rest of the rankings can be found here.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Although the Bucs seemingly lack depth beyond the starting skill players, their offense is not far from being a highly productive fantasy unit. Owners would be prudent to invest in it this season, as their fantasy stock is steadily rising.
Winning with Winston
There is a lot to like in Tampa coming into this season. Former FSU quarterback and first-rounder Jameis Winston finished the #13 fantasy quarterback after throwing for 312 completions (17th), 4,042 yards (11th) and 22 touchdowns (16th) on 535 attempts (14th). He also chipped in 213 yards (11th among QBs) and six scores on the ground (2nd) on 54 attempts (8th). What’s even more impressive to me is that his performance came in spite of Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson not playing full seasons. And while the data may be slightly skewed, his 13.0 yards per pass completion was third in the league behind only Carson Palmer and Cam Newton.
With the re-signing of Jackson, practically the same offensive group returns this season and is poised to improve. The biggest change is last year’s offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is now the head coach. But the in-house promotion figures to aid in Winston’s development from a continuity standpoint.
Winston was not without his faults in his rookie year, however. He’ll need to work on his accuracy, as his 15 interceptions were the sixth most in the league and his 2.8 interception percentage was the seventh highest. He’ll need some help from his receivers as well, but despite the seventh most passing attempts inside the 10, he only had a 38.89% completion percentage from that distance, while he earned a 40% completion rate in the red zone, where he had the 10th highest attempts.
The RZ is where he did most of his scoring though, as 15 of his 22 passing scores came inside the 20-yard-line (10 inside the 10) and all six of his rushing scores came inside the 10 (five inside 5-yard-line). If his towering receiving options can provide more consistency, I can only see his production and efficiency increasing and his ceiling continue to rise.
His rushing production is bound to come down though, as he doesn’t exactly have the label of a “running quarterback” like others have been more famously known for. In fact, his six TDs last season were one fewer on the ground than he did over his entire collegiate tenure, and the odds are already against him to replicate that figure, as the only QBs to repeat on six or more rushing touchdowns since 2002 are Michael Vick, Tim Tebow and Cam Newton. Not to mention that Pro Football Focus has the offensive line ranked 27th.
Winston has also shown a drive to improve this offseason. While his offseason regimen isn’t getting nearly as much attention as Eddie Lacy and P90X creator Tony Horton, Winston reported to camp “looking like a DB” according to team mate Johnthan Banks and is down nearly 20 pounds.
Furthermore, with a defense ranking near the bottom of the league, I expect the Bucs to be trailing often, which will only help Winston’s volume.
While the high rushing TDs are not bound to happen again, it’s still encouraging to see that he’s capable of sneaking a few in near the goal line (behind a line that wasn’t much better last season) because that will keep his value higher than some. In tandem with a healthy and more consistent duo in Evans and Jackson and solid ground game, Jameis is one of my favorite late-round quarterbacks due to high upside and little invested capital.
Last season, Tampa rushed 455 times (8th) for 2162 yards (5th), though the 12 touchdowns were only slightly above the league average.
Doug Martin’s two seasons prior to last were disappointing after his rookie campaign, but he finished 2015 as both the third best fantasy scorer at his position and #32 overall. His 288 carries (2nd) led the team and was the only player remotely in the neighborhood of Adrian Peterson’s league-leading 327 after starting 16 games. He rushed for 6 TDs, which led to being ranked #16 among running backs, plus added another score through the air, where he also contributed 33 receptions and 271 yards on 44 targets.
Charles Sims complements Martin well but his primary contributions are in the passing game. He saw 70 targets last season and turned them into 51 receptions, 561 yards and four scores. He also rushed 107 times for 529 yards but didn’t score on the ground, finishing 2015 #17 in PPR leagues and #22 in standard at the position. And that’s in a complementary role. He’s an RB you can take late that should be able to put up RB2 production, especially in PPR leagues where both his floor and ceiling are much higher.
Both players are strong options across formats, but Martin’s value is higher in standard leagues due to a limited role in the passing game. But while his passing involvement has him in lower RB1 territory, Martin is a bruising and talented runner. According to PFF, Martin led all backs with 67 missed tackles and third in yards per attempt after first contact. These are drastic improvements after barely finishing in the top-50 among backs the previous two seasons. Especially look for Martin if you go WR heavy at the onset of your draft(s).
Expect Big Things
Mike Evans should be on every owner’s target list this summer. He finished his sophomore season #23 in PPR and #27 in standard, and I only see one direction for him to go from here.
Many owners seem down on Evans this year and I can only attribute that to a lack of touchdowns (3) and high amount of drops (15). Hopefully his stock falls a little further, because touchdowns can be fluky, as he scored 12 in his rookie year, and his drops are irrelevant when you have the 10th most receiving targets in the league. PFF also noted that his 34 deep targets were tied for fourth highest. His 1,206 yards additionally finished #11 though only starting 14 games.
His 50% catch percentage wasn’t impressive to say the least but his receptions and yardage have both increased along with his targets over his first two seasons. If we consider his touchdown ceiling to be 12 and his floor to be three, I see eight scores to be a realistic number to reach, especially if he continues to garner targets in a similar fashion. PFF also pointed out that only four receivers saw a higher percentage of the teams’ targets as the far and away best talent in the receiving corps. He additionally saw 19.4% of the team’s red zone targets, and 20% inside the 10, although his efficiency needs to go up. Expect a big year from Evans.
Vincent Jackson is at the tail end of his career but still is big, capable receiver to complement Evans. He re-signed this offseason, so I suppose we can presume he’s got enough production left in him for Tampa to be comfortable penciling him in as the #2 ahead of a big drop off in talent and depth at the position. I don’t expect big things but can see him filling in during bye-weeks sufficiently in the right match-ups. Keep in mind he suffered two knee injuries in 2015, which may be the main reason for his lack of production, as he surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in 2014, although by an extremely thin margin on 142 targets, 70 receptions and a 49.3 catch percentage.
The TE position is an area to watch during training camps. Austin Seferian-Jenkins has gotten a lot of attention since entering the league but has only played 16 games and has also gotten the reputation of a bit of knucklehead, on and off the field. Cameron Brate gave us a small glimpse of his abilities last year and has the opportunity to overtake the starting job. Whoever lands the lead role should be in line for a decent amount of red zone looks.
From my perspective, this team provides great value on draft day across formats and positions. Jameis Winston’s floor is most likely low-end QB1 numbers and can be drafted on average at the beginning of the 12th round. Mike Evans deserves strong consideration with an ADP of 2.08 in 12-team PPR leagues, even more so if you go running back with your first pick. Doug Martin figures to have volume on his side and should provide low RB1 numbers in PPR leagues at minimum with a stronger presence in standard leagues; he’s being drafted on average in the middle of the third round. And even greater value will be Charles Sims, who owners can target whether they have Martin on their team or not. The TE position has spot-start appeal at the very least for whoever lands the job, and either are ideal candidates for anyone who typically waits on the position. But neither should be expected to sit firmly in your starting line-up long-term until we see more.