Fantasy Football NFC South Preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Al Messerschmidt

The Buccaneers have an entirely new coaching staff and several rookies on offense. How valuable will this offense be in fantasy leagues?

The Greg Schiano era was brief in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers cleaned house and brought in a new head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator in the offseason. This may not be a championship contender now, but the team is heading in the right direction.

Notable offseason additions: Josh McCown, Brandon Myers, Mike Evans, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Charles Sims, HC Lovie Smith, OC Jeff Tedford

Notable offseason losses: Mike Williams, Tiquan Underwood

Tampa still isn't set on a starting quarterback (at least not publicly), the have a new style on offense and there are a few rookies in the mix. The Bucs will have a few fantasy standouts, but there is more dynasty value on the roster than redraft value for 2014.

Quarterbacks: Josh McCown, Mike Glennon, Mike Kafka, Alex Tanney

McCown transitioned from journeyman to reliable starter when he took over for the injured Jay Cutler last year in Chicago. Head coach Marc Trestman, along with a loaded offense featuring Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, aided McCown in throwing 13 touchdowns and just one interception in six starts with the Bears.

Can he repeat the same success with the Bucs? It will be tough to match, but McCown is in a good situation if he is named the starter. Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans are two towering targets, but they aren't to the level of the Bears' dynamic duo. The biggest limitation for McCown, though, will likely the play-calling.

Jeff Tedford has never coached in the NFL. New head coach Lovie Smith prefers a conservative approach on offense. Tedford is going to focus on running the ball and limiting turnovers. It won't be an ideal scenario for McCown or Mike Glennon, whoever is under center. Glennon was sacked 43 times as a rookie. The Bucs offensive line has several new faces, but the group will be better than last year's.

Tampa paid McCown a decent amount to come in and presumably start. I don't see Glennon winning the job. Regardless of the starter, fantasy owners can find better quarterback options elsewhere. Both have QB2 value. Having a quarterback crack the top 20 in fantasy would be an accomplishment.

Running backs: Doug Martin, Charles Sims, Bobby Rainey, Mike James

Martin went from the No. 2 fantasy running back in 2012 to averaging 9.5 fantasy points per game in six starts last year. He scored a single rushing touchdown prior to landing on injured reserve with a shoulder issue. Not quite the follow-up performance he wanted.

There are a few things to keep in mind when looking at Martin's preseason ranking.

  1. Tampa Bay wants to run the ball. Martin is the clear No. 1 back on the team, and he will see enough snaps to warrant a pick in Round 2-3.
  2. Tedford wants to run the ball ... with multiple backs. He admitted he wants to alternate ball carriers. Martin will not see anywhere near the 368 touches he finished with in his first year.
  3. The Bucs have several capable backs. They drafted Charles Sims, who appears to be the favorite to step in on passing situations. Bobby Rainey played well at times in 2013 as a replacement starter. Mike James is coming back from injury. He was also impressive in his brief stint as the No. 1 prior to breaking his ankle.

According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Martin averaged 0.25 points per opportunity (carries + routes ran) in 2013. That puts him far down the rankings, behind players like Pierre Thomas, Daniel Thomas and even Mike Tolbert. Martin simply didn't look like the 2012 version that impressed us all.

This year, though, he's back to full health and will continue to see a majority of the touches out of the backfield. I don't think we can label him a definite RB1. He's on the fringe of that range. Sims is worth a late flier pick in PPR drafts. Rainey and James will battle for the next spot in camp, and whoever remains will be worth owning in the event Martin gets hurt.

Wide receivers: Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, Louis Murphy, Chris Owusu, Robert Herron

A run-heavy offense does not mean receivers can't thrive. Jackson and Evans are far ahead the rest of the depth chart in talent, and they will be seeing a heavy amount of targets this year.

Jackson has dealt with increased drops over the past two seasons, setting career-highs in each. Last season he eclipsed double-digit drops, ranking third in the league with 11 total, according to PFF. He also played more out of the slot, seeing 41 percent of his targets from that position.

Playing out of the slot allowed Jackson to take advantage of mismatches. He averaged 13.5 yards per reception from this spot. He also remained among the league's elite in downfield receptions. Jackson caught 11 passes of 20-plus yards. However, his average depth of target (aDOT) fell to 13.3, down five yards from 2011. Shaky quarterback play clearly hindered his overall value, but Jackson still finished as the No. 14 receiver in standard leagues.

Evans is the same height as Jackson, which will cause fits from opposing defenses trying to match up with these two. As I mentioned in a previous post talking about Kelvin Benjamin, wide receivers take time to adjust to the NFL. They rarely dominate as rookies, but for a prolific scorer like Evans, his floor as a rookie is decent.

Evans should be considered in the WR3 range based on his size, scoring ability and role on the Bucs. He will see plenty of targets. The rest of the receiving corps is not worth owning right now.

Tight ends: Brandon Myers, Tim Wright, Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Over the past 10 seasons, no tight end has caught more than 55 passes as a rookie. John Carlson set that mark in 2008. Tampa's Tim Wright finished with 54 receptions in 2013. Seferian-Jenkins won't be able to match those numbers.

ASJ is an intriguing dynasty stash, but he won't do redraft owners much good in 2014. The Bucs have three tight ends vying for targets, and while ASJ is probably the most talented, Wright and Myers are going to remain in the mix.

I'll keep this one short. You should not be starting any Bucs tight end. Wright and ASJ are worth owning in deeper leagues, but unless injuries wipe two of the three out, it's hard to picture someone from this group emerging as a fantasy difference maker.

Bottom line

The Bucs will be better than 4-12 with a competent coaching staff at the helm and a quality defense in place. Tampa should find itself in more close games in 2014, allowing the coaching staff to do what it desires most: run the ball. Martin will bounce back but not to his rookie numbers. Jackson and Evans will be fun to watch.

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