Last year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were tabbed by some as a dark-horse playoff contender. The horse was not dark. It was stone, cold dead. The Buccaneers were sad on offense, sadder on defense and won all of two games. That ramped up pressure on head coach Lovie Smith to turn things around in Year 2 of his stint with the team.
The front four in Tampa is anchored by three-technique Gerald McCoy, who was on pace for another solid season in 2014 before losing most of the last month to injury. The sixth-year pro looks locked and loaded for 2015, according to what new teammate Henry Melton told Scott Smith of the team’s website.
“I really didn’t realize how good of a player Gerald is,” Melton said. “His work ethic is crazy. I’m just learning from that and trying to be a better player.” The sixth-year veteran ranked 11th among defensive linemen in fantasy points from Week 4 to Week 13 a year ago, and McCoy is worth a look as a DL2 in mixed formats. In DT-required formats, he’s arguably the No. 1 option at that spot.
At the end spots? Yeah, good luck with that. The Michael Johnson experiment was an unmitigated disaster last year, and the Buccaneers don’t have a proven option one at the position. George Johnson. Jacquies Smith. William Gholston. Melton has even been tried at end a little in OTAs. Could one of those players both see the snaps to have IDP value and make enough of those snaps to become a sneaky DL2? Yes. Our money’s on Smith. But it’s a spin of the roulette wheel.
The straw that stirs the Tampa defense is no doubt weak-side linebacker Lavonte David, who led all linebackers in IDP scoring on a points-per-game basis. And Smith the coach told Smith the writer he thinks David can get even better. “Lavonte had a very good year last year with tackles and things like that,” the coach said, “but (we want) more of the splash plays, interceptions. A high standard for Lavonte.”
IDP owners have a high standard for David as well – he’s a strong contender to be the first linebacker selected overall in fantasy drafts that include individual defensive players.
The Buccaneers made a change at middle linebacker in 2015. Mason Foster is out. Bruce Carter is in, learning a new scheme and position. But, Carter told Joe Kania of the Bucs’ website that he’s fitting in well. “For me as an individual,” Carter said “a player learning a new position, especially middle linebacker, it takes some time to get used to it and working at it. [Linebackers] Coach Hardy [Nickerson] has been doing a great job of helping me out with my keys and reads.”
The Bucs have insisted since signing Carter that they view him as a three-down player, and so long as Carter’s ADP stays reasonable there’s enough upside present to merit a late look in drafts.
During the fantasy playoffs last year, Bradley McDougald ranked a respectable 13th among fantasy defensive backs. But the good feelings there didn’t last, as the Buccaneers’ signing of Houston Texans castoff D.J. Swearinger muddied the waters at strong safety. There’s upside to be had from the winner of that battle, but it may be a while before we know who that is.
Cornerback Alterraun Verner ranked 10th among fantasy cornerbacks on a per-game basis a season ago. The 26-year-old is a good fit for Smith’s defense and a steady tackler, making him a player worth targeting in fantasy leagues that require his position.