The Bucs hope to have solved their quarterback issues with the selection of Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston with the 1st pick in this year’s NFL Draft. While that may be the case, we’re pretty certain that Winston isn’t going to solve the quarterback issues on your fantasy team. Winston’s pedigree suggests that he will have a long and productive professional career provided he can remain free of the off the field issues that plagued his college career. With a pair of solid receiving options at wide receiver as well as potential breakout options at running back and tight end, the Buccaneers offense should be much improved from its poor showing a year ago. However, the team’s offensive line remains a question mark and given the plethora of solid fantasy options at quarterback, it just doesn’t make sense to reach for Winston in your fantasy draft. He rates as a low end QB2 in redraft formats and a mid-tier dynasty prospect.
After bursting onto the scene as a rookie in 2012 with 1,454 rushing yards, 472 receiving yards and 12 total touchdowns, Martin has suffered through a pair of injury plagued and unproductive seasons. After missing 10 games in 2013 and averaging just 3.6 yards per carry, he wasn’t much better last season, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry in 11 games while gaining 494 yards. As a receiver, Martin has also seen his production diminished, catching just 13 passes last year (a far cry from his career high 49 in 2012), as he lost playing time on passing downs to Bobby Rainey and Charles Sims. With the Bucs failing to pick up his 5th year option, Martin is entering the final year of his rookie contract and there are no guarantees the team will afford him an opportunity to earn a long term extension in 2015. With Charles Sims drafted in 2013 by the team’s new management regime, they have no ties to Martin and the expectation is that the two will battle in the preseason for a starting role. While Martin may win that role, we expect the team to use a timeshare at the position, making Martin a somewhat risky low end RB3 with little upside given the Bucs expected struggles on offense and shoddy offensive line.
After the Bucs selected Charles Sims in the 3rd round of last year’s draft, they sent a pile of signals that they planned on giving him a solid chance to unseat Doug Martin as the team’s starter or at worst hand him a big role as the team’s main backup. Unfortunately, Sims suffered an ankle injury that caused him to miss the first nine weeks of the season. From that point on, Sims was abysmal, averaging 2.8 yards per carry on 66 carries and finding the end zone just once. At 6’0” and 214 pounds and possessing good but not great speed (4.48 40 time), Sims has physical attributes that suggest his ceiling is as a mid-tier starting running back. Heading into this season, Sims will battle Martin for the starting role. Given Martin’s contract status (final year of his rookie deal) and lack of success over the past two years, Sims will be given every opportunity to take over in the starting lineup. However, even if that happens, his ceiling is fairly low given the Bucs will be starting a rookie quarterback and their issues along the offensive line. Consider Sims a mid-tier RB4 with more upside than some of the running backs available at that spot in your draft.
Two years into his career, James has been the victim of his own misfortune or injuries in consecutive seasons. As a rookie 6th round pick in 2013, James entered the season as Doug Martin’s backup but after joining the starting lineup in midseason when Martin was placed on injured reserve, he suffered a broken ankle in Week 10. That led to the drafting of Charles Sims in 2014 but James once again couldn’t take advantage of a Sims injury and Martin’s ineffectiveness, eventually falling to 4th on the depth chart behind Martin, Sims and Bobby Rainey. A powerful runner, James upside is to beat out Rainey and emerge as the Bucs short yardage runner.
After emerging as the Bucs leading rusher in 2013 as injuries to Doug Martin and Mike James allowed him to take over as the team’s starter over the final seven games of the season, Rainey fell to 3rd on the depth chart last season behind Martin and rookie 3rd round pick Charles Sims. The truth is that Rainey is little more than a fill in at running back, lacking size, speed and agility. More quick than fast, Rainey’s best hope for playing time is in a pass receiving role (33 receptions for 315 yards and a touchdown on just 45 targets last season), but the Bucs seem determined to hand that role over to Sims. Barring a Martin trade (not as remote a possibility as you might think), Rainey has no fantasy value in 2015.
If there is one Buc to have on your fantasy squad in 2015, that players is wide receiver Mike Evans. Taken with the 7th overall selection in last year’s NFL Draft, Evans burst onto the scene catching 68 of his 123 targets for 1,051 yards and a whopping 12 touchdowns. That was especially impressive given the state of the team’s quarterback play in 2014. At 6’4” and 231 pounds with great leaping ability, Evans is an excellent option in the red zone and he also possesses solid deep speed as evidenced by his 15.5 average yards per reception. In 2015, there is only one risk that Evans brings to the table – the team will be starting a rookie quarterback in Jameis Winston. However, since we don’t expect Winston to perform any worse than last year’s tandem of Mike Glennon and Josh McCown, look for Evans to catch more passes for more yards in 2015 although we can’t predict that he will match last year’s touchdown count. We rate Evans as a lower tier WR1 who should emerge as a top five wide receiver over the next couple of years.
After posting a career year with the Bucs in 2012 with 1,384 yards and eight touchdowns, Jackson has seen his receiving yards and touchdowns drop in each of the last two seasons. With the team’s struggles at quarterback in 2014, Vjax finished the season with 70 receptions, 1,002 yards and just two touchdowns. At 32 years of age, it is fair to ask just how much Jackson has left to offer as a starting wide receiver, and whether he will remain a top 35 fantasy wide receiver with rookie quarterback Jameis Winston leading the Bucs offense and 2nd year wide receiver Mike Evans emerging as the team’s top receiving threat. On the other hand, Vjax’s decline in fantasy appeal last season had more to do with his lack of touchdowns that his receiving yards. Given Evans emergence, Vjax’s age and Winston’s expected struggles, we view Jackson as an upper tier WR4 who could surprise in 2015.
Taken in the 5th round of this year’s draft, Bell joins a Bucs squad that features a pair of solid starting wide receivers in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson but has struggled to get production from its backups and slot options in recent years. At 6’1” and 195 pounds, Bell has decent size and he ran a 4.42 40 at the combine, traits that make him a potential replacement for the 32-year old Jackson at some point. As a rookie, he will battle Louis Murphy to be the team’s 3rd receiver and main option out of the slot. Since Murphy performed well in that role last season, Bell has his work cut out for him in terms of securing meaningful playing time as a rookie. While we like him as a mid to lower tier dynasty prospect, Bell has little value in redraft formats.
The Bucs have gotten precious little production out of their backup wide receivers over the last several years but Murphy emerged to be a solid performer given his limited opportunities last season, catching 31 of his 56 targets for 380 yards and a pair of touchdowns despite appearing in just 11 games. His reward was the Bucs drafting Kenny Bell in the 5th round of this year’s draft. Since Tampa Bay is clearly a team that is building for the future, it won’t be a surprise if Murphy loses playing time to the rookie at some point during the 2015 season despite his solid performance last year.
Taken in the 2nd round of last year’s draft, Seferian-Jenkins endured a difficult rookie season similar to what most tight ends suffer through. Competing with Brandon Myers and Luke Stocker for playing time before a back injury ended his season in Week 12, Seferian-Jenkins totaled just 21 receptions on his 38 targets for 221 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Oddly enough, he is getting a fair amount of love from the fantasy community heading into 2015. However, Myers and Stocker are still on the roster and former Buc Tim Wright was claimed off waivers and could steal looks in the passing game. With a pair of big wide receivers in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, Seferian-Jenkins isn’t likely to see a ton of opportunities in the red zone. While we’re fine grabbing Seferian-Jenkins as a mid to lower tier TE2, we can’t endorse him as your starting tight end.