It’s a new day in Tampa Bay! At least that’s what fantasy owners are starting to realize as they look at this offense entering 2014. Gone is head coach Greg Schiano and his take-no-prisoners approach when their opponents took a knee. Lovie Smith, who was off for a year, returns to the team where he coached linebackers from 1996-2000. Smith’s conservative offensive ways, learned from mentor Tony Dungy, ended up costing him his job in Chicago – much like Dungy’s ways cost him in Tampa Bay.
However, Smith hired Jeff Tedford to serve as his offensive coordinator after having a year off from football – just like Smith. Tedford was the head coach at Cal from 2002-2012, and he’s the school’s all-time leading coach in bowl wins (five). Tedford’s reputation as a groomer of quarterbacks is well documented, with players like Trent Dilfer and Aaron Rodgers both winning Super Bowls after working with him in college. Granted, he has also coached several first-round busts, including Akili Smith, David Carr, Joey Harrington and Kyle Boller. But he’ll be handed veteran quarterback Josh McCown, who followed Smith over from Chicago. Tedford’s tutelage will likely be more useful with second-year man Mike Glennon, who moves from starter to backup.
McCown and Tedford will have a host of offensive weapons at their disposal, including Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin, who is healthy after a torn labrum ended his 2013 season. That injury isn’t expected to affect his health in 2014.
Unfortunately, what will be affecting Martin is an offensive line that struggled last season after entering it with Pro Bowl guards Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks. But after a horrible season, the Buccaneers released Joseph (who signed with the Rams) and Nicks (injury settlement). The Bucs offensive line is a huge question mark, which means Martin might start the season slow as they gel together.
Martin will also have to deal with fewer touches than he is used to, as rookie Charles Sims is expected to be worked in considerably in passing downs and even some early down duties. With everything considered, Martin remains an excellent second-round pick, but the factors mentioned keep him from returning to the first round – where he was taken last season.
As far as the passing game goes, the Buccaneers drafted Mike Evans out of Texas A&M, where many people think the young receiver made quarterback Johnny Manziel look better than he was, and not the other way around. Evans will work on the other side of the line from Vincent Jackson, and both 6-foot-5 wide receivers will give McCown some great big targets, especially in the back of the end zone.
Last year, Tim Wright was the second-best receiver on the team, and he was the best fantasy rookie tight end in the league, with 54 catches for 571 yards and five touchdowns. As a matter of fact, Wright had the best fantasy season by a rookie tight end since Rob Gronkowski joined the league in 2011.
But the Buccaneers added former Giants tight end Brandon Myers in free agency, and then they drafted Austin Seferian-Jenkins out of Washington. To put this position in perspective, Wright overachieved in his rookie season, Myers will provide depth, and Seferian-Jenkins will likely become a bigger part of the offense as the season progresses.
The Bucs spent their first three picks on offensive skill positions (Evans, Sims, Seferian-Jenkins), which makes us think Lovie Smith is a big fan of fantasy football. If so, hopefully fantasy football owners will become big fans of Smith in 2014.
Most overvalued player
Mike Evans, WR – While there’s no doubt that Evans is a monster that smaller corners will struggle with, he’s also the second receiver – and he’s a rookie on an offense that has several new weapons around him. Unlike fellow rookie receiver Sammy Watkins, Evans won’t be the best wide receiver on the team for at least a couple seasons. Evans’ ADP has him going just after the top 100 players are taken, which makes him about a 10th-round pick. A better pick would be spent on second-year receivers in that area, like Tavon Austin and DeAndre Hopkins.
Most undervalued player
Josh McCown, QB – McCown leaves Chicago, where he started eight games last season, throwing 13 touchdown passes compared to just one interception. Obviously, the Bears offense was set up for success, with Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett being among the best pass-catchers at their respective positions. The Bucs have a South Chicago look to them, with Martin, V-Jax, Evans and Seferian-Jenkins, and while it might be another year before we see this offense develop into a top-10 unit, McCown could pay big fantasy dividends in short stretches this season.
While McCown actually draws one of the toughest schedules for quarterbacks to start the year, he has the second-best fantasy schedule for QBs from Weeks 7-11. Tampa Bay plays the Vikings (32nd vs. QBs in 2013), Browns (21st), Falcons (29th) and Redskins (23rd) in that order. He’s a very good choice as a backup in larger leagues, or as a starter in 2-QB formats.
QB: Josh McCown, Mike Glennon
RB: Doug Martin, Charles Sims, Mike James, Bobby Rainey
WR: Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, Louis Murphy, Robert Herron, Chris Owusu
TE: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Brandon Myers, Tim Wright
K: Connor Barth
One thing that stands our right away is the lack of depth at wide receiver. If either Jackson or Evans goes down with an injury, expect the other to be doubled on every passing down. Then again, the rookie tight end could become much more valuable in the passing game if that happens.
Wright had a great rookie year, and tight ends usually figure it out in their second year, but A.S.F. is the future for Tampa Bay. Expect Wright to be the better fantasy play earlier in the season, and probably be a very good Daily Fantasy Football bargain, with Seferian-Jenkins coming on late.
For the first time in a couple years, the Buccaneers defense was not horrible. That says a lot! They were just about average, which means they were good fantasy plays some weeks, and bad ones on other weeks. They should be considered a little better this season, but not quite up to the level of the top-five defenses.
The Bucs didn’t get any help from the draft this offseason, as Smith, the Bucs’ former linebackers coach, and GM Jason Licht had the franchise’s first all-offense draft in May. Tampa Bay did, however, bring in Pro Bowl cornerback Alterraun Verner from Tennessee, and he’ll essentially replace Schiano’s failed experiment of bringing in Darrelle Revis. Linebacker Lavonte David should excel in Leslie Frazier’s Cover-2 defense, making him an excellent IDP pick once again.