The Bucs appeared to be on the rise in 2016 when they went 9-7, but they play in a division with top talent at every stop. Tampa failed to make the playoffs for the tenth year in a row. Their best success as a franchise came from 1997 to 2007 with Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden at head coach. Over this period, the Buccaneers made the playoffs seven times with a Super Bowl title in 2002. Dirk Koetter is 14-18 after two seasons as head coach. Dirk was the offensive coordinator for Tampa in 2015 after holding the same position with Jacksonville and Atlanta over the previous eight seasons.
Tampa Bay ranked in the top ten in offensive yards in 2015 (5th) and 2017 (9th) with Jameis Winston at QB, but they failed to match that success on the scoreboard (2015 – 342 points and 2017 – 335 points) leading to the 20th and 18th rankings in points scored. Todd Monken will run the offense for the third season. Todd was the head coach for Southern Miss for the three previous seasons (13-25). He worked with Dirk from 2007 to 2010 at Jacksonville as the wide receiver coach.
Last year the Buccaneers gave up the most yards in the NFL on defense, which led to their second year of regression. Tampa allowed 382 points (22nd), which was only 13 more points than 2016 (369). Mike Smith returns for his third year as the defensive coordinator. Mike was the head coach for the Falcons from 2008 to 2014 where he went 66-46 with four playoff appearance. Smith hired Koetter when he worked in Atlanta. Mike has eight seasons of experience as a defensive coordinator as well. 2018 may be his last shot holding the job if the defense doesn’t make a massive step in a positive direction.
Tampa sent RB Doug Martin packing after showing more risk than reward over the last few seasons. Martin found a new home in Oakland.
The Bucs signed C Ryan Jensen after two steady seasons with the Eagles. Jensen will move into the starting lineup. G Kevin Pamphile left Florida to find a new home in Tennessee. Pamphile has never been a player of value in his four years in the NFL.
The most significant area of aggression in the offseason with the defensive line. The Buccaneers added DT Beau Allen, DE Vinny Curry, and DE Mitch Unrein. Curry had his best season in the NFL at age 29 while setting a career high in tackles (42) with three sacks. He was an asset on against the run as well. Allen is only a rotational player against the run with no upside rushing the QB. Unrein continues to improve against the run as a rotational player.
Tampa Bay released DT Chris Baker and DT Clinton McDonald. Baker played well in 2015 and 2016, but his game lost value against the run last year. McDonald struggled in back-to-back seasons after being a league average player over his previous five years.
The Buccaneers signed Chandler Catanzaro to take off the kicking duties.
In the 2018 NFL Draft, Tampa had four picks over the first two rounds. They focused on their defense with three of those selections – DT Vita Vea, CB M.J. Stewart, and CB Carlton Davis.
Vea is a mountain of a man (6’4” and 347 lbs.) with insane strength. He projects to be a foundation run stopper. His hands will offer an edge while showing the power to drive in the pass rush. His footwork and overall technique need to improve to help his balance. Vita has some quickness, but his range is limited due to his overall speed.
Stewart brings a safety mentality to the cornerback position. He plays well in coverage while being a hard hitting player in run support. His game is built to handle press coverage while owning strength in his base coverage skill set to play well in all formations. His risk comes in the deep passing game, and M.J. needs to fire out of breaks when playing in off coverage. His lack of Ints may push him to safety in the NFL.
Davis is another CB that excels in press coverage, which will be an asset in the red zone. His overall skills in coverage need improvement in his technique. Carlton will get beat for long plays when quickness beats him off the line. His vision in off coverage is a tick below the needed success to win against top NFL WRs. Davis will struggle when asked to cover a full pass route tree.
In the second round, the Buccaneers addressed their running back issue with Ronald Jones. He runs with patience and vision while offering open field ability. His top end speed is below the best RBs in the league, and Jones doesn’t have an edge in size (5’11” and 208 lbs.). His best success comes from his foot quickness leading to defender becoming flat-footed at the point of contact. Ronald will fight in pass protection with limited upside as a receiver. His next step is proving he can win his fair of plays between the tackles.
Tampa added G Alex Cappa in the third round. Cappa is an athletic power blocker who will have the most value in the run game. His range will be limited, but he makes up for his lack of speed with quickness and plus hands. Alex went to a small school (Humboldt St.), which means he’ll face much stricter talent at the next level. His pass protection skill will keep him on the sidelines early in his career.
The Bucs shifted back to the defense with their fourth and six round draft picks – S Jordan Whitehead and LB Jack Cichy.
Whitehead has the reverse skill set of the cornerbacks selected earlier in the draft. He lacks the size (5’10” and 198 lbs.) to be a physical press player, but Jordan makes up for it with his strength and willingness to attack the run game. Whitehead can handle slot WRs and TEs in coverage while needing to improve his vision and cover skills off the ball. Jordan is more of a hitter than a playmaker.
Cichy missed most of the last two seasons at Wisconsin leading to him falling in the draft. He shows vision and instincts with the quickness to make winning plays. Jack needs to prove he can stay healthy while improving his field coverage. His best value comes attacking the line of scrimmage in the run game, but he doesn’t have the change of direction speed to overcome his missed steps.
With their fifth-round selection, Tampa drafted WR Justin Watson. He had an impressive career at Penn where Watson improved in every season. He brings size (6’3” and 225 lbs.) to the wide receiver position while flashing better than expected speed (4.40) on his pro day. His game played well in college due to his TE type frame, but his initial quickness may lead to a tighter passing window in the pros. His route running and hands project well, but Justin needs to add more to his base foundation skill set. He works hard with the smarts to address his weakness. His next step is proving he can beat better players in the NFL.
Tampa ranked 27th in rushing yards (1,450) in 2017 with eight TDs and only five runs over 20 yards. They averaged 3.7 yards per carry with 24.3 attempts per game.
The Bucs finished with the fourth highest total in passing yards (4,366) with 26 TDs and 14 Ints. Their offensive line allowed 40 sacks and 100 QB hits. Tampa gained 7.6 yards per pass attempt, but they only had 47 catches over 20 yards (17th) and six completion over 40 yards (21st).
LT Donovan Smith has been a bust so far in his career after getting drafted in the second round in 2015. He allows too much pressure while accepting too many penalties. Tampa needs to move him to another position where his skill set has a better chance of being helpful.
LG Ali Marpet was the best player on this line in 2016 with a slight step back last year. He had the biggest edge in run blocking, but he regressed in pass protection last year. Tampa drafted him in the second round in 2015. Last year he started at center.
C Ryan Jensen takes over at center after showing improvement over the last two seasons. His pass blocking needs to improve while coming in a league average player in the run game.
RG J.R. Sweezy missed 2016 due to a back injury that required surgery in the spring of 2016. The Bucs thought enough of him to sign him to a five-year $32.5 million contract in April of 2017. He’s never had a season in the NFL where he’s gained as an asset.
RT Demar Dotson peaked in 2013 while following up with four seasons that ranked above the league average. Last year he missed four games with a knee injury which required surgery in April. In 2017, Demar played at a high level in pass protection with neutral success in the run game.
Teams in the NFL don’t have a high level of success on offense with a weak link at left tackle. Smith remains a problem along with their right guard. The other three players on this offensive line should grade at the league average or better. Overall, Tampa still has weakness on the offensive line, which would be helped dramatically with better talent at the running back position.
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing touchdowns (TDS).
This information is based on 2017, which will work as our starting point for 2018. We’ll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We’ll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.
2017 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2017.
2017 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL.
2017 Adjustment is based on the 2017 league average and the 2017 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat category and the basis for the strength of schedule.
The Buccaneers have three poor matchups (PHI and CAR X 2) for their rushing offense. Their best opportunity for success should come against Cincinnati and Washington.
Tampa has one favorable game (NYG) for their passing offense and four mid-tier games (PIT, CHI, CIN, and BAL) that ranked below the league average.
Overall, the Bucs have below par schedules for their rushing and passing offenses.
Tampa threw the ball 60.8 percent of the time last year, which was helped by them trailing in many games. They continued to have a weak rushing offense. In 2018, the Bucs added a RB with upside potential, but they will lose their starting QB for the first three games of the season.
QB Jameis Winston – Over this seasons in the NFL, Winston has an 18-27 record. He missed three games in 2017 with a shoulder issue, which cost him a third season with over 4,000 yards passing. Over 45 games in his career, Jameis averaged 259 passing yards per game while tossing 69 TDs with 44 Ints. Last season he set a career high in yards per pass attempt (7.9) even with his top WR having a down season. Winston scored six TDs on the ground in his rookie season, but his value as a runner declined in 2016 (53/165/1) and 2017 (33/135/1). In his 12 full games last year, Jameis passed for over 300 yards six games while delivering three TDs in three games. This season he’ll start the year on the bench for three games after his three-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. When on the field, Winston should average at least 250 passes yards per game with a slight edge over the league average in TDs. His receiving core didn’t get better in the offseason, which will limit his upside. Overall, Jameis had a high scoring lead WR and developing TE. Only a backup option for me in 2018.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick – Fitzpatrick threw the ball well in three of his games (290/3, 275/2, and 283/0) in relief of Jameis Winston in 2017 while coming up flat in his other game (187/1). His completion rate (58.9) was just below his career average (59.7) while falling short of Winston’ success (63.2). Ryan will compete with Ryan Griffin for the first three starts at QB for Tampa in 2018. Griffin has never appeared in an NFL game after signing with as an undrafted free agent with the Saints in 2013. Fitzpatrick’s experience gives him the first shot at the backup job. He went 2-1 last year, which gives the Bucs at least a fighting chance to win games over the first three weeks.
Other Options: Ryan Griffin, Austin Allen
RB Ronald Jones – Over three seasons at USC, Jones gained 4,242 combined yards with 42 TDs and 32 catches. His best success came in his junior season in 2017 when he gained 1,737 yards with 20 TDs and 14 catches on 275 touches. Ronald added more bulk in 2017, and it helped his explosiveness in the trenches. He runs with patience and quickness, but his move to the second level of the defense can be explosive when he able to get full strides with his legs. Jones offers subtle cuts and shoulder fakes to create separation in the open field. His appears to stall in short areas when he doesn’t have the space to open up his stride. I like his vision, and his ability to hit the gas when he sees daylight. He showed hands catching ability, which gives him a chance to be much better than in the passing games at the next level. His ability to pass protect will help him on third downs. As much as like his upside, I have to take in the weakness of the Bucs’ offensive line. Jones will be the top RB on Tampa in 2018, but he will struggle in games vs. defense with strength against the run and a plus defensive line. I’m going to draft him with the idea of 250 touches for 1,100 plus yards with five to seven TDs and 20+ catches while understanding he has a much higher ceiling with a full-time job. Over the long season, there will be a couple of games when he gets hooked due to lack of running room. His value in the passing game does lower his floor from week-to-week in PPR leagues.
Update: 8/15/2018 > Ronald Jones doesn’t look ready to handle his pass protection responsibilities, which pushes him to the sidelines on passing downs and most third downs. Peyton Barber outplayed him so far in August, and this may continue longer than Fantasy owners hope based on Jones’s draft value in the Fantasy world. Jones is going to be a factor in this offense; it’s just a matter of when. I view him as viable upside RB after the seventh round in mid-August once a Fantasy owner has the core of his starting lineup. I expect Jones to move up and down the draft board over the next three weeks with each bit of information out of the Buccaneers’ camp.
RB Peyton Barber – Tampa signed Barber as undrafted free agent 2016 after a successful sophomore year at Auburn (238/1017/13). His game looked unimpressive based on his yards per rush (4.3), and Peyton barely had a pulse in the passing game (11/112). Over his first two seasons in the NFL, Barber rushed 646 yards on 163 carriers with four TDs. He gained 4.0 yards per rush, which supports his boring message in college. Peyton has 21 catches 142 yards in his career, which is another of limited upside. Last year Barber flashed in Week 13 (143 combined yards with four catches on 27 touches). In the previous four games of the season, Peyton gained 275 combined yards with eight catches and one TD while averaging almost 16 touches per game. Hs lack of explosiveness (two runs over 20 yards on 163 carries) pushes him to a backup running back in 2018 with minimal chances of seeing action on third downs.
Update: 8/15/2018 > Peyton Barber is now on the inside track to win the starting RB job for Tampa Bay. He does have talent, but so does Ronald Jones. I would be careful in my draft ranking heading into September. Overpaying for job loss isn’t a great move by any Fantasy owner. Barber should get most of the early down touches out of the gate with some passing catching value. The key for his playable value long-term will be his opportunity at the goal line and in the passing game. Worth a flier after round 10, but anything above that is too much of a gamble with a younger stud option behind him on the roster.
RB Charles Sims – Based on his career path, Sims makes the most sense as the third down back for the Bucs in 2018. Last year he gained 4.5 yards per rush, but Tampa only gave him 21 rushes. Charles also fell short of expectations in the passing game (35/249/1 on 47 targets). In 2015, Sims had 1,090 combined yards with four TDs and 51 catches. An injury in 2016 and a change of coaching staff led to a step back in touches last year. In 2017, the Bucs’ RBs caught 69 passes for 521 yards and one TD on 96=5 targets. Tough Fantasy bet, but his game and skill set should complement Ronald Jones well.
RB Jacquizz Rodgers – Rodgers played well in 2016 after a couple of injuries in the Bucs’ backfield, but he reverted to his boring resume in 2017. He gained only 3.8 yards per rush with one run over 20 yards on his 64 carries. Tampa didn’t look to him on third downs leading to only nine catches for 74 yards on 11 targets. Just a low-level insurance policy with no draftable value.
Other Options: Dalton Crossan, Shawn Wilson
WR Mike Evans – The Bucs struggled to get Evans the ball in 2017 leading to a drop off in his targets (136 compared to 173 in 2016). Mike has over 1,000 yards receiving in all four years in the NFL while scoring 32 TDs in 61 games. After catching 56 balls for over 20 yards over his first three seasons in the NFL, Evans only made nine catches of 20 yards or more last year. His scoring and big-play ability offset his low catch rate (53.4) in his career. Last season he had only one game with over 100 yards receiving compared to nine combined games in 2015 and 2016. Mike will start the year at age 25, which is the right area to expect more upside. Possible 100+ catches for 1,400+ yards and double-digit TDs. The loss of Jameis Winston should hurt his value, but it may lead to him falling in drafts. If Evans falls to the third in PPR leagues, he is going to be a steal.
WR DeSean Jackson – Tampa struggled to get Jackson involved in the deep passing game leading to a career low in his yards per catch (13.4). Ten of his 50 catches went for 20 yards or more compared to 19 of 56 on 20-16 with the Redskins. Over 14 games last year, DeSean caught 50 of his 90 targets for 668 yards and three TDs. Jackson has over 1,000 yards receiving five times in his ten seasons in the NFL. Over his last 38 games, DeSean has 11 TDs and five games with over 100 yards receiving. He’ll start the year at age 31 while still seeing WR2 coverage with Mike Evans playing the lead role at WR. I expect a rebound in 2018 leading to about 65 catches for 900+ yards with a handful of TDs, which projects to a high-end WR3 in PPR leagues.
WR Chris Godwin – Over his last two seasons at Penn State, Godwin caught 128 passes for 2,083 yards and 16 TDs. His game will add an interesting dynamic to Tampa’s passing attack. Chris has the speed to beat a defense deep while showing a willingness to work the middle of the field. His first step and release will be challenged against press coverage, but he does have enough quickness and route running ability to create separation over the short areas of the field. His hands are an edge, and he will catch many jump balls. In his rookie season, Godwin caught 34 of 55 targets for 525 yards and one TD. Over the last seven games of the year, he had four games of value (5/68, 5/68, 3/98, and 7/111/1) off the bench. His last two games came in relief of DeSean Jackson who injured his ankle in Week 15. Exciting player who will offer upside with a better role in the offense. His best shot may come unseating Adam Humphries in the slot. For now, the top handcuff for Tampa’s top two WRs.
WR Adam Humphries – In his second year in the league, Humphries caught 55 of his 83 targets for 622 yards and two TDs followed up with a similar season in 2017 (61/631/1 on 83 targets). Adam flashed in Week 17 (7/102 on 11 targets), but he had fewer than 70 yards receiving in his first 15 games. Possession type WR with plenty of competition for targets again in 2018.
Other Options: Justin Watson, Freddie Martino, Bobo Wilson, Jake Lampman, Ervin Phillips
TE O.J. Howard – Alabama didn’t need Howard to win games, and they weren’t a high profile passing attack. O.J. caught 83 passes for 1,197 yards over his junior and senior seasons, but he only scored five TDs. Over 14 games in his rookie season, Howard caught 26 passes for 432 yards and six TDs on 39 targets while competing with Cameron Brate for playing time. O.J. had one elite game (6/98/2) when the Bills failed to defend him. Over his last eight games, Howard only had a playable value twice (3/52/1 and 4/54/1). He never had over six targets in any game, and he had two catches or fewer in ten of his games. His season ended in Week 15 with an ankle injury. Tampa signed Brate to a nice contract in March, which leaves Howard in the number two position again at TE. Big play TE with scoring ability, but he does lack the one key factor to have value in Fantasy games – opportunity.
TE Cameron Brate – With O.J. Howard in the mix for targets at TE, Brate only had a slight step back in chances last year. In his breakout season in 2016, Cameron caught 57 of his 81 targets for 660 yards and eight TDs. His catch rate fell to 62.3 from 70.4 leading to step back in catches (48), yards (591), and TDs (6). Tampa signed him to a six-year contract in March worth $41 million with $18 million guaranteed. Last year the Bucs’ TEs caught 84 passes for 1,124 yards and 13 TDs on 126 targets. Jameis Winston looks to his TEs in the red zone while defenses try to take away Mike Evans. With two years of success and a nice payday, Brate isn’t going away without an injury. More of same with a bar of 60 catches for 650 yards and six to eight TDs.
Other Options: Alan Cross, Antony Auclair, Donnie Ernsberger, Austin Jackson, Tanner Hudson
K Chandler Catanzaro – Over four seasons in the NFL, Catanzaro is 103-for-122 in field goals tries (84.4 percent), but he’s missed nine of 134 extra points chances over the last three years. Chandler needs to improve from 50 yards or longer (7-for-13) and from 40 to 49 yards (34-for-43) to become a viable starting Fantasy option. Last year Tampa scored 38 TDs while creating 34 field goal attempts. The Buccaneers will move the ball from 20 to 20, but the can stall in the red zone due to weakness in the rushing offense. Possible top 12 kicker if Tampa pushes their scoring chances over 75 in 2018.
Tampa will get tested on the ground in 2018. They have six games (NO X 2, PHI, CAR X 2, and DAL) vs. teams that will have success running the ball. The Bucs have three games (CIN, WAS, and NYG) with risk running the ball while the Giants should be better with their new hotshot RB.
Their pass schedule looks favorable even with five tough games (NO X2, ATL X 2, and PIT). Tampa gains their edge based on seven matchups (CHI, CLE, CIN, CAR X 2, BAL, and DAL) vs. teams with poor results passing the ball in 2017.
Tampa had the worst pass defense in the league in 2017. They allowed 4,169 yards with only 22 TDs and 13 Ints. Their lack of pass rush (22 sacks) with a big part of the problem. QBs gained 7.8 yards per pass attempt with 57 catches over 20 yards.
DT Gerald McCoy remains the top defensive player on Tampa. He plays well vs. the run while delivering 47 tackles and six sacks last year. He’s played at a high level five of the last six years after the Bucs drafted him in the first round in 2017. DT Vita Vea adds a foundation run stopper with some value rushing the QB. Tampa selected him in the first in 2018.
DE Vinny Curry set a career high in tackles (42) while adding three sacks. He’ll help the run defense, but the Buccaneers need more production from him in sacks. DE Jason Pierre-Paul will upgrade the pass rush after Tampa acquired him in a trade with the Giants in March. Paul had 68 tackles, 8.5 sacks, and five defended passes in 2017 while being an edge in run support.
LB Kwon Alexander finished with 97 tackles, four defended passes and three Ints over 12 games. Last year he struggled against the run while grading as a liability on defense. Alexander has minimal upside in sacks. LB David Lavonte played at the highest level of his career in 2017 leading to strength vs. the run with 101 tackles in 13 games. He had a regression in sacks (0) and defended passes (1) after adding value in both areas in 2016 (5 sacks and four defended passes). LB Kendell Beckwith finished 73 tackles, one sack, and two defended passes in his rookie season after Tampa selected him in the third round in 2017. Beckwith suffered a tore his ACL in his left knee leading to him losing some value in the draft. His game works well attacking the run while needing to improve his tackling skills. Kendell has limited range with questions about his value in pass coverage. Kendell broke his ankle in May after a car crash.
Tampa will try to replace S Chris Conte in the starting lineup after showing failure in run support last year. His coverage skills are league average. S Justin Evans played well over 14 games before suffering an ankle injury in Week 15. Tampa selected Evans in the second round in 2017. His best value comes attacking the line of scrimmage against the run and in pass coverage. Justin is a playmaker with big hitting ability. Evans needs to improve his reads in the deep position. His speed grades as an edge while needing to add more bulk. He finished with 66 tackles, six defended passes, and three Ints while helping in run support.
CB Brent Grimes played well in coverage with no value in run support. He had 49 tackles, 11 defended passes, and three Ints at age 33. CB Vernon Hargreaves didn’t play as well his sophomore season due to nine missed games with a hamstring issue. Tampa added Hargreaves in the first round in 2016. He best skill set comes in coverage while coming up short when asked to defend the run. The Bucs added two CBs in the second round to help add depth and cover the aging Grimes. Their young CBs have strength in press coverage, which works well if Tampa gets to the QB.
Tampa will play well against the run at the first and second levels of their defense, but their secondary may lay down on some long runs. The pass rushing is lacking at the linebacking level, and Curry may not have the juice left in his game to pressure for the QB from one defensive end spot. The secondary has developing young talent with a physical feel. I expect the Bucs to cause problems in some games with their pass defense. Not a bad swing as second Fantasy defense with improvement expected in all areas.
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