By Ryan Downes
This article is part of our 2013 Fantasy Team Preview series in which we are profiling every NFL team leading up to the season, click here for the complete list of published previews. Also, check out our staff rankings for see how we value each player.
Ahoy matey! Last season this team stumbled like a drunken Pirate on payday. This season, they are hopin’ that all them doubloons they gave to free agents and draft picks pay dividends. They are going to be improved; of this there can be little doubt. But how improved can they be? Can they reclaim their once proud swagger? Can they make the playoffs and prevail behind running and defense all the way to another Super Bowl? Oh yeah, and what’s up their players fantasy prospects? These arrrrggh the questions we all want answered.
Here be the story of the 2013 Buckos!
Last year, the Bucs finished 7-9 despite high hopes for the team heading into the season. Many experts predicted that the development of Josh Freeman and others would lead to a playoff spot for Tampa Bay. However, even though Doug Martin had a prolific season at the running back position, the team floundered and ended up out of contention.
This year Tampa beefed up their defense by adding FS Dashon Goldson from San Francisco and CB Derrelle Revis from the NY Jets, to the fold. These additions should give the Buccaneers one of the most effective secondaries in the league. The vastly improved defense and the second season of a more experienced Doug Martin could mean big things for this year’s edition of the TB Bucs.
Aside from these additions, other interesting players and developments of the team as a whole should be looked at.
Added: CB Derrelle Revis, FS Dashon Goldson, TE Zach Miller
Drafted: CB Johnathan Banks, QB Mike Glennon, DT Akeem Spence, William Gholston, Steven Means, Mike James
Lost: FS Ronde Barber, RB LeGarrette Blount, G Jeremy Lewis, OT Nick Spiller, DT Richard Clebert, WR D.J Morroe, RB Akeem Shavers, G Roger Allen, DE George Selvie, DT Michael Bennett
One Up: Darrelle Revis, CB (Buccaneers D/ST) – Revis Island is packing his things and moving down the coastal U.S to Florida. Here, he’ll set up shop and begin plying his craft. That craft is nothing other than shutting receivers down! These receivers are usually the opposition’s best offensive threat and, often times, Revis completely eliminates their impact. The rest of the time, he makes them little more than a footnote in the game’s outcome. Revis brings instant credibility to a defense that could use some. Last year, the Bucs ended up in the bottom third of the league in terms of team defense. In addition to Revis, the Bucs added FS Dashon Goldson from SF. These two will instantly give the Buccaneers a rock-solid secondary and make this D one for offensive coordinators to fear! It’s true that the team lost veteran and leader Ronde Barber, but Revis and Goldson should more than make up for that loss. Despite playing in a division with the Saints and Falcons, two of the best offenses in the NFL, the Bucs are a great D/ST to target as a sleeper or to use as a spot starter.
One Down: Josh Freeman, QB – Freeman will be entering his 5th season in the league. After an awesome 2010, in which he played in all 16 games and threw for 3,451 yards, 25 TD and 6 INT, everyone expected big things from the youngster. Unfortunately, neither of his next two seasons would live up to the hype. In 2012, Freeman threw for 4,065 yards and 27 TD, but he also threw 17 INTs and only completed 54.8% of his passes. Part of the explanation for his poor performance though, could be the lack of the Buc’s two great (and 2x All-Pro) guards, Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks. Last year, both missed the vast majority of the year with injuries. These two are both important pieces to what the Bucs are looking to do on offense, so having them back and healthy, should go a long way in keeping Freeman upright. Entering the season, Freeman will still only be 25 years old. This is the year in which he needs to show that 2010 wasn’t a fluke, but in fact, a flash of the brilliance that is to come. Buccaneers fans are hoping that 2013 is the year Freeman puts it all together and brings the team back to the playoffs.
1. Will RB Doug Martin improve on last year’s rookie campaign?
This will be no easy feat for the youngster. His rookie year was spectacular as he rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 TDs. In addition, he caught 49 passes for 472 yards and 1 TD. Numbers like these are never easy to replicate, even under ideal conditions. This year, the Bucs bring in 6th round draft pick Mike James out of Miami to spell Martin, replacing LeGarrette Blount. Blount only had 41 rushing attempts in 2012, but was a former 1000 yard rusher, so the Bucs should be expected to keep Mike James’ (having exactly zero NFL experience) workload light. Moreover, there may be several more designed screens and hitches thrown in the playbook to get the ball out to Martin on the edges as he’s proven to be an effective pass catcher. Add these facts to the above- mentioned return of two Pro-Bowl guards to the line and this could be an even bigger year for Martin! His explosiveness and sheer brute force contribute to his nickname ‘Muscle Hamster’. And while his small stature also plays a role, his production will be anything but. I recently wrote an article, preaching to not take Adrian Peterson as the #1 pick in fantasy drafts. Any guess who I like as #1? That’s right, Dougie Martin! Doug Martin is poised to once again be a top 3 fantasy RB.
2. Can Vincent Jackson once again crack the top 10 fantasy football WRs?
Last year Jackson ended the season as the # 6 fantasy WR (standard scoring leagues), and had a stellar season with 1,384 yards on 72 receptions and scored 8 times. He did this despite having only five 100+ receiving yard games. It was the most productive season of his career in terms of yards and receptions. Once again, Jackson will be the main deep threat for Josh Freeman. The Bucs will most likely look to make their offense a little more run and screen heavy this season, in order to help Freeman complete a higher percentage of his passes and to ensure that Martin gets his hands on the ball frequently. However, they will still need to sling the ball deep several times a game and Jackson will be the biggest benefactor of this policy. While Mike Williams is an intriguing #2 WR (see Burning Question 3), he will not take too many of Jackson’s deep targets away. With the possible rise of some youngsters such as Julio Jones and Victor Cruz, Jackson may lose a little ground in the overall WR standings, but he’ll almost certainly remain in the top 10. With the exception of any major injury, Jackson has a great chance to have a third consecutive 1,000+ yard, 8+ TD season.
3. Is there any player more underrated at WR than Mike Williams, who thrived in the 2nd fiddle role last year?
Mike Williams put up another solid performance last year with 63 receptions for 996 yards and 9 TDs. This was enough production to earn him the #18 overall spot among fantasy wide receivers. That is not at all bad for a player on a team with the #6 overall WR in Vincent Jackson. It’s not quite the Jones/White combo they have over in Atlanta, but these two guys are right up there with the best tandems in the league. As previously mentioned, the expected return and health of guards Nicks and Joseph should give Freeman more time to throw the ball, which will benefit all of the offensive players on the team, with Williams being no exception. Plus, Williams is still only 26 years, with only 3 years in the league so we likely haven’t seen the best of him yet. After breaking out in his rookie year in 2010, Williams struggled greatly in 2011 as defenses had begun scheming around him. Perhaps he grew as a WR and improved, but acquiring V-Jax did wonders for Williams to enable him to rediscover the magic that made him a a waiver-wire sensation in 2010. With all the defensive attention Jackson commanded, Williams once again was able to thrive, this time as the #2 option.
Despite his amazing season, Williams is currently going as the 40th WR in mock drafts, a pretty shocking spot if you ask me. Looking at all of the receivers in last year’s fantasy scoring totals and where they rank, I would have to say that no player is more underrated at the WR position. I’d have to give honorable mention to T.Y Hilton of IND and Miles Austin of DAL, but in the end, The concern for Williams is being able to reproduce the TDs that made him fantasy stars in 2010 and 2012, but he’s a guy that Josh Freeman looks to in the Red Zone (17 RZ targets in 2012, tied for 20th in NFL). If you’re a savvy fantasy owner, you likely already have been targeting Mike Williams, he’s a pretty safe guy that’s guaranteed to outperform his draft slot.
Tampa Bay has a chance to vastly improve in 2013 and be a team that could clinch a playoff birth. To do this, they need a huge step forward from Josh Freeman at QB. They’ll also need Doug Martin to emulate his performance from last season. If they can get those 2 things and the rest of the team can stay healthy, they certainly can make a significant run towards the playoffs. Of course, all of these things are easier said than done. Along with good coaching, strong play-calling and stellar production from their players, they’ll also need plenty of luck. Normally, Pirates aren’t usually thought of as a lucky bunch (see the Pittsburgh crew), maybe a little prayer to Nori the Pirate God could help? Regardless, the Bucs are an exciting team to watch this season and one that should be on your fantasy football radar!
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