With Tampa Bay posting an average of 17.6 points per game, to go along with just 26 total offensive TD, there wasn't much to pillage from on the Buccaneers fantasy football ship last season. The Bucs failed to crack the top ten at any of the offensive fantasy positions during the 2011 NFL campaign. That led to Tampa clearing the decks during the off-season as they signed former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano to a five-year contract. Let's head to Raymond James Stadium to see if we can uncover some fantasy treasure in the Sunshine State.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Quarterback Fantasy Options
After an impressive sophomore season in 2010 -- passed for 3,451 yards with 25 TD and just six INT -- Bucs QB Josh Freeman was a disaster during the NFL 2011 campaign. Highly rated on Draft Day, Freeman managed to post 3,830 total yards, but his passing TD total dropped to 16 while his INT count ballooned to 22. The former K-State Wildcats QB failed to reach the 25 FPT level in any game and he lost a fumble in each of the final five contests.
With the Buccaneers looking to move to a more ground heavy attack during the 2012 NFL season, don't expect Freeman to get any where close to the 551 pass attempts he had in 2011. He does get a new weapon in his receiving arsenal as WR Vincent Jackson comes over from San Diego – more on VJ in a moment. He did however lose a safety valve as TE Kellen Winslow Jr. (75 catches in 2011) has moved on to Seattle. QB Dan Orlovsky will backup Freeman.
Buccaneers QB Analysis: The good news with Freeman is the fact that he is unchallenged at the QB position. Orvlosky comes over after brief stints in Indianapolis and Houston to serve as an injury insurance policy. Better ball control and improved decision making are the Bucs' main concerns at the QB position. If you can get Freeman cheap, grab and stash him as the Saints and Rams are on the Bucs' dance card during Weeks 15 and 16 this season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Running Back Fantasy Options
I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry when it comes to the running back production in Tampa Bay last season. After posting 1,007 yards and six TD in 13 games during the 2011 campaign, RB LeGarrette Blount managed just 781 yards with five TD in 2012. RB Earnest Graham had 206 rushing yards and RB Kregg Lumpkin pitched in with another 105 yards – neither player had a TD. Add it up and it comes to a grand total of 1,092 total rushing yards and five TD. Lumpkin (Seattle) and Graham (free agent near retirement) are both out of the mix in Tampa this season.
To put those rushing numbers into perspective, consider that 15 NFL running backs posted at least 1,047 yards on the ground individually last season and 12 of them had at least six touchdowns. The awful production in their ground game led the Buccaneers to select RB Doug Martin 31st overall in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. The former Boise State Bronco has 44 yards and one TD on 14 carries in two preseason contests. We will be watching Martin carefully when the Bucs host the Patriots on Friday night.
Buccaneers RB Analysis: Speedy rookie RB Michael Smith has impressed the coaching staff and looks to be the Bucs' RB3. I also expect that the former Utah State product will push Blount for touches this season. Tampa Bay has a staggering $168 million invested in their five offensive linemen. It would be nice if they would start paying some dividends, as their preseason performance has been dreadful to date. Currently ranked as the RB17 here at FFTB, I would have no problem taking Martin as my RB2 on Draft Day.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Wide Receiver Fantasy Options
Things haven't been any better at the wide receiver position in Tampa Bay recently. A not so fearsome foursome, led by WR Mike Williams , combined to post 2,153 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Williams is an enigma as he pulled down 771 receiving yards and caught three touchdowns in 2011. That's down from 964 yards and 11 TD in 2010 on the same number of receptions (65). WR Arrelious Benn was the Bucs' WR2 in 2011 as he posted 441 receiving yards with three TD over 14 games played.
In an attempt to shore up the WR corps in Tampa, the Bucs went out and plucked former San Diego Chargers WR Vincent Jackson off the free agent market. While there's no doubting his talent, one has to question what's between Jackson's ears. Speaking from experience (VJ was on my fantasy roster in '09 and '11), I can attest to the fact that the former University of Northern Colorado product gives up on far too many plays on a regular basis.
WR Preston Parker (554 and 3 TD in 2010) has been filling the slot receiver role in Tampa and Freeman is said to be excited about his third year progress. After spending four days on the waiver wire, former Cincinnati Bengals WR Jordan Shipley just signed with the Bucs and will attempt to make the squad as a slot receiver or punt returner. WR Tiquan Underwood (3 catches for 76 yards in preseason action) is also fighting for a roster spot in Tampa Bay. After three unproductive seasons, WR Sammie Slaughter is on a razor thin roster bubble.
Buccaneers WR Analysis: The Bucs WR position is a dicey situation that could improve somewhat if Benn returns 100% healthy – or if Parker or Underwood could bust out. With Jackson expected to draw continuous double coverage, Williams will have a chance to do some damage as a sleeper pick now that he's no longer the WR1 for the Bucs. Considering the new ground and pound game plan in Tampa, we advise that you shouldn't reach for any of the Buccaneers wide receivers during your Draft Day 2012 festivities.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tight End Fantasy Options
After never fully recovering from a devastating knee injury (suffered in a motorcycle accident in 2005), the Bucs unceremoniously dumped TE Kellen Winslow Jr. after he spent three seasons in Tampa. Having been shown the door in a similar fashion in Indianapolis, former Colts TE Dallas Clark is making a case to be the new TE1 for the Buccaneers. Despite missing a total of 15 games over the last two seasons, Clark hasn't missed a single day of preseason practice and has shown signs of jelling with Freeman.
Buccaneers TE Analysis: Just as much a blocker as he is a receiver, the lone competition for Clark appears to be second year TE Luke Stocker. A recent head injury kept the former Toledo Rocket on the sidelines during the Buccaneers' Week 2 preseason contest. Stocker caught one pass for 14 yards in Week 1 action. With such a rich crop of tight ends out there, this is a situation that's best avoided until the very late rounds on Draft Day.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Fantasy Bottom Line: Playing in the same division as the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons (not to mention the improving Carolina Panthers) doesn't bode well for the Buccaneers building on their 4-12 record from a season ago. It does mean that the Bucs will be in a lot of shoot out style contests this season. Selecting Tampa Bay players that may fall to you here and there on Draft Day and then stashing them until they prove their fantasy worthiness, is our best advice when it comes to the Buccaneers fantasy talent.