Tampa Bay Buccaneers
|By Shawn Childs, Saturday, September 2, 2017|
Tampa Bay fans can feel the excitement of their next playoff berth after missing the big show in each of their last nine seasons. In Dirk Koetter's first year as head coach, the Bucs went 9-7. It was Tampa Bay's first winning season since 2010 (10-6). Koetter was the offensive coordinator for Tampa in 2015 and held the same position with Jacksonville and Atlanta over the previous eight seasons. After showing upside in offensive yards in 2015 (5th) with Jameis Winston under center, they slid to 18th last year with the same ranking in points allowed (354). Todd Monken will run the offense for the second season. He was the head coach for Southern Miss for the three previous seasons (13-25) and worked with Koetter from 2007 to 2010 at Jacksonville as the wide receiver coach. Tampa improved in yards allowed. Mike Smith returns for his second year as the defensive coordinator. Smith was the head coach of the Falcons from 2008 to 2014 where the Bucs lost QB Mike Glennon, WR Russell Shepard, WR Cecil Shorts, WR Vincent Jackson, TE Brandon Myers, and T Gosder Cherilus from their offense. Jackson was the only player of value despite being at the end of his career.
They added Ryan Fitzpatrick for depth at the QB position. The best player added was WR DeSean Jackson, who gives Winston a true big-play threat on the opposite side of Mike Evans. Tampa signed K Nick Folk and LS Garrison Sanborn.
The Bucs signed CB Robert McClain, S J.J. Wilcox, and DT Chris Baker on the defensive side of the ball. Both Wilcox and Baker played well in 2016 for the Cowboys and Redskins respectively. They should improve the depth of the defense.
CB Alterraun Verner, S Bradley McDougald, LB Daryl Smith, DT Akeem Spence, and DT Sealver Siliga were released. Each player had minimal snaps last year along with losing value.
In the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Bucs selected TE O.J. Howard. He's a special player with plus speed and quickness while offering strength and athletic ability, leading to multiple stars in this season combine. He has solid hands and provides an edge at all three levels of the defense. Howard will need more fire in his blocking and more strength to gain an edge early vs. press coverage.
S Justin Evans was the choice in the second round. His best value comes attacking the line of scrimmage in run and pass support. Evans is a playmaker with big hitting ability. He needs to improve his reads in the deep position. His speed grades as an edge but he needs to add more bulk.
With two picks in the third round, Tampa added WR Chris Godwin and LB Kendall Beckwith. Godwin has an interesting skill set, but it looks almost misplaced to deliver high upside. Godwin has plus speed (4.42), but lacks the acceleration to gain a winning edge off the line against stronger corners even with strength in his game. This combo hurts him over the short areas of the field. Godwin has long speed and he works hard with some short area quickness. Beckwith suffered a torn 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. He has limited range with questions surrounding his value in pass coverage.
The Buccaneers added RB Jeremy McNichols in the fifth round. He is a North/South runner with plus vision and quickness. McNichols shows the ability to make defenders miss, but his play speed has one gear. He needs to do a better job breaking tackles but he should be an asset in the passing game.
In the sixth round, Tampa invested in NT Stevie Tu'ikolovatu. He projects to add value in run support on early downs while his downside is tied to a low motor and an expanding waistline. He can gain an edge off the snap with power plus handling his tackling lane well.
The Bucs finished 24th in rushing yards (1,616) with only eight rushing TDs and five runs over 20 yards. They gained only 3.6 yards per carry. Tampa had 49 negative runs and 36 rushes over 10 yards.
Their offensive line allowed 35 sacks and 109 QB hits. The Buccaneers ranked 16th in passing yards (3,926) with 29 passing TDs and 18 Ints. They tied for last in the league with four passes of 40 yards or more while gaining 20 yards or more on 43 plays.
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. The Buccaneers need to move him to another position where his skill set has a better chance of being helpful.
LG 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. He's never had a season in the NFL where he's been a true asset.
C Ali Marpet was the best player on this line in 2016. He had the biggest edge in run blocking. He showed growth in all areas in his second year in the NFL after getting drafted in the second round in 2015. He's expected to make the move from guard to center in 2017 where should still be quite solid.
RG Joe Hawley started 15 games in 2016 at center. This year he'll compete for the starting job at right tackle where he can only be a neutral option.
RT Demar Dotson peaked in 2013, but he's been a league average player over his last four seasons. He missed a couple of games in December due to a concussion.
This line has one emerging talent and one steady option. Left tackle is a huge issue that needs to be solved for Winston to have a larger window to make big plays. Both guards look to be below the league average. Based on this, I would temper my expectation in both the run and passing game.
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing TDs touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing TDs (TDS).
This information is based on 2016, which will work as our starting point for 2017. 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.
2016 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2016.
2016 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL last year.
2016 Adjustment is based on the 2016 league average and the 2016 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat and the basis for strength of schedule.
Tampa plays two teams (BUF and MIA) with risk defending the run in 2016 and both of those games come within the first seven games of the season. Over the last 13 weeks of the year, the Bucs have six games (NYG, NE, ARI, CAR X 2, and GB) against teams that had success against opposing running backs.
The Buccaneers have seven games (CAR X 2, NO X 2, ATL X 2, and GB) against teams that struggle to defend the pass. All of these games come over the last nine games of the season. The Bucs have four below par matchups (CHI, MIN, ARI, and BUF), which all come early in the year.
The Buccaneers have a neutral schedule for their rushing defense. They have on tough matchup (BUF) and three favorable games (MIN, NYG, and DET).
Their pass defense will be tested in seven games (NE, ARI, NO X 2, ATL X 2, and GB). Tampa faces three teams (MIA, BUF, and NYJ) with low upside passing the ball.
Tampa ranked 22nd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (1,875) with 15 rushing TDs. Ball carriers gained 4.4 yards per rush with seven runs over 20 yards.
They had the same finish in passing yards allowed (4,012 – 22nd) with 24 TDs and 17 Ints. The Bucs' offensive line had 38 sacks. Tampa gave up 7.7 yard per pass attempt and a league high 16 completions over 40 yards.
DT Gerald McCoy had 45 sacks over the last five seasons. He's been an edge at his position for most of his career while playing his best ball in 2013. Gerald is a former first round pick (2010). DT Chris Baker played his best ball over the last two years for the Redskins leading to 100 combined tackles and 9.5 sacks. DE Robert Ayers missed four games in each of his last three seasons while recording 21 combined sacks and short tackles (22, 41, and 29). Robert will start the year as age 32 while being a first round pick in 2009. DE William Gholston signed a five-year extension in March worth $37 million. His game has limited value in sacks (10 in 57 games) with success defending the run. DE Noah Spence had 5.5 sacks in rotational playing time in his rookie season after getting drafted in the second round. His career started at Ohio State where Noah battled his inner demons leading to a couple of failed drug tests plus an arrest in 2015 for an alcohol issue. Spence cleaned up his act and his road to the NFL ran through Eastern Kentucky in 2015. He projects as an upside edge pass rusher with his best value coming from his strength and his willingness to deliver effort on every play. Noah will need to add more variety to his pass rushing moves to have elite success in the NFL. Spence will create disruption on many plays leading to a winning edge.
LB Kwon Alexander produced 145 tackles in his second season in the league with three sacks, seven defended passes, one Ints, and one TD. Kwon is a developing talent with three down ability. LB Lavonte David lost 60 tackles off his 2015 resume while still adding five sacks with and a Ints and a TD. Lavonte was an elite player in his first two seasons in the league while being just a league average player over the last two years. Devante Bond could be the favorite to win the other starting job at linebacker after getting drafted in the sixth round.
CB Brent Grimes had his best season of his career at age 33. He had a career high 24 defended passes with four Ints and a TD. Grimes has 17 Ints and three TDs over the last four seasons. CB Vernon Hargraves was unimpressive in his rookie season after getting drafted in the first round. He did start 16 games with solid production in tackles (76) with nine defended passes (9) and a Int. Vernon is extremely athletic with an edge in his technique in coverage with play making skills. His quickness will play well at the next level, but Vernon may have some risk in the deep passing game against fast WRs as his top end speed isn't elite (4.50 – forty as the 2016 NFL Combine). Hargreaves will add value in run support. S J.J. Wilcox was brought in two start after showing improved play in 2016 even with decline in his tackles (49). His game does have risk in pass coverage. Rookie Justin Evans will compete with Chris Conte for the other start job. Evans offers the most upside after getting drafted in the second round.
This defense is a coin flip in the secondary with Grimes possibly regressing and Hargraves expected to improve. Tampa has two linebackers with talent and three defensive lineman with a chance to offer winning value. The Bucs play in a tough division to have risk in the passing game. Overall, I expect the most improvement coming in the run defense. Only a matchup play against a weak passing offense.
QB Jameis Winston - Solid/Safe Pick
Over his two seasons in the NFL, Winston has a 15-17 record. He passed for over 4,000 yards in both years (2015 - 4,042 and 2016 - 4,090) with growth in passing TDs (28 - 22 in 2015) in his sophomore year. Jameis lost his value in rushing TDs (1 - 6 in 2015) while gaining fewer yards per carry (3.1 - 3.9). Other than six Ints over the first three games of the season, Winston started off the year well in yards (929) and TDs (8) thanks to massive passing attempts in Week 2 (52) and Week 3 (58). Over the last 13 games of the season, he never had over 40 attempts in any game while producing only two games with over 300 yards passing and two games with three TDs. Last year, he only had one plus weapon (Mike Evans) while Cameron Brate adding value mid-season. Tampa added a big play WR in DeSean Jackson and an elite rookie TE. All of this should add to more upside, but he is the mercy of his questionable offensive line. A healthy Charles Sims should help out of the backfield. His next step should be 4,500 combined yards and 30+ TDs.
RB Charles Sims - Low Potential
After entering 2016 as the pass catching option on Tampa, Sims had a chance to take the starting job and run with it with Doug Martin hurt and off his game. He had 37 combined touches in Week 3 and Week 4 leading to 159 combined yards with eight catches and a TD. A knee injury cost him the next eight games with empty results in his three games (50 combined yards and three catches, 19 combined yards and three catches, and 42 combined yards and four catches) when returning. His season ended in Week 17 with a chest muscle injury. This season he should regain his role as the top pass catching options, but he may have more competition for touches in the running game. Upside of 150+ touches if he repeats his 2015 opportunity.
RB Jacquizz Rodgers - Fantasy Handcuff
As a late replacement to the roster to cover the injuries in the backfield for Tampa in 2016, Rodgers had 658 combined yards on 142 touches with two TDs and 13 catches. His best success came in his first two games with starting snaps (129 combined yards and five catches and 163 combined yards with a catch). This season he'll compete for a backup role.
WR Mike Evans - Stud (low risk)
The lack of weapons in the passing game for Tampa gave Evans the second-best opportunity in the NFL for targets (173) in 2016. His catch rate (55.5) has been low in each season in the league (2014 - 55.3 and 2015 - 50.0). Mike had his second year with an edge in TDs (12) with regression in yards per catch (13.8). He now has over 1,000 yards receiving in each season in the NFL with a career high 96 catches. Evans scored eight of his TDs over the first eight games of the season while posting four games with over 100 yards receiving (10/132/1, 11/150/2, 6/105, and 8/104/2). Three of these games came at home. This year Winston will have more options in the passing game helping the offense move the ball, but also stealing some looks. He's the best scoring option on the roster, but Mike needs to improve his catch rate to offer repeatable impact with a dropdown in chances. Floor of 90 catches for 1,350 yards and double-digit TDs.
WR DeSean Jackson - Solid/Safe Pick
For the fifth time in his nine years in his career, Jackson gained over 1,000 yards receiving and third time with 100 targets or fewer. He led the league in yards per catch (17.9) for the third time in his career with regression in his catch rate (56.0). In his career, DeSean has 46 TDs in 127 games. His presence will draw some attention away from Evans, but it will also lead to Jackson being singled covered on a high percentage of plays. In 2016, the Bucs completed 211 passes for 2,792 yards and 17 TDs on 361 targets to the WR position. Possible 65+ catches for 1,000+ yards and a handful of TDs. I do expect regression in his yards per catch due to passing window for Winston. WR3 in PPR leagues with a wide range of outcomes coming from week-to-week.
WR Chris Godwin - Dynasty Only
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 challenge 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.
WR Adam Humphries - Low Potential
In his second year in the league, Humphries caught 55 of his 83 targets for 622 yards and two TDs. Adam flashed in Week 3 (9/100 on 12 targets), but he had fewer than 60 yards receiving in his next 11 games. His only other game of value came in Week 17 (10/94 on 13 targets). Possession type WR, but his opportunity will take a step back with Jackson, Godwin, and Howard added to the roster.
TE Cameron Brate - Quality Backup
After short snaps in Week 1 (25) and Week 2 (33) leading to two short games (3/30 and 3/16), Brate flashed his upside in Week 3 (5/46/2). Over his next 11 games, Cameron scored six TDs with five games with five catches or more. His catch rate (63.0) was better than most on the roster. Cameron finished with 57 catches for 660 yards and eight TDs on 81 targets. His success will give him the inside track for the starting TE top and Tampa may run a high volume of two TE sets in 2017. Based on stats, worth a swing, but greatness lies behind him on the depth chart.
TE O.J. Howard - Gamble (high risk)
NEWS: Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard is expected to be primarily a blocker early in the season.
Adam's Take:: Howard has been praised for his run blocking. The Buccaneers offense added weapons and Cameron Brate tied for the NFL lead for tight end touchdowns last season with eight. Jameis Winston has a good rapport with Brate, who isn't as good of a run blocker. It might take some time for Howard to get incorporated into the offense. He's best as a TE2 stash.
O.J. Howard could be the TE that gets overvalued in 2017. I know he has talent based on the limited tape I've watched and his scouting report. He's not a lock to get all the TE snaps after Cameron Brate played well last year. Winston will look for the TE (78/824/11 on 113 targets in 2016) so there is a winning opportunity if Howard emerges as the lead option. Alabama didn't need him to win and they weren't a high profile passing attack. O.J. caught 83 passes for 1197 yards over his junior and senior seasons, but he only scored five TDs. In the high stakes market, I'd like to own a top TE plus land Howard as a TE2 with upside. His name is going to draw attention, but the cloudiness of his opportunity could be a positive to keep his draft value down. The bottom line with Tampa is that Mike Evans is going to be a high volume WR. DeSean Jackson tends to be an injury prone deep threat with 60 to 70 catch ability. This leaves a huge opportunity for the TE to be the number two option in the passing game. Let's set his bar in range with his last two seasons at college with a slight bump in TDs (55/625/5).
PK Nick Folk - Bye Week Fill-in
Folk defeated Roberto Aguayo in Tampa Bay's kicking competition and will be the starting place kicker on opening day. Folk is fairly consistent and the Buccaneers' offense should score plenty of points. Folk could be a solid bye-week fill-in. I'd expect Top-15 production at his position.