With the NFL Draft and free agency having come and gone, we’ll break down all sorts of fantasy-relevant questions entering the 2018 season. Up next is a look at the development of 2015’s No. 1 overall draft pick.
Jameis Winston Took a Step Forward in 2017 and Has the Talent Around Him to Do It Again
Winston’s 3-10 record as a starter didn’t help earn him many new fans, but he did manage to set career-high marks in completion percentage (63.8%), yards per attempt (7.9), and quarterback rating (92.2).
The clock is ticking on the Winston and Dirk Koetter era in Tampa Bay — the team could feasibly move on from both at the end of the season — but there shouldn’t be any excuses for either of them in 2018 thanks to the team’s most-loaded supporting cast in years. The Buccaneers are projected to feature wide receivers Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, and Chris Godwin, and tight ends Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard. There’s reason to be optimistic about each of them:
- Evans joins A.J. Green and Randy Moss as the only receivers to ever gain at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of their first four seasons.
- Jackson has increased each of his quarterbacks’ average yards per attempt and leads the league in 40-plus-yard receptions since 2014.
- Godwin ranked 13th among all wide receivers in yards per route run last season (per Pro Football Focus, minimum 25% of team snaps played).
- Brate joins Jimmy Graham and Kyle Rudolph as the only tight ends in the league with at least 500 yards and five touchdowns during each of the past two seasons.
- Howard ranked fifth among all tight ends in yards per route run as a rookie last season.
Winston Is Regularly Asked to Make Fantasy-Friendly Throws
Winston has worked behind an average at best offensive line in terms of adjusted sack rate (Football Outsiders) during his career, but some of the blame for that deserves to be placed on Koetter’s downfield-centric scheme.
Overall, Winston is the only quarterback in the league to post an average target depth of at least 10 yards during each of the past three seasons. Winston’s health should probably be the team’s top priority, but consistently throwing downfield has historically been great for fantasy production.
The good news is that the offensive line ranked 10th-best in Pro Football Focus’ pass-blocking efficiency metric in 2017, and former Raven Ryan Jensen, who was Pro Football Focus’ No. 9-graded center last season, has been added to the mix.
The Buccaneers also added running back Ronald Jones II with their second-round pick as a potential upgrade on Peyton Barber, and that along with the departure of Doug Martin and his 2.9 yards per carry should ultimately boost a rushing attack that hasn’t ranked higher than 25th in Rushing Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (Football Outsiders) in either of the past two seasons. (The passing game hasn’t ranked lower than 12th over that span.)
The Price Is Right
There’s no doubt Winston and company face an uphill climb to relevance — BetOnline currently has the Buccaneers win total set at 6.5 with a -150 lean on the over, and the league’s second-most difficult schedule doesn’t help — but the league’s seventh-most expensive offense is too talented to give up on just yet, especially when Winston’s average draft position as of this writing dubs him as just the QB20. Per our NFL Trends tool, Winston has been no stranger to exceeding expectations in spite of difficult circumstances, meeting his daily fantasy salary-implied point total on the road at the second-highest rate among quarterbacks since entering the league.
Winston possesses special arm talent and playmaking ability that allow him to pull off plays that other signal callers simply aren’t capable of making. Armed with his most talented and complete supporting cast in years, he has a chance to cement himself as the next NFC South quarterback due for a massive pay day.
Pictured above: Jameis Winston
Photo credit: Kim Klement — USA TODAY Sports