Jameis Winston’s arsenal finally got a much needed upgrade with 30-year-old wide receiver DeSean Jackson signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a three-year, $35 million dollar contract (which includes $20 million guaranteed). The electric deep threat will bring a boost to a Buccaneers offense that is in the most offensive-centric division in the league. More so, it will give Winston a weapon he can utilize alongside the burgeoning beast that is Mike Evans and allow him to continue to climb the ranks of the league’s best quarterbacks.
In his first two years in Tampa, Winston has had Evans and a pile heap of spare parts and loose ends. Vincent Jackson’s last quality year was in 2014, right before Winston arrived, and he has only recorded 48 receptions over the last two seasons combined. Doug Martin and Austin Seferian-Jenkins were thought to be major parts of the equation, but have since fizzled out due to off-the-field and health issues. Tight end Cameron Brate had a quiet breakout in 2016, finishing second on the team with 57 receptions. However, outside of Evans, Brate and undrafted slot receiver Adam Humphries, who piled up 55 receptions (for only 622 yards and one touchdown) no other Buc recorded more than 25 receptions. Winston was severely lacking any sort of weapons, and although running back Charles Sims has complied 75 receptions over the past two seasons, it was clear they needed to bring someone in to complement Evans.
DeSean Jackson To The Rescue
No free agent, and perhaps no other receiver in the league period, complements Evans more than Jackson. The speedy, outside threat led the NFL in yards per reception in 2016, hauling in 56 catches for 1,005 yards, good for 17.9 Y/R. The Cal product has only dipped below 15 Y/R once in his career and went for 20.9, 17.6, and 17.9 over his last three seasons in Washington. Winston is well known for his deep ball and having Jackson on the outside will certainly uplift that trait into another echelon. Having a guy like Jackson, who is continually 15-20 plus yards down the field, will also lift Winston’s average yards per attempt and average yards gained per pass completion. These stats may seem menial, but will have a larger ripple effect on Winston’s total yards and total completions, two stats that are critical to his accumulation of fantasy points.
But more so than anything, touchdowns are the largest single factor in quarterback fantasy production. And the presence of Jackson will almost certainly increase Winston’s touchdown output. While Jackson himself has never been a prolific touchdown scorer, (6-4-4 over the last three years) the skill-set he brings to the table opens the door for everyone else. Like a three-point shooter in basketball, Jackson’s ability to stretch the field and occupy the attention of defenses will allow Evans, Brate, and most importantly, Winston, to produce at a higher level. If he can throw 28 touchdowns with the offensive core he had in 2016, the addition of Jackson and the continued emergence of Brate and dominance of Evans would make that 28 a floor for Winston in 2017, with the possibility of going over 30 a near reality.
DJax, Evans, and Winston: The Next Gen Bucs
NFL.com’s “Next Gen Stats” are a new tool pushing forward the way we analyze players. Popularized by Matt Harmon, the stats offer a visual look at on-field production of both quarterbacks and receivers. Looking at Jackson’s and Evans’ Next Gen game charts from 2016, their complementary skillsets are evident time and time again. Look first at Jackson’s Week 16 game versus the Bears:
The vertical nature of his game is abundantly clear and this chart really summarizes what to expect from Jackson. He is going to stretch the field, make big plays, and rack up yards after the catch. The threat of him blowing the top off a defense alone will be enough to give Evans more room to operate and for Winston to continue to improve his game. Speaking of Evans, lets look at his game chart from Week 3 versus the Rams:
We see here the main attributes of his game. He’s going to be a target hog that eats up receptions for breakfast. His yards after catch aren’t on the same level as Jackson, but the volume of his catches equals it out. Furthermore, his size and catch radius makes him a nearly unstoppable Red Zone target, giving Winston a go-to when they’re down by the goal line. Evans is still only 24 and the tandem of him and Winston coupled with the addition of Jackson is going to do damage to opposing defenses for at least the next few seasons. We can further see the potential that this new WR duo offers by looking at Winston’s Next Gen game chart from Week 10 versus Chicago:
His accuracy is apparent, especially in the mid to deep ranges of the field. Furthermore, his touchdown and pass completion of 30+ yards illustrate his deep ball skills, an ability that will only be utilized to a larger extent by Jackson. The growth of home run plays will be a boon to his fantasy potential and will secure him as a low-end QB1 for 2017. The Next Gen stats really illustrate the potential of Winston and the immense talent he already possesses. He will need to cut back on his interception rate, but all of his tools are present and he is beginning to show why he was the number one pick. The addition of Jackson should only expedite his maturation process as a quarterback. The loss of Martin along with the addition of Jackson should also see an uptick in Winston’s attempts, which already ranked 11th-highest in the league at 567 in 2016.
Jameis Winston: Making the Leap
All together, his ceiling is only rising now that he has two elite playmakers on his side and the signing of Jackson should increase his fantasy potential for 2017. He made a sizable leap from his rookie to sophomore season and that leap should only get bigger as he transitions to year three. Offensive minded head coach Dirk Koetter will certainly create a system for both receivers to complement and thrive off one another and for Winston to be in the best possible offense he can be in. While running back remains a question, the Bucs offense is gaining on its division counterparts, New Orleans and Atlanta, who have scored in a frenzy the past few seasons.
Winston will enter 2017 as an elite QB2 in your superflex leagues, but due to a high ADP will likely be treated as a low-end QB1. He went from 22 to 28 touchdowns in his first two seasons and it would not be out of the question at all for him to surpass thirty in year three. If he can lower his interceptions, he may present himself as a value play come draft day. The addition of Jackson to go along with the presence of Evans is going to prove to be a major plus for the NFL and fantasy potential of Winston.
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