32 for 32: Jameis Winston Could be a Value Pick at his 2QB ADP
The NFL announced back in late June that Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston was suspended for the first three games of the regular season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. He will not appeal the ban since it is part of a “negotiated settlement.” The suspension stems from an incident from March 2016 in which a female Uber driver accused Winston of groping her in Scottsdale, Arizona. He has a history of off-the-field issues dating back to 2013. Winston was the subject of sexual assault allegations and was involved in a few shoplifting incidents while at Florida State University. He was even suspended for a game during the 2014 season for vulgar comments.
Winston was selected first overall by the Buccaneers in the 2015 NFL Draft. The one word that comes to mind when evaluating his NFL career from a statistical perspective is inconsistent.
Winston has struggled with turnovers, but has been very effective with attacking defenses vertically. He had 4,826 Air Yards last season which ranked fifth and has been effective throughout his career throwing to different parts of the field.
Winston’s poor decision making off the field will result in him missing games against the Saints, Eagles, and Steelers before returning for the Buccaneers Week 4 matchup against the Bears. This leaves the team with quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Griffin to battle for the temporary starting spot.
The Buccaneers have a decision to make as we approach the end of his rookie contract during the spring of 2020. Is the organization going to invest in him for the long term? Fantasy players who own in dynasty formats could ask themselves a similar question. How will Winston’s suspension affect his supporting cast? What can you expect from the other quarterbacks on the roster? We will discuss that and more as I provide you a line of sight on Winston’s fantasy outlook in 2018.
THE BACKUP QUARTERBACKS
Fitzpatrick is the likely candidate to step in as the Buccaneers starting quarterback. The 13-year veteran recently signed a one-year contract. He has a lackluster career when evaluating it on a per game basis.
Fitzpatrick peaked back in 2015 with the New York Jets. He threw for 3,905 passing yards and 31 touchdowns, but the Harvard graduate with a 48 Wonderlic score could not provide the team a playoff birth. He was the starter last season for three games as Winston dealt with a shoulder injury and finished with a 2-1 record. Fitzpatrick had 115 passing attempts, threw for 745 passing yards, three touchdowns, and one interception in those three starts. He has the unfortunate pleasure of facing three 2017 division champions in Winston’s absence. Fitzpatrick can be viewed as a streaming option in deeper formats.
Ryan Griffin is the likely candidate to back up Fitzpatrick, but will compete for the starting job in training camp. The former undrafted free agent has been a backup the last three seasons and has yet to play an NFL snap in a regular season game. Griffin had an excellent training camp last season, but that momentum was derailed after a shoulder injury in the first preseason game. The Buccaneers front office did sign him to a one-year extension last August. Griffin has spent his entire career in the team’s offensive scheme which is one advantage he has over Fitzpatrick. The probability is low that he gets the nod, but if Fitzpatrick implodes during the preseason we could see Griffin under center during Week 1. Let’s take a moment to examine Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter’s offense and the supporting cast.
THE KOETTER EFFECT
One staple of Koetter’s offensive philosophy is to attack opposing defenses down the field. His passing offenses are built on longer, slower-developing route concepts that include posts, digs, and vertical shots. Koetter’s success with Falcons QB Matt Ryan from 2012 to 2014 was a catalyst for the Buccaneers hiring him as their offensive coordinator back in 2015. He averaged 290.1 passing yards, 1.8 touchdowns, and 0.94 interceptions per game with positive passing fantasy points over expectation during that time frame. Koetter also had similar success with Jacksonville Jaguars QB David Garrard from 2007 to 2010, who averaged 214 passing yards, 1.2 touchdowns, and 0.71 interceptions per game with positive passing fantasy points over expectation.
Koetter’s offenses in Atlanta and Tampa Bay have been very successful.
The Buccaneers have similar offensive personnel to what Koetter had in Atlanta with eerily similar results. What’s been the difference? One thing that immediately comes to mind is points per game. Koetter’s offenses have only averaged between 21.5 points per game over the last three seasons while averaging 24.1 with the Falcons. This consistently ranks in the bottom half of the league year in and year out. This is the big difference between Koetter’s Falcons and Buccaneers teams. The number may seem small, but three points are the most common margin of victory in NFL games. It can make a significant impact on the number of wins and losses of an NFL team. Could the catalyst for the struggles in the red zone be playcalling or player execution? That is up for debate, but the reality is that Koetter is on the hot seat this season and the timing of Winston’s suspension does not help his outlook. The good news is that the Buccaneers have a solid supporting cast to execute Koetter’s offensive philosophy that could catapult them to a winning season.
The Buccaneers’ group of receivers can improve the entire offense and help open up the running game even more in 2018. The team frequently used 4-WR sets last season while also providing targets to their tight ends and running backs.
There is a great deal of receiving talent represented above that could dictate how coordinators choose to defend against. Will they drop more into coverage leaving fewer players to pressure up front? This scenario would allow the Buccaneers’ offensive line to create holes for the running backs as opposed to protecting against the blitz. If the opposite occurs Winston or Fitzpatrick both have receiving weapons to leverage. Ronald Jones, the Buccaneers’ second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, will have an opportunity to make a positive impact as a runner behind an offensive line that ranked 16th in Adjusted Line Yards last season, according to Football Outsiders. The Buccaneers ranked 30 in Open Field Yards which suggests the team leaned heavily on the O-Line to make the running game work last season.
The Buccaneers passing game will revolve around veterans Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, and Adam Humphries. Second-year players Chris Godwin and Bobo Wilson will also have an opportunity to contribute as well.
Evans remains a nice bounce back candidate this season. He was not able to maximize his target volume which resulted in negative receiving fantasy points over expectation last season, but Evans has 1,000 or more receiving yards in four consecutive seasons. One risk to his fantasy outlook in 2018 is the potential breakout of Godwin which could impact Evans’ target volume.
Jackson is also in a prime position to bounce back in 2018 after a disappointing first season with the Buccaneers. Did you know he only caught 55.6 percent of his targets last season? This was a five-year low for Jackson. He also produced his lowest number of Air Yards since 2015. Jackson will enter this season with more rapport with Winston and is someone to target late in fantasy drafts considering his ADP. The quarterback position will be the engine that drives the Buccaneers offense in 2018.
Injuries defined Winston’s 2017 season, but he still set career-bests in completion percentage (63.8 percent), yards per attempt (7.9), quarterback rating (92.2), and interception rate (2.5 percent). The three-game suspension makes him even more of a value in 2QB leagues as other fantasy players begin to fade him. Winston is surrounded by offensive weapons that will allow him to be successful along with a playcaller in Koetter who leans heavily on a vertical passing game to open up the offense. You and I would both agree that we would rather not see Winston “eat another W,” but selecting him late in fantasy drafts as your QB2 or QB3 in 2QB formats could be a decision that helps you win your league.