As part of the premium content package, we’re unveiling dynasty capsules for every team in the NFL all Spring and Summer. This year, we also have a precursor to every team capsule, with more detail on one of our favorite pieces – the dynasty sleeper. We continue our alphabetical journey through the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Entering his third year as a starter and fourth year in the league, Freeman has a bit to prove. Is he the quarterback we saw in 2010 who posted a 25:6 touchdown to interception ratio and led his team to ten wins or is he the guy we saw in 2011 that posted a 16:22 ratio and only managed four wins? Most likely this is the season that will determine Freeman’s future. He has all of the physical tools you would want in a quarterback. The question is if he can get the mental side of the game back on track after last season. The good news is that his yards and completion percentage both increased last year from the previous year, which shows some growth did take place.
All of this makes Freeman one of the bigger gambles at the quarterback position. He has the tools and the weapons to sneak into QB1 territory; however, the new game plan in Tampa Bay is most likely to be conservative and run heavy. This should give Freeman a chance to gain some confidence back and cut down on those turnovers. It also means that for the immediate future we can only expect to see QB2 numbers from him. Eventually the training wheels might come off if he performs well. If he doesn’t, the Bucs could consider drafting a new quarterback of the future next year.
You might remember Orlovsky from such inspiring events as him running out of the back of the end zone for a safety against the Vikings back in 2008. More recently he was partly responsible for “leading” the Colts to a victory in the “Suck for Luck” race last season. Needless to say, there isn’t a whole lot of promise here. He is towards the bottom of the list when it comes to NFL backup quarterbacks and poses no threat, short or long term, to Freeman’s job. Should he end up starting games at any poin, it will mean very bad things for the fantasy prospects of all Tampa players.
Blount went undrafted out of Oregon in 2010 after having some aggression issues with friends and foes alike. He bounced around to a few training camps and practice squads before catching on with the Bucs part way through the 2010 season. After entering the starting lineup due to injuries, he was very eager to prove he belonged in the league. He exploded with nearly 1,000 yards and five touchdowns over the ten games he started and a few more yards and a touchdown before that. The 2011 season didn’t go nearly as well as he didn’t come close to his 2010 numbers even with several extra games. This drop-off lead to the Bucs drafting Doug Martin in the first round of the 2012 draft.
Since the end of the 2011 season, reports have come out detailing Blount’s main issue as being a lack of motivation and work ethic. There were reports he was out late partying the night before games and that he wasn’t trying in practice. It isn’t clear if it is the new coaching staff or the competition at his position, but the most recent reports are that he is once again highly motivated and performing very well in camp. He opened the first preseason game as the starting tailback and tallied 30 yards on seven rushes with one touchdown. He also had one catch on a designed screen which is significant since he has more career starts (24) than he does career receptions (20). He was hurt in the second week, but it doesn’t seem to be too serious. If he continues to be motivated and keeps producing, he should earn a spot in a 1A/1B type of committee much like the Carolina Panthers have used in past years with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.
Drafted late in the first round of the 2012 draft, Martin was the second running back taken in the draft. He was added with the intent of jump starting the running offense ranked #30 in the league last year. Coming out of Boise State, he was billed as a player with the skills to be a three down back. He has ideal size for a feature back, decent speed, good quickness, and great strength. He was a college workhorse back showing the ability to run inside, turn the corner, pass protect, and catch passes out of the backfield.
Many drafted Martin very early in their rookie drafts, sometimes as early as 1.02 because of his combination of skill and situation. Since arriving in Tampa, the situation hasn’t been quite as clear cut as many of his supporters had hoped. His arrival seems to have motivated Blount to start playing like his 2010 self again instead of the 2011 version. Martin is the superior pass catcher and is faster than Blount, but Blount definitely has the size and experience edge. In the first preseason game, Martin had seven carries for 21 yards and a touchdown compared to Blount’s seven carries for 30 yards and a touchdown. Given the size, veteran preference that most coaches have, and Blount having a slightly better night in the first preseason game, it is looking more and more like this will be a committee attack instead of Martin running away with the full time job as was expected a few weeks ago. Blount’s groin injury could change things, but it’s not believed to be too serious at the time this article is posting.
Smith was a seventh round pick in the 2012 draft and was one of the fastest running backs in the draft class. He ran a 40 yard dash time of 4.33 seconds while checking in at 5’9” and 209 pounds. While at Utah State, Smith split time with fellow 2012 rookie Robert Turbin. Smith has the ability to play on all three downs, but he might lack the durability to be a three down back. Expect him to be a special teams player and to step up if either Blount or Martin go down. Long term he could easily step up to be Martin’s compliment should Blount walk once his contract expires.
An undrafted rookie in 2011, Madu saw brief playing time last year, primarily as a third down back. He was a capable back when on the field, but he didn’t flash anything special. He’s a nice NFL backup, but he will need a lot of injuries to be a worthwhile fantasy player.
After finally escaping the franchise tag in San Diego, Jackson was one of the biggest free agents this past off-season. He was linked to numerous teams before surprising some people and settling on Tampa Bay. Since the moment he arrived, he was the unquestioned WR1 in the offense thanks in part to the lack of options elsewhere on the roster. Historically, Jackson has been one of the more dominant deep threats and red zone presences in the league. At 6’5” and 230 pounds he can out muscle and out jump most cornerbacks in the league if he can’t just run past them.
Playing the role of field stretcher does have its downside for fantasy purposes though. He tends to be a bit of a boom or bust player. He will post games with one or two catches for 30 yards, and he will post games with 7+ catches and well over 100 yards. His career high of 68 receptions puts a bit of a damper on his PPR value as well. This might change a little bit in a new offense, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if someone else lead the team in receptions.
The other thing to keep in mind with Jackson is his age. He will enter the season at the age of 29. While most wide receivers stay very productive into their 30s, guys who rely on their speed tend to drop off sooner than most. He is currently a high end WR2 who will produce WR1 numbers from time to time.
In 2010, Williams had something to prove after being kicked off his college team and sliding in the draft. He definitely proved something when he produced one of the best rookie seasons for a wide receiver in recent history by posting 964 yards and 11 touchdowns on 65 receptions.
The 2011 season showed a pretty decent drop off in yards and especially touchdowns. Like Blount, reports came out this off-season that the drop off was partially due to a party attitude, a lack of motivation and very little dedication. Unfortunately, Williams has a pretty lengthy history of checking out and not working hard if you go back to his college days. He has the talent to be a number one wide out for an NFL team as he showed during a rookie. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he bounced back to his 2010 numbers or even past them. It might be almost as likely that he loses his starting job or gets cut eventually, making him a bit of a risk in the world of fantasy. It definitely helps his cause that there isn’t a whole lot of talent behind him. It ultimately all comes down to if he has the desire to excel. Motivation is everything when it comes to Williams.
Like Williams, Parker arrived in Tampa in 2010; however, Parker didn’t really produce much until the 2011 season when he earned the role as the slot receiver and a returner. He produced 554 yards and three touchdowns from his 40 receptions last year and could see a small uptick in those numbers this year. He showed good burst in the slot and decent hands, but he lacks the speed to succeed on deep routes or outside routes. This lack of top end speed is the only thing holding him back from challenging for the WR2 role in Tampa’s offense, but he has a very solid hold on the slot role and does hold some value as a bye week fill-in or injury replacement, especially in deeper leagues or leagues that give points for return yardage.
Drafted in the second round, Benn was the highest drafted of the three rookie wideouts added to Tampa’s roster in 2010. He was supposed to be half of the starting pair with Williams. Things haven’t quite worked out that way for him. He has struggled to stay on the field and struggled to produce even when he is healthy. His career highs came last season with 30 receptions and 441 yards with three touchdowns – that isn’t even close to fantasy worthy. He is once again injured this pre-season and will struggle to make the roster as a backup. If you’re still holding him on your roster, now might be the time to get anything you can get for him.
With the number of question marks in the Bucs’ wide receiver group, there is room for someone to step up and take charge. Underwood is someone that will have a chance, though it might be a small one. Tampa is his third team in four years, which isn’t really a good sign. Combine that with only 11 receptions over those past three years and it looks even worse. The good news for Underwood is that he has exceptional speed and agility. He just needs to get stronger to fight off press coverage and improve on his route running. His first preseason game showed some promise with three catches for 76 yards. Maybe this will be the year he gets his chance.
Another guy who might seize the opportunity is Stroughter, though his chances are even worse than Underwood’s. Entering his fourth year in the league, all of them with Tampa, he needs to do something this season to stay in the league. He has flashed from time to time, mostly in the slot, but he has really struggled to stay healthy. If he can stay on the practice field, he just might earn more of a role on game day, but we aren’t going to hold our breath.
There was a time when Clark was one of the premiere pass catchers in the entire league, not just at the tight end position. That time has passed. Durability has always been an issue for Clark playing only 16 games in a season once in his career. It has really come to the forefront over the last two seasons. He managed to appear in only 17 games over the last two seasons. Entering his age 33 season, it is hard to believe that those issues will get better. Reports out of training camp are very promising though, and he might actually be the primary pass catching tight end early in the season. Given the lack of quality in the receiver group there are definitely some balls available for the tight ends. We don’t expect him to hold the number one tight end role for very long though, either due to injury or because he has lost a step due to age. If he produces early, trade him while you can.
Stocker is the tight end of the future in Tampa Bay and our sleeper choice. Check out that article for more on why we like him.