2019 Buccaneers fantasy football team preview: Can high-flying offense help team soar?

The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all 32 NFL teams between now and the end of July as training camps open. We’ll tackle pressing season-long fantasy questions, Best Ball tips (new on Yahoo for 2019) and team win totals. Next up, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were a fun team in 2018, primarily because of the quarterback carousel between Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick. You never knew when either would deliver a four-touchdown or four-interception performance, and that just helped amp up the drama. Mike Evans was his usual reliable self, but we also saw the emergence and growth of stud-in-the-making, Chris Godwin. With Bruce Arians at the helm of this ship, can the Bucs move forward this season?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers fantasy impact players
Tampa Bay Buccaneers fantasy impact players

BUY or Sell

Ronald Jones, a booty-less, washed ashore Buc his rookie year, has earned much praise this offseason for his work ethic and overall advancements. Likely possessing the upper hand, does the sophomore RB crack the position’s top-30 in .5 PPR?

Liz: BUY. BUY. BUY. Jones was the hill I died on in 2018. Heading into 2019, however, the rum-tum-tum of his quickening drum beat is resurrecting my wilted carcass. The second-round pick out of USC has clearly impressed the Bucs new coaching regime as Tampa Bay has done little to address the position (take a breath, Anderson truthers).

Drawing comparisons to Jamaal Charles during the draft process, Jones’ game possesses an effortless immediacy. He bursts into action right away, accelerating forward before defensive linemen are even in motion. Admittedly his vision has not yet caught up with his athletic explosiveness, which we saw a lot last year. In a Bruce Arians-designed offense and under the tutelage of running backs coach Todd McNair (who coincidentally coached the Trojans’ backfield from 2004-2010), Jones can be coached up.

Ultimately, Peyton Barber, who managed 3.8 yards per touch (RB57) in 2018, is not the answer. And while Anderson has intriguing potential, he’s still a long-shot to make an immediate impact. Jones will get the first crack at the starting gig. Let’s be real, there are backs with less talent who have gone on to produce solid fantasy numbers because of circumstance. Currently going off the board in the eleventh round of twelve-team exercises (RB48), Jones is well worth the gamble.

Andy: Nah. NO. Hell no. Not again.

I took a big L on Jones last year. He face-planted as fully and dramatically as any rookie back in recent memory, somehow averaging just 1.9 YPC. He had persistent ball security issues throughout the summer, too. Nothing went right. He left us with no reason for hope. I’m putting no stock whatsoever in the offseason sunshine from coaches and teammates. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if NDSU rookie Bruce Anderson leapfrogs Jones in the Bucs’ backfield hierarchy. In fact, Anderson has a great shot to be this year’s Phillip Lindsay: An UDFA who makes a huge fantasy impact.

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Checking in on the Big Three

Briefly explain whether Mike Evans (21.1 ADP, WR8), Chris Godwin (52.5, WR22) and O.J. Howard (64.4, TE6) are OVERVALUED, UNDERVALUED or PROPERLY VALUED at their current ADPs?

Liz: Evans - PROPERLY VALUED. A thousand-yard producer for five consecutive seasons, Evans has proven his mettle as a No. 1 receiver. Averaging nearly nine targets per game in back-to-back campaigns, his volume alone makes him a high-end play. Furthermore, his ability to climb the ladder and win in contested situations makes him a fantastic red zone threat. In fact, Evans logged 10 red zone targets in the nine games that Jameis Winston started last year. He’ll endure as the team’s deep threat and WR1 in 2019, making him an easy top-ten fantasy option.

Godwin - UNDERVALUED. My No. 5 ranked receiver heading into the 2017 NFL draft, Godwin continues to showcase his almighty potential. A technician whose football smarts are as sharp as his routes are smooth, the Penn State product can climb ALL the ladders and catch ALL the balls, as evidenced by his 2018 contested catch rate of nearly 48 percent (WR14). With the 179 targets vacated by the respective exits of DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries, Godwin should roll into the corps’ No. 2 spot with alacrity. He’s a candidate for over 100 looks and top-18 FF production.

Howard - PROPERLY VALUED. The ascent may not have happened as quickly as the metrics community had hoped, but Howard’s voyage to the “moon” certainly appears imminent. Finally ahead of Cameron Brate (who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his hip in January) on the team’s depth chart, Howard figures to ball. Converting 34-of-39 catchable targets while also averaging a whopping 11.8 yards per look (TE1), Howard flashed big-play potential in 2018. He’s my TE6 (behind only Evan Engram and Hunter Henry) heading into the fall.

Brad: Evans - PROPERLY VALUED. At the top of the totem pole in air yards among wide receivers a season ago, my distant, slightly more athletic cousin remains one of the game’s preeminent deep-ball threats. WR6 in total .5 PPR points with Winston at the wheel Weeks 6-17 in 2018, Evans will again command 22-24 percent of the targets share in this vertical-centered offense. He’s a terrific Round 2 pick.

Godwin - SLIGHTLY UNDERVALUED. Many in the fantasy community are gaga for Goodwin, and rightfully so. The #ReceptionPerception darling was a master of efficiency in 2018, posting gaudy success rates nearly across the board. Reliable in traffic and equally tough outside the numbers, he’ll crack the position’s top-20 if his target percentage surges into the 19-21 range (15.6% in ‘18). Arians’ bold claims that Godwin could flirt with 100 catches only accelerates the needle push.

Howard - UNDERVALUED. If not for foot and ankle setbacks, the tight end would’ve finished inside the position’s top-five. He finished the year No. 1 in yards per reception (16.6), yards per target (11.8) and fantasy points per target (2.51). Stave off the injury imp and he may join the likes of Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Zach Ertz among TE elites.

Can Jameis Winston put it together?

Jameis Winston finished the 2018 season on a 28 passing touchdown pace. With famed Kangol fashioner Bruce Arians calling the shots, OVER or UNDER 28.5 passing TDs for the QB?

Brad: Just OVER. Glancing at the advanced numbers, particularly completion percentages, Winston is merely an average product. However, fueled by a sensational receiving corps and projected high volume, he’s a strong candidate to reach 30 TDs. Tampa’s presumably dreadful defense combined with Arian’s pass-first propensity arrow to a possible 600 attempt season. At a 123.8 ADP (QB12), he’s reason No. 2,489 why waiting on a QB is the smart money move.

Andy: Sure, I’ll take the OVER. But I’m not sure a 29-touchdown season is quite the same thing as putting it together. At this stage, we’ve seen enough of Winston to understand his clear flaws. (I’d take the over on 15 interceptions and the under on a completion percentage of 65.0.) But Tampa’s receiving corps is loaded and this team’s defense is looking dreadful. This feels like a perfect fantasy storm for Winston, if he can simply stay healthy.

Best Ball Bargain Bin

Liz: BRUCE ANDERSON. As I’ve already mentioned, I don’t think it’s likely that Anderson will make an immediate impact in 2019. However, if Jones can’t get it together (omgpleasegetittogether) then Anderson could be gifted a massive opportunity. Having drawn comps to David Johnson, his running style certainly compliments Bruce Arians’ ability to scheme for fast and powerful backs who can catch and dominate in space. Plus, he has special teams experience so there’s at least a shot of him getting on the field as a rookie. Best to track the former Bison.

Brad: BRUCE ANDERSON. Described as a “fluid” pass catcher by local reporters during Bucs OTAs, the undrafted rookie has an outside shot of being this year’s Phillip Lindsay. His excellence at North Dakota St. as a one-cut runner and sure-handed receiver showcase his upside.

If Ronald Jones falters again and Peyton Barber falls out of favor, Anderson could take on a sizable Year 1 role. Keep in mind RBs under Arians in Arizona averaged 102 targets per year. Even in a committee, he could reel in 40-plus receptions. Watch his progress closely.

Mad Bets (From FanDuel Sportsbook): Tampa Bay 6.5 wins OVER (+110) or UNDER (-130)

Liz: OVER. I know the Bucs defense is lousy and this division will force plenty of shootouts, but I love the idea of Bruce Arians unlocking the offense’s potential. Improving upon the team’s 5-11 record from last year by just two wins does not seem unreasonable.

Andy: UNDER. It’s easy to love this team’s passing game for fantasy purposes, but the division is a buzzsaw and Tampa’s defense should be lousy.

More Fantasy Team Previews

AFC East: Bills | Dolphins | Jets | Patriots

NFC East: Cowboys | Eagles | Giants | Washington

AFC South: Colts | Texans | Jaguars | Titans

NFC South: Buccaneers | Saints | Panthers | Falcons

AFC North: Bengals | Steelers | Ravens | Browns

NFC North: Lions | Vikings | Packers | Bears

AFC West: Chiefs | Chargers | Raiders | Broncos

NFC West: Rams | Cardinals | 49ers | Seahawks

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