Buccaneers pressing fantasy questions: Winston, Evans set to pillage competition

3-Point Stance: Buc up! Winston to climb into QB top-five

As the mercury rises, Brad Evans and Liz Loza will tackle pressing fantasy questions tied to every NFL team. Read, ponder and get a jump on your offseason research. Monday’s topic: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers

BUY or SELL: In a his third year, Jameis Winston breaks out in a big way and finishes 2017 among the top-ten fantasy QBs.

Liz – BUY. A top-eleven fantasy producer in 2016, Winston showed that he wasn’t afraid to sling it, averaging more than five deep ball attempts per game. That’s pretty impressive considering that his receiving corps was made up of Mike Evans and an ever-rotating host of burst-less vets and/or uninspiring back-ups. It also explains his high rate of interceptions. While the turnovers aren’t ideal, I’d prefer a QB with high-value upside over a yawn-inducing option like Alex Smith.

The additions of WR DeSean Jackson and metrics-darling TE O.J. Howard should continue to buoy Winston’s numbers. Already demonstrating his passing prowess to the tune of 175.5 air yards per contest (the third most for any QB in 2016), the Bucs’ signal caller figures to further exploit defenses with two top-tier targets. He’s my QB8 for drafting purposes.

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Brad – BUY. Considering I have Winston currently slotted as my QB5, the above statement is ultra-conservative. Yes, you read that correctly, I firmly believe the third-year passer sits at the table among fantasy elites. New additions DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin with holdovers Mike Evans, Adam Humphries and Cameron Brate stockpile the powder kegs. Many believe the Bucs offensive line isn’t ironclad, but if it can prove at least serviceable, Winston leaps into the upper echelon.

Last fall, Winston was erratic. Often, his deep balls missed the mark (QB26 in deep-ball comp%) and his red-zone work was sketchy (QB22 in red-zone comp%). But D-Jax, still one of the game’s premier field stretchers, should help cure the passer’s 2016 ills. His unappealing 7.2 YPA last year will only rise.

Offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s planned increased use of two-tight end sets also provides another boost. A season ago, Winston notched an impeccable 123 QB rating and 12:0 TD:INT split when throwing out of that formation. His rushing contributions only enhance the overall profile. Mix the ingredients together and a tasty top-five brew is in the near future. FF: 4,311 passing yards, 31 TDs, 15 INTs, 196 rushing yards, 2 rush TDs.

BELIEVE or MAKE BELIEVE: When the Muscle Hamster, Doug Martin, returns from suspension, he once again joins the RB2 ranks.

Brad – MAKE BELIEVE. Reports out of Tampa say Martin is a changed man since leaving rehab. He’s refocused and stepped up his commitment level. Throwing up tonnage in the weight room, he is “bulkier,” “quicker” and resembling the Doug Martin of 2015. In other words, he appears to be antithesis of the sloth-like, disinterested rusher seen throughout 2016, a player who finished outside the top-70 in yards per carry (2.9), juke rate (RB60) and breakaway run percentage (RB75) . If you’re buying what the hyperbolists are selling, he is a remarkable bargain at his 73.2 ADP (RB27) price tag.

I, however, am not following the racket.

Martin may have turned his life around, but his fantasy prospects remain dim. For starters, the Tampa offensive line, which struggled creating favorable running lanes, particularly on early downs, is a significant question mark. More concerning is Martin’s three-game suspension. If Jacquizz Rodgers or dark horse Jeremy McNichols excel in the presumed starter’s absence, a reasonable outcome Weeks 1 (at Mia) and 2 (vs. Chi), there’s no guarantee he’ll return to a featured role once activated. A complicated RBBC may unfold.

Point blank, the veteran is potential wasted bench space in a crossroads season. Danny Woodhead, Samaje Perine, Frank Gore and LeGarrette Blount, RBs typically drafted some 15-20 picks after Martin, are safer alternatives.

Liz – BELIEVE. A three-game suspension to open the season certainly hurts, but all reports out of Tampa Bay indicate that Martin is less hamster and more mongoose heading into 2017. Coach speak this time of year is often as loud as it is false, but it’s telling that the organization did little to address their backfield in free agency or the draft, adding only Jeremy McNichols in the fifth round.

Buzz surrounding the rookie is mounting, but with limited pass protecting experience he’s not a threat to dethrone Martin… yet. Come Week 1, it’s likely we’ll see Jacquizz Rodgers – who averaged 3 red zone carries per week while filling in as the team’s RB1 – in the starting role while Martin serves his suspension. Pass-catching back Charles Sims also remains on the team, but given his inability to run up the middle and penchant for getting hurt, he’s buried behind the other two options.

Last season Dirk Koetter called the seventh most rushing plays in 2016, averaging more than 28 attempts per game. He also leaned heavily on a singular back, as evidenced by the fact that both Martin and Rodgers averaged at least 20 carries per outing in instances in which they were starting/healthy. Currently the twenty-eighth RB off the board, Martin’s potential volume makes him a sneaky grab.

Overvalued/Undervalued/Properly Valued — Mike Evans (9.49 ADP, WR3) and DeSean Jackson (114.46, WR42).

Liz – PROPERLY VALUED. Leading all receivers in targets last year (171), Mike Evans was the second most productive fantasy player at the position. Averaging six grabs per contest, the 6-foot-5 and 231 pound wideout racked up the sixth most looks among fellow WRs. The addition of DeSean Jackson to the corps may mean a slight hit in his number of opportunities, but also means less defensive attention. Entering his fourth season in the league, Evans’ ascent figures to continue. FF: 88-1,311-11

UNDERVALUED. Last year the Bucs’ defacto WR2, Adam Humphries, averaged 3.7 receptions per outing. With the exception of 2010, Jackson has hauled in a minimum of 3.7 grabs per contest any season in which he’s started at least 11 games. It’s fair to assume then that he’s likely to put up 4 grabs per week. Given that he’s averaged over 17 yards per catch in back-to-back campaigns, a 60-1,065-5 stat line seems entirely possible. Those are top-thirty numbers, making DJax a WR3 in twelve team exercises.

Brad – PROPERLY VALUED. Evans, clearly my cousin and athletic equal, continues to ascend. His 96-1321-12 effort from 2016 may not be duplicated, but he’s every bit a WR1 and top-10 selection. His extreme length, long downfield strides and skyward hops make him extremely difficult to contain. Last year he carved out a prominent red-zone role (26.9 red-zone TGT% in ’16) and displayed ridiculous in-traffic tenacity (No. 9 in contested catch rate). With D-Jax on roster, his 30.0 targets share won’t be repeated and his catch rates are rather repugnant (56.1 catch% in ’16), but he’s a superb talent locked into 145-155 targets who will occasionally benefit from single coverage. Falling short of 85-1250-10 would be shocking. He’s my WR3.

UNDERVALUED. Nearing 31, the trash-talking wideout can still leave defenders inhaling dust. His 10.1 yards per target, 17.9 yards per route and 15.9 target distance notched last year in Washington tell the story. Winston needs to deliver crisper passes downfield, but he’s sure to fall in love with D-Jax’s blazing speed and exploitable opportunities working opposite Evans. As always, he’s feast or famine on a week-to-week basis, but topping 1,000 yards with a handful of scores are doable. He’s an attractive WR3 in 12-team formats.

Chuck passes at Brad and Liz follow them on Twitter @YahooNoise and @LizLoza_FF