As the mercury rises and we inch closer to the open of training camps, our resident fantasy football sickos, Brad Evans and Liz Loza, will profile their favorite booms/busts of every NFL team. Today’s topic: The Sunshine State Swashbucklers.
At Ronald Jones’ ADP (57.1, RB26), will he leave owners in the RED or BLACK?
Brad – RED. This time each year coaches, beat writers and players pound the drum of hyperbole. Wild declarations and predictions about player performances are always made, red herrings that intoxicate the gullible. Some are believable. Many are not. Fantasy idiots like me play a similar game.
Conflicting reports about Jones’ projected workload have surfaced in recent weeks. A pair of Tampa writers offer very different views on how the rookie will be deployed. One signaled a full-blown RBBC with Peyton Barber and Charles Sims. Another foresees the youngster handling 15-20 touches per game. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
Barber isn’t a pushover. When he operated last season as the primary rusher Weeks 13-17 he totaled a robust 4.3 yards per carry, 2.68 yards after contact per attempt and a 92.3 catch percentage. More eye opening, he tallied the 14th-best yards created per carry average (1.52) among all rushers and his 56 percent run success rate ranked No. 4 (h/t Sharp Football Stats). Trimmed down in an effort to gain speed, he’s a legitimate threat to Jones. With a strong camp, it’s conceivable he notches 10-12 touches per game, possibly more.
The USC product owns tantalizing potential. He’s tough between the hashmarks (3.5 YAC/att in ’17), evasive (No. 12 in elusive rating) and effective in blitz pick up. However, his slender build (6-foot, 200 pounds) and minimal experience as a receiver raise questions. Among this year’s deep rookie RB group, he ranks No. 6 – Saquon, Penny, Freeman, Kerryon, Michel are ahead – on my list. Royce Freeman, Dion Lewis and Lamar Miller are better options with nearly identical ADPs.
Liz – BLACK. From his lack of patience to reports of a shared backfield in TB, there’s plenty about Jones’ skill-set and situation to make FF enthusiasts nervous. After all, Peyton Barber flashed last year. The UDFA made a name from himself, winning the job away from Doug Martin, who was given way too many chances. It would make sense for Barber to cut into Jones’ workload, right? Yes… except that Dirk Koetter does a lot of things that don’t make any sense.
We’ve seen the Bucs’ HC ride RB after RB (even if they weren’t built to be every-down backs). He did it with Jacquizz Rodgers in 2016 and the start of 2017 (while Martin was suspended). He did it again with the Muscle Hamster until a concussion in Week 12 and subsequent ineffectiveness/disciplinary actions cause him to FINALLY make a change. In each instance, Barber was the after-thought. Having signed to a one-year deal for league-minimum, he’s likely to remain the after-thought.
Tampa Bay used a second-round pick on Jones and they intend to ride the USC alum. He won’t see much work on passing downs initially. That job belongs to Charles Sims, who hauled in 35 balls last season and remains a superior pass-protector. Regardless, his usage on early downs and at the goal line should keep him on the RB1/RB2 bubble. Fans of the virtual game should anticipate an average of 17 rushing attempts per game from the rookie.
Upon hearing the news of Jameis Winston’s three-game suspension, how did you approach Mike Evans’ WR ranking: UP, DOWN or STAY THE SAME?
Liz – STAY THE SAME. At 6-foot-5 and 231 pounds, Evans’ catch radius is massive and should keep him getting looks, regardless of which QB starts under center . In 2017, while Winston was sidelined with a shoulder injury, Ryan Fitzpatrick targeted Evans 22 times (4 total RZ looks) over a two-game span. And as my colleague Andy Behrens pointed out, “I’d be more concerned if I thought more highly of the QB.” Evans is the Yahoo Fantasy consensus WR10 heading into the fall.
Brad – SLIGHT MOVE DOWN. In 17 career games without Winston, Evans, surprisingly, has produced more fantasy points per contest compared to outings with the QB. However, pairing the lengthy wideout with a noodle-armed Ryan Fitzpatrick or inexperienced Ryan Griffin is equivalent to installing carpet in a bathroom. It’s a high EWW! factor. In five career games with the Lorax shot-putting balls in his general direction, Evans averaged a very modest 4.4-74.2-0.4 line.
Because of his mammoth target share, No. 13 is a true blue WR1 in 12-team leagues. However, uncatchable passes (No. 67 in catchable target rate in ’17), persistent drops and a difficult schedule are enough eyesores for me to pass on him at his 21.3 ADP.
Player Pick ‘Em: O.J. Howard (128.7, TE13), Cameron Brate (138.8, TE16) or WR WILDCARD?
Brad – HOWARD. Next to Chicago’s Trey Burton there may not be another tight end with more breakout potential than Howard. He’s a Molotov cocktail in human form, a player with the necessary size (6-foot-6, 250-pounds), speed (4.51 40-yard) and athletic profile (87th SPARQ percentile) to explode. Prospective investors swayed by his unappetizing TE17 finish last season are missing out on a golden opportunity. His advanced profile is chock full of indicators 2018 could be special. As a rookie, he finished No. 1 or No. 2 at the position in yards per target (11.1), yards per pass route (2.56), QB rating when targeted (132.7), target separation, fantasy points per route (0.61) and fantasy points per opportunity (2.65). If not for his minuscule target share (8.0 percent), he would’ve easily crashed the TE1 party.
Cameron Brate, who ran a route on 51.9 percent of snaps played last year (Howard: 34.3 percent), continues to lurk, but Howard’s unique skill set can’t be suppressed much longer. His reported route-running improvements versus man coverage and mental strides only increase the likelihood. If he can break away from the line and wrangle 14-16 percent of the target share, which is very possible with Fitzpatrick presumably under center, a top-eight finish isn’t out of the question.
Liz – CHRIS GODWIN. Going rogue on this one… My No. 5 ranked receiver heading into the 2017 NFL draft, Godwin possesses 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. After putting on a clinic at the 2017 Rosebowl and delivering a grip of wedgies at the Underwear Olympics, this 6-foot-1 and 209-pound wideout demonstrated that his Yahweh-divined talent far out-weighed concerns about his size.
Flashing a kingly amount of promise in his rookie campaign, Godwin converted 8 of 16 looks for 166 yards and a score over two starts (and that was with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center for one of them). Averaging 9.5 yards per target and 2.28 yards per passing route, he displayed efficiency and maturity … something the Bucs could certainly use more of.
Apparently, the organization agrees. Both GM Jason Licht and OC Todd Monken praised the second-year player, promising he’d earned “a bigger role” and the “right to start .” That means he’ll be on the field for three-wide sets. While that alone is unlikely to create fantasy relevant volume – especially when considering the aforementioned TE talent – it does give Godwin more reps. Furthermore, it provides him the chance to edge out DeSean Jackson, who at 31-years-old has zero shot of staying healthy (or chill) for more than 10 games. Godwin is the future, and the future is here (or will be by November).