Since the end of Tampa Bay’s disappointing 2014 campaign, many significant additions to the team have brought reasons for optimism. With the addition of Dirk Koetter at offensive coordinator, a new franchise quarterback, and an array of budding offensive talent and rookie additions, the Buccaneers may not be that far off from competing for a division championship in the relatively soft NFC South. In this article, I will discuss the fantasy implications of the new look Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense.
Dirk Koetter, the Chameleon Coordinator
Koetter has been an offensive coordinator in the NFL for some time now, coaching for the Jaguars from 2007-2011 and the Falcons from 2012-2014. Looking at the past performances of the offenses he has coached, there appears to be no inclination as to whether he favors a pass or rush heavy attack on offense. However, a trend begins to emerge when analyzing the skill position players from each team. Koetter does not simply rely on a static offensive system that forces players to adapt to a role in which they may not be best suited. The man is fantastic at tailoring offenses geared towards fully utilizing the top talent available on the team.
For example, during the years when Jacksonville had Maurice Jones-Drew at running back and David Garrard playing decently at quarterback, he ran a mostly balanced offensive attack. When Blaine Gabbert arrived in Jacksonville, the pass attempts dropped to league lows, while the rushing attempts and offensive rushing ranking sky-rocketed into the top five in the league. During his tenure in Atlanta with Matt Ryan at QB and relatively weak talent at RB, the passing offense was consistently top five in the league and conversely, rushing attempts were typically bottom five.
Koetter is also adept at featuring the top talent he has in the receiving core. When Marcedes Lewis and Tony Gonzalez were top talents at tight end on their respective teams, both were either first or second in targets. When Jones-Drew was the most potent weapon on the Jacksonville offense, he was heavily targeted in the pass game, much like how Roddy White and Julio Jones were relied upon heavily at wide receiver last year in Atlanta.
The man is well versed at adapting his system to his talent, and is able to produce highly productive offenses featuring players at different positions. His addition to the coaching staff will be a massive upgrade in Tampa Bay, especially after last year, when former OC Jeff Tedford left due to health reasons and was replaced by ill-equipped QB coach Marcus Arroyo.
Overview of the Offense
When evaluating the weapons on the offensive side, it’s pretty clear the passing game will be featured. The addition of Jameis Winston should produce a big step up in production. Even the most fervent Winston detractors would be apprehensive to say he is a downgrade from the combination of Josh McCown and Mike Glennon. Winston may make mistakes early on in his career but he is a natural under pressure and will continue firing passes, much like that of the Giants’ Eli Manning. Winston’s aggressive style should work great with a receiving core that is essentially a group of Ents from Lord of the Rings.
I expect Mike Evans to lead the passing game in 2015. He is a more efficient version of Vincent Jackson, who will be turning 32 years old this year. Last season, Jackson saw 16 more targets than Evans, yet only had 2 more completions and 10 fewer touchdowns. The elder receiver had the ninth most targets in the league (138), yet barely eclipsed 1,000 yards. He should not be held fully responsible for the poor stat line, but Evans was able to succeed greatly in spite of the dreadful QB situation.
The remaining giant of this trio, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, is in a good position to take the next step of development in his career. However, looking at the numbers from his last season, there are reasons for pessimism in terms of his development. In 2014, the rookie tight end posted the second lowest catch rate, the third highest drop rate, and the fifth lowest yards per route run in the NFL. While all of this was very poor, he was only able to run 238 routes and garner 34 targets. Rookie tight ends are not expected to post fantastic numbers early on, but his development into a quality tight end is anything but guaranteed. I remain cautiously optimistic, but will not invest significantly until he shows more.
When it comes to the running game, I would not expect much in terms of production. The Buccaneers did not pick up Doug Martin’s fifth year option, and appear to be relying on this regime’s project RB Charles Sims. Sims is a smaller back that possesses decent straight line speed, but below average agility for a man of his stature. He does well in the passing game and could prove to be a significant third down threat. While it is possible Sims takes over three-down responsibilities, I think it would be a detriment to the team as a whole for him to carry the full load. It will most likely remain a committee situation. If there is a reason to be optimistic about the ground attack on Tampa, it would be the eighth overall run blocking grade the offensive line received from Pro Football Focus. Perhaps with the addition of Koetter, the TB rushing attack could show something more than it previously has. I won’t be betting on that occurring though.
Conclusion and Fantasy Outlook
Overall, I think the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have plenty to be excited for this upcoming NFL season. With a proven effective new OC, a possible franchise quarterback in the making, and young talent that appear poised to take significant jumps forward in their development, the production will undoubtedly improve from the disaster that was the 2014 season.
I am expecting the Buccaneers to rely more upon their passing game as there were really no significant additions to a defense that was downright terrible and was only supported by the brilliant play of a handful of all-star players.1 Evans could approach top five WR numbers in fantasy, proving to be a value at a seemingly already high ADP of 22 overall. Jackson will most likely take a large step back from the amount of work he received last season, becoming more of a diversion on the field and a huge disappointment for those that draft him at his current 7th round ADP. Seferian-Jenkins’ range of outcomes is highly variable, and his 11th round ADP is not completely indicative of the risk you are taking by drafting him, but it could pay dividends if he is able to reach his potential. Winston will be a value to his team, but don’t expect him to be an initial value to your fantasy team. Lastly, Sims may sporadically post RB2 numbers throughout the season, but I expect the practice of attempting to anticipate that will be frustrating to say the least. His current 11th round ADP completely justifies taking the risk on him, but I highly doubt that will remain throughout the summer.
- Gerald McCoy, Alterraun Verner, and Lavonte David. (back)