There’s a whole lot of talent to discuss with the Bucs, and a whole lot of potential for booming fantasy numbers. Then there’s Josh Freeman.
Notable Additions: Between signing Dashon Goldson and trading for Darrelle Revis, Bucs general manager Mark Dominick went mostly defense this offseason, though Peyton Hillis and Kevin Ogletree were signed too.
Notable Draft Picks: The defensive focus continued during the draft, with the exception of Mike Glennon.
The Marquee Men (the elitest of the elite)
Doug Martin (ADP: 3.0): Doug Martin is really awesome (#analysis). You know this, but let’s slobber over some stray numbers from his rookie season anyway.
- As a rookie, Martin finished fifth in rushing with 1,454 yards.
- As a rookie, Martin had 1,926 all-purpose yards, with 12 total touchdowns.
- As a rookie, Martin had five games when he rushed for 125 yards or more, one of which was a 251-yard week.
- As a rookie, Martin had runs of 67 and 70 yards, and a 64-yard reception. Yep, that’s three +60 yard plays.
Oh, and most importantly: as a rookie he finished among the top 15 in fantasy scoring with his 250.5 points, which (depending on your scoring format, as always) was good enough to tie for second at his position.
If we’re going to do something which isn’t nearly as fun and search for the most reaching weakness, I suppose we can turn to Martin’s workload. Largely due to the late-season struggles of Josh Freeman, Martin was ridden hard over the second half of his first year, receiving 25 carries or more in six games. In total, the end result of that was 368 touches in just Year 1.
But of course, any mild concern we may have about Martin’s rookie workload is countered by his youth. He’s only 24, and as I noted in my exploration of the 400-touch curse last week, the effect of heavy touches is inconsistent at best, and mostly cumulative.
Vincent Jackson (ADP: 38.5): During his first season in Tampa, Jackson became a case study in the irrelevance of horrible quarterback play for the truly talented, upper tier receivers. Think Dwayne Bowe, just better.
I’m not meaning to be too hard on Josh Freeman here, because he wasn’t that bad, or at least not during the first half of the season. But at the low-point of his spiral he was providing something between average and replacement-level quarterback play, and yet Jackson still incredibly finished with an average of 19.2 yards per catch. That led the league among pass catchers with at least 50 receptions.
Jackson’s secondary top-popping ability also led to a second-place finish in +40 yard receptions (he had six, one more than that Calvin Johnson guy). He finished with 1,384 receiving yards and eight touchdowns for 182.5 fantasy points, which made Jackson a pretty swell investment with his ADP of 67.8 a year ago.
All of these fun digits were made possible by arguably the most important fantasy football stat for pass catchers: targets. Jackson was targeted 147 times, a high-volume number driven by eight double-digit target games (topping out at 15 in Week 16).
If you’re the smart type, you’ll draft a running back with each of your first two picks. That means in most drafts you’ll miss out on Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall, A.J. Green, Julio Jones, and Demaryius Thomas. It also means that in the third round, snatching Jackson as your WR1 is just fine, even if it doesn’t feel as sexy.
The Middle Men (middle-to-late round options)
Mike Williams (ADP: 90.5): If you buy this version of Mike Williams and definitely not this one, you do it knowing what you’re purchasing, and adjust your expectations accordingly. Or more specifically, you do it knowing the volatility of what you’re purchasing.
Williams has speed, and therefore he has vertical ability. However, he’ll never be mistaken for a truly threatening deep-ball receiver. Instead, he thrives in the red zone, which is why 10 percent of his career receptions have ended with him in the area of the field where six points are scored. That alone isn’t notable (Calvin Johnson, for example, has a career reception/TD rate of 11 percent). But if we combine it with his good yet not great average yearly receptions (64.3), and yardage (910.3, with a single-season high of 996 yards last year), then we begin to see the image of a receiver whose value is nearly restricted to the red zone. That’s what led to his nine touchdowns last year, and 11 during his rookie season.
Regardless of a player’s position, touchdowns are the most unpredictable variable since they depend on game circumstances and, of course, the help of others. Looking back on Williams’ 2012 year that was a bounce back from a poor 2011, 36.7 percent of his fantasy points came through touchdowns. That’s a little high for comfort, but as a WR3 or low-end WR2 at the above ADP, you’ll be happy with Williams, even with the unpredictable nature of the touchdown compiler.
Josh Freeman (ADP: 148.9): The tale of two Freemans comes in both a comparison of years, and a comparison of games in those years.
Last year, his TD:INT ratio of 27:17 doesn’t seem so bad until you realize that 12 of those interceptions came in Week 11 and beyond. That stretch of horrible included two games with four interceptions, which is a bad number regardless of the opponent, but we should note that one of said opponents was the New Orleans Saints, and their secondary which gave up an average of 292.6 yards per game while picking off only 15 passes all year.
A decline in accuracy was to blame for most of Freeman’s throws which landed in hands belonging to opposing players. That’s where the year-to-year bit of awful comes in. A year ago with Jackson aboard and Williams set to hopefully/ideally blossom (again), we were pretty excited about Freeman as a sleeper, late-round quarterback. Then his completion percentage dropped from 62.8 to 54.8.
Ugh? Yes of course, which is why a draft pick was invested in Mike Glennon, and why Freeman will have to wait until after the season to discuss a contract extension. But given his basement crashing ADP and the support both in the backfield and split out wide that still very much exists, it’s easy to justify a late-round flier on Freeman. At worst, he’s a high-end bye week replacement.
The Menial Peons (sleepers, flex plays, and matchup plays)
Kevin Ogletree (ADP: undrafted): There will always be a special place in this blog’s heart for Kevin Ogletree, as for a brief time he granted us the power of prediction, and for that we will be eternally grateful. Primarily a slot receiver, he gave birth to the Ogletree of Life when our opening night Madden simulation experiment last September predicted his random explosion, nearly to the exact numbers (114 yards and two touchdowns, when prior to that his career single-game high was 50 yards, and he hadn’t scored an NFL touchdown).
Now as likely the third option in the slot behind Williams and Jackson, Ogletree’s fantasy value is minimal. But if either of those top options go down, Ogletree should be an immediate waiver wire gem.
The Mop-Up Men (deeeep sleepers and handcuffs)
Luke Stocker/Tom Crabtree (ADP:undrafted): This is the land that tight end play forgot, at least for fake footballing purposes. Although Stocker may be the “starter” in the most hackneyed quotation mark meaning of that term possible, if you’re doing some wire or deep league sleeper dice rolling here, do it with Crabtree. He caught only eight passes last year in Green Bay, yet here’s the yardage on three of them: 27, 48, and 72.
Peyton Hillis (ADP: undrafted): He’s Doug Martin’s handcuff, and he’s also still Peyton Hillis.