QB Josh McCown
(2013 QB Rank—#30, 19.5 FPts/G)
After cutting ties with Josh Freeman, the Bucs allowed 2013 second-round selection Mike Glennon to get his feet wet. Glennon was up to the task for the most part; however the passing game needed a jolt. The new regime in Tampa Bay felt that veteran leadership would not only help kickstart a putrid passing attack but also provide a solid foundation of leadership to change the culture of the team. The team moved quickly to sign an affordable stopgap in Josh McCown during free agency. Handpicked by the new head coaching staff, McCown was anointed the starter as soon as the ink touched the paper on his new deal. He steps into a situation that could yield quality fantasy stats so long as the McCown of seasons past doesn’t show up. During parts of nine seasons with five different teams prior to 2013, McCown was a turnover machine, throwing 44 interceptions against only 37 touchdowns. He was hardly a sure thing as a backup let alone a starter. The Bears took a chance on him and let quarterback guru Marc Trestman figure out how to minimize the turnovers. It worked and when Jay Cutler got hurt the same guy who couldn’t stick with a team stepped right in and caused a small quarterback controversy. Did McCown grow enough as a NFL passer under Trestman to be a reliable quarterback for a team full of hope? If Lovie Smith couldn’t get enough out of Cutler, his chances with McCown can’t be too good. That’s where new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford enters the picture. Tedford should have plenty of room to create an offense that allows its big receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans to work down the field and make plays in the vertical passing game. At the same time, McCown will also reap the benefits from using the running backs in the short passing game. The net result should be a quality fantasy QB2 with upside to start some weeks depending on matchups.
If McCown’s 2014 makes his 2013 success look like a fluke, then the Bucs would be forced to give Glennon another shot. Though the leash will be long for McCown, the news surrounding Glennon has been positive. If given the opportunity in 2014, he would have a similar fantasy ceiling as McCown. He represents the better long-term option for the Bucs but doesn’t have a clear-cut route to the starting job anytime soon, making him a more of a speculation play in dynasty formats.
RB Doug Martin
(2013 RB Rank—#55, 9.7 FPts/G)
After Doug Martin burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2012, he was the center of fantasy owners’ teams. A true feature back, the young Buc was unable to live up to lofty expectations before losing last year’s second half to a shoulder injury. As one of only five running backs to tote the rock more than 300 times in 2012 preceding the injury, you can bet Tampa Bay felt a need to reduce Martin’s workload. In fact, new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford told reporters over the offseason that he didn’t feel one running back could carry the load in today’s NFL. Accordingly, the Buccaneers added dynamic playmaker Charles Sims in this year’s draft to improve the quality of depth behind Martin. The result will be a dip below the 300-carry threshold in a newly-formed RBBC , but Martin’s production in the passing game should continue to provide a slight boost even if he loses a few targets. His touchdown totals may not reach double-digits either considering the competition for carries as well as the ability for Josh McCown to throw a jump ball to one of several big targets. For these reasons, the Muscle Hamster becomes a far better RB2 than RB1 in the fantasy realm. As always, keep a close eye on the new offense during the preseason to gain further insight into Tampa Bay’s RBBC.
RB Charles Sims
(2013 RB Rank—N/A)
With plans on running the ball heavily in 2014, Tampa Bay made a concerted effort to add depth to the backfield and was able to land Charles Sims in the third round. Tampa Bay’s new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford recruited Sims as a college transfer and he is definitely a fan. Tedford’s track record of helping smaller, explosive runners find success should aid in Sims’ ability to be fantasy relevant as early as this year. His fantasy value hinges on opportunity, however, and until we see more from this offensive unit it will be hard to nail down Sims’ exact worth in redraft leagues. If things go well in his first pro season, he could have a Giovanni Bernard type of impact as primarily a third-down option with a few series mixed in throughout the course of the game. Concerns over his durability make projecting much more unwise.
RB Mike James
(2013 RB Rank—#76, 4.8 FPts/G)
Second-year players Bobby Rainey and Mike James are in a battle to help backup Doug Martin. The winner will join rookie Charles Sims on the short end of a timeshare. James is the better runner and had a stellar performance last year in Week 9 against the stingy Seattle defense. In that game, James ran for 158 yards and added two catches. If James can out perform Rainey and prove that he is fully recovered from an ankle injury that slowed him earlier this offseason, he could once again give fantasy owners a brief window of production if Martin were to miss time.
WR Vincent Jackson
(2013 WR Rank—#14, 10.3 FPts/G)
One of the bright spots on Tampa Bay’s offense a year ago was Vincent Jackson. Following his rocky departure from San Diego, Jackson reminded everyone why he is one of the most talented pass-catchers in the NFL by posting one of the best seasons of his career when the rest of the offense seemingly fell flat on its face. Jackson produced in double coverage with a rookie quarterback last season. His yardage totals should stay well above the 1,000-yard plateau in an improved passing game. The Bucs top receiver also received 26 percent of his team’s targets in 2013 but that number is likely to go down with the return of Doug Martin and addition of newcomers Charles Sims and Mike Evans. Based in a run-heavy scheme, Jackson’s fantasy value is marred by inconsistent weekly production. Nevertheless, he won’t be far behind the top dogs as a solid WR2 in all formats even with the addition of talented rookie Evans.
WR Mike Evans
(2013 WR Rank—N/A)
It is hard not to think about the early fantasy impacts of Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones and even Cordarrelle Patterson when forecasting Bucs rookie wideout Mike Evans. First-round talents offer plenty of potential. Fantasy owners need to keep in mind, though, Evans will likely be the third-best option in the passing game on a team that ranked dead last in passing a year ago. A similar player to Vincent Jackson, Evans will make it tough for defenses to defend both sides of the field, especially near the goal where his huge 6’5” frame can block out smaller defenders. The competition for targets will also make him disappear some weeks as long as Tampa Bay is employing a run-orientated offense, however. He should get a chance to contribute early, but counting on the rookie from Texas A&M to be anything more than a WR3 would be unwise.
WR Chris Owusu
(2013 WR Rank—#159, 2.8 FPts/G)
The dropoff in talent at the wide receiver position is significant on Tampa’s roster as former undrafted free agent Chris Owusu will battle veteran Louis Murphy and rookie Robert Herron for playing time behind the starting duo of Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. A productive mini camp has coaches optimistic about Owusu’s chances of securing the job and he is the favorite heading into training camp. Murphy is turning into a career backup but his experience could help him earn a roster spot. Meanwhile, Herron was team’s sixth-round draft choice this season out of Wyoming. He could be a potential fit in the slot and should be a factor in the return game. Regardless of how the final depth chart takes shape the fantasy value dries up after Evans.
TE Brandon Myers
(2013 TE Rank—#19, 5.1 FPts/G)
Brandon Myers was an afterthought in the Giants passing game after being brought in to add some offensive punch from the tight end position. Now with his third team in three seasons, Myers is likely to continue to be a mediocre fantasy option in even during bye weeks. Unless you play in a crazy deep two TE league, Myers and incumbent starter Tim Wright will be waiver wire fodder again in 2014. The Buccaneers also spent a second-round draft choice on the upside of Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot prevented Seferian-Jenkins from being able to participate in OTAs. The 6’6” rookie has the mold of a former basketball player and if he isn’t named the starter from Week 1, he should gain playing time as the season progresses. With the sum of the parts seemingly greater than any one player, it is quite possible that the team ends up using a committee approach at the tight end position in 2014.