Schedule could help Bucs players in fantasy football
In a previous life, back way before Twitter, before I covered the Bucs, before I even covered USF for nine years, I wrote a weekly fantasy football column for what was then the St. Petersburg Times back in 2003.
And while it still seems way too early for you to be having your fantasy football draft, I'm reminded of a helpful trick I used to advocate to help take your fantasy team from just making the playoffs to really competing for a championship: sneaking a peek at which defenses players will face in the weeks associated with fantasy football playoffs. To me, it's even more important than being aware of when your bye weeks fall. Everybody has a bye week, but not everybody gets to face inferior defenses when fantasy championships are decided.
That's generally considered Weeks 14 through 16, and it turns out to be a huge advantage for the Bucs. Tampa Bay gets to play the Saints in Week 14 and again in Week 16 -- defenses always change from year to year, but the Saints were a statistically terrible defense last year. New Orleans gave up 45 passing touchdowns -- no other team allowed more than 36 -- and finished second in the NFL in passing yards allowed, behind only the Giants. In between in Week 15, the Bucs face a Cowboys defense that gave up the fifth-most rushing touchdowns in the NFL last year. Even if Bucs players aren't start-worthy most of the year, they could be when it matters most.
What other NFL teams face bad defenses in the fantasy playoffs? The Cardinals, for instance, play the Dolphins (fifth-most pass TDs allowed last year, fifth-most rushing yards) in Week 14 and then they get that same bad Saints defense in Week 15. The downside? If you make it to Week 16 with prominent Cardinals, they face Seattle that week, and the Seahawks gave up an NFL-low 14 passing touchdowns last year. If you can find fantasy value on the Bills, they get the Browns and Dolphins in Weeks 15 and 16, which bodes well for their production. Along similar lines, the 49ers' Carlos Hyde is a top-12 running back, but he'll open the playoffs in Week 14 against the Jets, who allowed four rushing TDs in all of 2015 and the second-fewest rush yards in the league.
The Bucs were great at piling up yards last season, but not so good at amassing touchdowns, so they're not very highly regarded in fantasy rankings. Only two Bucs are going in the top 100 of current online drafts at ESPN and Yahoo -- RB Doug Martin ranks 23rd overall in "snake" (non-auction) drafts on ESPN and 21st on Yahoo; WR Mike Evans is close behind at 25th and 24th, respectively. On average, you don't see another Bucs player drafted until around pick 130 -- that's the 11th round in a 12-team league, or stock-your-depth territory.
Jameis Winston, coming off a 4,000-yard rookie season, is the 20th quarterback taken in ESPN leagues and 23rd in Yahoo -- mind you, a 12-team league would typically only draft 24 quarterbacks. He's almost certain to outperform this ranking -- Rams rookie Jared Goff, for instance, ranks 16th among QBs in Yahoo drafts, which is ridiculously optimistic, even for a backup with upside.
The only other Bucs players consistently drafted are RB Charles Sims (132nd in ESPN, 187th (!) in Yahoo), WR Vincent Jackson (137/142) and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (175/168). As late-round shots go, you can do a lot worse than Sims, who should get more consistent use at receiver in addition to being one of the most productive backup running backs in the league.