What can the Tampa Bay Buccaneers do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.
Inside the Locker Room
with Rick Stroud, St. Petersburg Times
When is it time to cut bait and look elsewhere on some of your fantasy football starters
Rashard Mendenhall is having a bad season. Even when he's not injured, he's not getting the production you probably paid for with a late first or early second round pick.
So when is it time to cut the cord on some of your starters and look elsewhere? That's a hard decision to make because usually you're so invested in high draft picks, and it also tells the other owners in your league "Look at me, I'm an idiot who was stupid enough to draft this guy."
Week 1 of the 2011 NFL season is in the books. Here are some numbers that stood out to me from the Week 1 action that's already happened.
-2 How many owners were screaming at the final play of Sunday night's Cowboys-Jets game when Felix Jones was the last to touch the ball? He was the last of many to lateral the ball as the Cowboys tried to score on the final play from their own 34. And Jones' last touch ended up in the hands of Jets DL Jamaal Westerman. The result will be minus-2 points in many fantasy leagues for the fumble lost by Jones, and perhaps the difference in a win or loss come Tuesday morning.
1 - Targets Green Bay Packers WR James Jones received Thursday night in 20 snaps of action. He turned it into one catch for one yard. Why did he re-sign with the Packers again? Was it just to jumble this receiving corps up even more for fantasy owners?
4 & 1 - Tampa Bay WR Mike Williams and Houston's Andre Johnson were each targeted a league-high four times in the red zone. Johnson caught two of his, including one for a score. Williams caught one of his for a score.
5 -We're down on Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez this year because his numbers have declined. However, he did receive seven targets Sunday against a solid Bears LB corps, and turned it into five catches for 72 yards. All of those numbers are above his 2010 16-game average of 6.8 targets, 4.4 catches and 41 yards per game. Three targets came in the first quarter, three in the third and one in the fourth. He had the third-longest day of the play for the Falcons, a 30-yard catch in the first quarter.
9.75 - Yards per attempt for Chicago QB Jay Cutler, who completed 22-of-32 passes for 312 yards and two scores. He was still sacked five times, which puts him on pace for 80 this season — well above his league-leading 56 last year.
12 - DeSean Jackson, more known for what he is able to do with limited targets, was the go-to guy for Mike Vick Sunday against St. Louis. Jackson was targeted 96 times over 14 games last season for a 6.9 per game average. Sunday, he was targeted 12 times, one behind league leader Roddy White (ATL). Jackson caught six of the targets for 102 yards and a score. He was targeted double-digit times in just three games last season, including the 2010 opener (11), but keep an eye on this trend as it pertains to how Vick sees the field. TE Brent Celek and WR Jeremy Maclin received just three targets apiece.
13 - The Titans ran the ball just 13 times against Jacksonville, and fell to 0-12 all-time when they have rushed 13 times or fewer. Only three times in Jeff Fisher's tenure did the team run 13 times or less.
21.9 - Wes Welker enters Week 2 with his yards per catch nearly double his career average of 10.9 after an eight-catch, 160-yard performance Monday night against Miami. He was at 9.2 before a 99-yard TD catch in the fourth quarter. He also has his average targets per game well above last year's average of 8.2 after Tom Brady went his way 12 times. That's a good sign for Welker owners as he is still a favorite option despite so many mouths to feed.
21.9 - Fantasy points New Orleans Saints RB/return man Darren Sproles had Thursday night. He tied for the team lead in targets (9) and turned it into seven catches for 75 yards to go with two carries for seven yards. On special teams, he had two punt returns for 92 yards, including a 72-yard TD return, and two kickoff returns for 76 yards.
25 - Matthew Stafford was 18-of-25 for 265 yards, two TDs and an interception by halftime. He went 6-of-8 in the second half with 40 more yards and a score. He had already targeted WR Calvin Johnson seven times, TE Brandon Pettigrew six times and Nate Burleson four times in the first half.
25 - Tim Hightower and Cedric Benson led the league with 25 carries apiece on Sunday. Hightower went for 72 yards and a score with his; Benson scored as well, on a 39-yard run, rushing for 121 yards. Hightower added three catches for 25 yards; Benson had one catch for 2 yards. 18.8 fantasy points for Benson, 18.2 for Higtower.
39 - Minnesota QB Donovan McNabb threw for 39 yards. ... Has that sunk in yet? He threw for 39 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception and added 32 yards rushing for a fantasy day of 9.76 points. It's going to be hard for Adrian Peterson, who miraculously had 98 yards on 16 carries, to consistently find any running room with McNabb stretching the field to the tune of 39 yards.
46 - Denver QB Kyle Orton attempted 46 passes in Monday night's loss to Oakland. And it was not all in the second half as the Broncos attempted to come back. The Broncos ran 33 first-half plays, traling by no more than 10 points, yet 23 of those 33 plays were pass attempts by Orton. He attempted 46 or more passes just twice last season under Josh McDaniels. So just because John Fox came to town, and many worried that the forward pass would cease to exist, Orton should still be slinging the ball.
71 -Dallas WR Dez Bryant had three catches for 71 yards and a score in the first quarter. The first two catches and the score came against New York Jets DB Antonio Cromartie, the final catch, a 26-yard play down the sidelines came against Darrelle Revis. It was the last catch of the night for Bryant, despite five more targets.
We look at the up and coming Tamp Bay Bucs chances at making a Super Bowl run this year.
Considering their young franchise quarterback, the brash head coach who speaks in salsa sound bites and a shrewd general manager, you would expect the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to jump at an invitation to be the subject of the HBO reality series Hard Knocks. After all, every game played at Raymond James Stadium was blacked out last season, so no team should crave camera time like the Bucs.
TAMPA BAY • Inside the Locker Room
With Rick Stroud of the St. Petersburg Times
Can we expect even better results from Mike Williams after his solid rookie season?
It’s hard to imagine Williams being more productive in his second season. His 11 receiving touchdowns as a rookie were the most since Randy Moss in 1998. Williams’ numbers may take a dip with the improvement of Arrelious Benn, who is coming off ACL surgery. But the longer QB Josh Freeman works with Williams, the better they will be, and they spent a large part of the lockout throwing and catching passes.
What type of workload will LeGarrette Blount get in 2011?
Blount is a battering ram and a player who can impose his will on opposing defenses. Considering he rushed for 1,007 yards as an undrafted college free agent, he has a lot of room for improvement. The Bucs don’t really have another go-to back, unless Kareem Huggins heals from a torn ACL. Cadillac Williams is an unrestricted free agent and has stayed away from the Bucs camps.
Quarterback Josh Freeman was stellar down the stretch last season. Is he on the way to becoming a top-level NFL signal-caller?
Freeman already should be considered one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. His 25 touchdowns and only six INTs marked the ninth-best TD-to-INT ratio in the history of the league. What’s more, he has a knack for winning games in which his team is trailing in the fourth quarter, the sign of a good QB. Freeman also has all the intangibles. He organized offseason workouts during the lockout and commands respect in and out of the huddle.
• Fantasy Playoff Run — Weeks 14-16: @JAC, DAL, @CAR
This couldn't line up any better for the Bucs. Two games in warm weather and a Carolina defense 27th against QBs and 28th against WRs last season. The Jaguars and Cowboys were miserable against the QBs and WRs as well last year, finishing in the bottom eight against both. So if you are leaning on playing Josh Freeman and Mike Williams, this schedule says go for it.
• Athlon Best Bets Sleeper: Dezmon Briscoe, WR Deep-Sleeper: Allen Bradford, RB Overvalued: Josh Freeman, QB Top Rookie: Adrian Clayborn, DL Bounce-Back: Gerald McCoy, DL Top IDP: Gerald McCoy, DL
• Try to Avoid
Arrelious Benn, WR
Benn has plenty of talent in his 6'1", 220-pound frame, but he caught only 25 passes in 15 games last season. A reconstructed knee will put his breakout campaign on hold for a year. WAIT UNTIL: 14th RD
• Draft Class Fantasy Impact
For the second year in a row, the Buccaneers spent their top two picks on defensive linemen. Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers should help upgrade a pass rush that was among the worst in the NFL. With the added talent, the Buccaneers are an improving defense to target in fantasy drafts. Luke Stocker is good insurance for Kellen Winslow and will contribute in two-tight end sets this year. Mason Foster is a name to remember in IDP leagues, especially with an open path to the starting job.
• Inside the Locker Room
With freelance writer Dan Raley
Mike Williams was able to make a comeback in Seattle with his former USC coach Pete Carroll. Should fantasy players be concerned that this was just a one-year wonder situation?
Williams was motivated to get in shape and play for Carroll again, and he rescued what was a lost career. Nothing should change in terms of his Seahawks performance the second time around — unless, of course, he got fat again during the lockout.
Marshawn Lynch moved to the top of the running back pecking order after coming over from Buffalo, and he finished the year with over 500 yards in a Seattle uniform. Is it Lynch as the workhorse, or is a committee expected?
Lynch should be the workhorse over a full season. Carroll prefers a big, bruising back, which Justin Forsett and Leon Washington aren’t and Lynch is. And the coach has made upgrading the offensive line his No. 1 priority — last year and in this year’s draft.
• Fantasy Playoff Run — Weeks 14-16: STL, @CHI, SF
All three opponents were in the top 12 in defending fantasy RBs last season. The matchup with the 49ers during the fantasy title game weekend is interesting for the Seahawks WRs, as San Francisco ranked 31st in the league in points allowed to WRs (31.0 ppg). All three opponents were in the top half against TEs as well.
• Athlon Best Bets
Sleeper: Golden Tate, WR Deep-Sleeper: Ben Obomanu, WR Overvalued: Sidney Rice, WR Top Rookie: None Bounce-Back: None Top IDP: Earl Thomas, DB
• Try to Avoid
Justin Forsett, RB
He was given the chance to carry the load in 2010 (36 carries in Weeks 3 and 4) and failed to secure the job, prompting a trade for Marshawn Lynch. Pete Carroll will ride his new workhorse in 2011. WAIT UNTIL: 13th RD
• Draft Class Fantasy Impact
Seattle’s draft certainly wasn’t flashy but should go a long way towards upgrading its chances to repeat as NFC West champs. James Carpenter and John Moffitt could start right away on the offensive line. Kris Durham had a quiet career at Georgia and was a surprise pick in the fourth round. Outside of Mike Williams and Sidney Rice, playing time is up for grabs in Seattle’s receiving corps.