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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Bucs were a complete disaster in 2011, which led to coach Raheem Morris being fired and several significant upgrades this offseason. We hope more Fantasy production will follow with the new additions.

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Greg Schiano steps in as the head coach from Rutgers, and he has some new toys to play with. The Bucs spent big money on receiver Vincent Jackson (five years at $55 million with $26 million guaranteed) and guard Carl Nicks (five years at $47.5 million with $31 million guaranteed) and replaced Kellen Winslow (traded to Seattle) for Dallas Clark. Tampa Bay also drafted a new running back in the first round with Boise State's Doug Martin.

On defense, the Bucs had to shore up a unit that allowed the most points in the NFL at 30.8 per game. They managed a league low 23 sacks, and the Bucs hope the addition of first-round pick Mark Barron, a safety from Alabama, will help stop opposing offenses.

Tampa Bay was considered a team on the rise following a strong campaign in 2010, which featured quality Fantasy performances from Josh Freeman, Mike Williams and LeGarrette Blount. Now the Bucs will have to rebound after falling apart last year, and they have to hope Freeman and his new weapons are up to the challenge.

Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value Estimated round
Quarterbacks
Josh Freeman 12
Running Backs
Doug Martin 5
LeGarrette Blount 9
Wide Receivers
Vincent Jackson 5
Mike Williams 11
Preston Parker ND
Arrelious Benn ND
Dezmon Briscoe ND
Tight Ends
Dallas Clark 11
Kickers/Defense
Connor Barth ND
Buccaneers DST ND
ND - not expected to get drafted

Impact rookie ... Doug Martin, running back
Blount is not going to hand over his job to Martin. In fact, Blount hopes to remain the starter, and he has a good argument. Last year, as bad as Blount was, he did OK when given touches. In games where he had at least 18 carries last season, he totaled three 100-yard rush games and scored three touchdowns. Of course, Blount had only five games with at least 18 carries as he lost playing time because he fumbled too much (five on the season) and wasn't effective early on in games. Enter Martin, who has a skill set similar to Ray Rice, who Schiano coached at Rutgers. We can see both running backs sharing carries, but Martin has a ton of upside. He projects as a No. 2 Fantasy running back in standard leagues with his value slightly higher in PPR formats. We could see Martin reaching 1,200 total yards, and the key will be how many touchdowns he can score, especially with Blount as a potential vulture. Martin should be drafted in Round 5, and Blount is a good late-round target in Round 9.

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Bust ... Vincent Jackson, wide receiver
I tend to stay away from players like Jackson who beg for a new contract and leave a team for big money elsewhere. Does he deserve to get paid? Absolutely. Does that mean he will succeed in his new home? Probably not. To give you an idea of some receivers who have left a good situation and not panned out look at Sidney Rice in Seattle, Santonio Holmes with the Jets and Anquan Boldin in Baltimore. All were better with their previous team, and the same could happen with Jackson. He gets a downgrade in quarterback from Philip Rivers to Freeman, and Jackson's production should decline. I don't consider him a guaranteed starter in the majority of leagues, and the earliest Jackson should be drafted is Round 5 in standard formats.

Bounce-back candidate ... Josh Freeman, quarterback
Freeman was a Top 12 quarterback in 2010 mostly because he was solid with few mistakes. He passed for just 3,451 yards, but he had 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He added 364 rushing yards and appeared poised for a breakout in 2011. But his stellar touchdown-to-interception ratio fell apart last year with 16 touchdowns and 22 picks. His passing yards only improved marginally at 3,592, and his rushing stats dropped to 238 yards (he did score four rushing touchdowns). This year, Freeman should rebound to have his best season. The Bucs upgraded at receiver with Jackson and improved the offensive line with Nicks. Martin should excel out of the backfield, and if Clark has anything left, he should help as well. We also hope Mike Williams is a bounce-back candidate, and the Bucs offense should improve as a whole. Freeman should be considered a solid No. 2 Fantasy quarterback with a late-round pick. It would not be a stretch to see him return as a Top 12 option.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
CAR @NYG @DAL WAS bye KC NO @MIN @OAK SD @CAR ATL @DEN PHI @NO STL @ATL
The Bucs defense isn't expected to be great, and they play their fair share of explosive offenses. That should mean a lot of playing from behind for the Tampa Bay offense, which in turn could mean some good opportunities for the passing game. The Bucs did land nearly a month at home with a three-game homestand with a bye week in the middle in the early going, and that could help settle their offense down. The feeling remains that they'll simply get outscored in most of their games.

Training camp topics

There should be a good training camp battle between Martin and Blount for the starting job. Martin missed some offseason workouts due to a hamstring injury, which has helped Blount to learn the new offense. He has reportedly looked good and has improved how he holds the ball, which should help his fumble woes.

2011 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
LeGarrette Blount 184 carries, 15 catches
Kellen Winslow 75 catches
Kregg Lumpkin 41 catches, 31 carries
Mike Williams 65 catches, 1 carry
Earnest Graham 37 carries, 26 catches

The Bucs will likely stick with Williams as a starter opposite Jackson, but he has a lot to prove after what happened last year. Williams went from 65 catches, 964 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie in 2010 to 65 catches, 771 yards and three touchdowns in his sophomore campaign. We think Williams will rebound, but he's only worth a late-round pick.

The same goes for Clark, who struggled in 2011 without Peyton Manning. Clark had to settle for signing with the Bucs, and his days as a starting Fantasy tight end are behind him. He should only be added off the waiver wire if he starts out the season playing well.

Injury update

Martin (hamstring; probable for the start of training camp) ... Da'Quan Bowers (Achilles; hopeful to return toward end of season)

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
DE Greg Hardy meeting with NFL officials Wednesday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:03 pm ET) Defensive end Greg Hardy, who remains on the commissioner's exempt list, was in New York on Wednesday to meet with NFL officials, reports Pro Football Talk. The league is investigating Hardy's arrest last year on domestic violence charges and it's unclear if Hardy will be suspended.

He's scheduled to hit free agency next Tuesday. Hardy, 26, posted 26 sacks in 2012-13 for the Panthers before going on the exempt list after one game last season.

A judge convicted Hardy of assaulting and threatening his ex-girlfriend, but he asked for a jury trial and the case was dismissed when his accuser could not be located to testify.

PFT suggests Hardy's reps and the NFL "will try to strike a deal." One possibility is Hardy agreeing to a suspension while being given "a free and clear path to free agency," the report said. ESPN.com predicts the Bengals will pursue Hardy in free agency.

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


Report: Saints are shopping linebacker Curtis Lofton
(3:59 pm ET) The Saints are looking to trade linebacker Curtis Lofton, according to NFL.com National Insider Ian Rapoport.

Lofton hasn't missed a regular season game since entering the league in 2008. He had a team-high 144 total tackles in 2014.


Saints S Jairus Byrd says he's been cleared for season
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:39 pm ET) Saints free safety Jairus Byrd tweeted that he just got officially cleared for the 2015 season. Byrd underwent surgery last October to fix torn meniscus in his knee.

Byrd, 28, has missed 17 games over the past two seasons. He made the Pro Bowl in 2009, 2012 and 2013 with Buffalo before signing a six-year, $54 million deal with New Orleans.

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


Report: Broncos' Peyton Manning ready to take a pay cut for 2015
(3:32 pm ET) Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is ready to take a pay cut, according to ESPN NFL reporter Chris Mortensen. His salary for 2015 will drop from $19 million to $15 million. 

ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter also reports the two sides are near an agreement.


RB Roy Helu to test open market
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:24 pm ET) The Redskins are interesting in bringing back running back Roy Helu, but he "absolutely" will test the free-agent market, reports ESPN 980, adding Helu is 50-50 at best to return to Washington.

Helu has averaged 4.4 yards per carry in four seasons with the Redskins while catching 129 passes and scoring 10 total touchdowns. He typically served as Washington's passing-down back.

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


Reports: Texans release OL Chris Myers
(2:52 pm ET) The Texans released offensive lineman Chris Myers Wednesday, according to multiple reports. The team will save $6 million due to his release, according to spotrac.com. 

The two-time Pro Bowler, who spent seven seasons with the Texans, was voted first-team All-Pro in 2011 by Pro Football Focus.


Report: Wide receiver Jacoby Jones to visit Chargers Thursday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:47 pm ET) Free agent wide receiver Jacoby Jones is scheduled to visit with the Chargers Thursday, according to U-T San Diego.

Jones, who was cut by the Ravens last week, has also visited with the Bengals and Titans. Jones had nine receptions for 131 yards and six first downs in 2014, but averaged 30 yards per kick return.


Giants working to restructure Jon Beason's contract
(2:40 pm ET) The Giants are working with Jon Beason to restructure his contract, per NJ.com.

Beason, who was acquired in a 2013 trade with the Panthers, is scheduled to be paid $5.9 million and count $7.4 million against the salary cap in 2015. The middle linebacker played in only four games last season due to toe and foot ailments.

"We've been back and forth trying to come to terms and they're doing the best they can to try and be fair under the situation," Beason said during a radio interview Wednesday. "As a so-called agent, I'm trying to do the best I can to make sure that I get the opportunity to earn some of that money back."


Report: C.J. Spiller turned out $4.5 million from Bills to return
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:38 pm ET) Running back C.J. Spiller reportedly turned down $4.5 million per year from the Bills to return to the team in 2015, according to NBC4 in Washington D.C.

Spiller, who said Tuesday he would not return to the team after receiving the news of the trade to add LeSean McCoy, is looking for a different role as he hits free agency.

The 27-year-old is reportedly being pursued by the Jets, Dolphins, Cardinals and 49ers who played in nine games in 2014, rushing for 300 yards on 78 carries.


Bills expected to put on 'full-court press' for LB David Harris
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:13 pm ET) The Bills and new coach Rex Ryan are expected to put on a "full-court press" for inside linebacker David Harris, who thrived under Ryan with the Jets, reports the New York Daily News. Harris made at least 120 tackles each of the past three seasons.

"It's a no-brainer," the report said of Buffalo's interest.

Harris, 31, is an impending free agent who's played his entire eight-year career with the Jets.

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


 
 
 
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