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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
Good luck with Michael Floyd
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:07 am ET) Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd caught two passes in Week 11, which at face value would give no one the impression he was back to form. But because both happened to go for touchdowns, including one of more than 40 yards, some of his owners couldn't be talked out of starting him Week 12 at Seattle. And those owners are filled with remorse right now.

That's because, with backup Drew Stanton again under center for the Cardinals, Floyd went without a single catch. He was targeted twice but failed to connect -- and with fellow wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald sidelined by a a sprained knee, no less.

That's the lowest of lows for him in what has been by and large a disappointing season. With this performance, he's averaging 2.1 catches for 28.9 yards over his last seven games. He's had a few touchdowns during that stretch to soften the blow, but ultimately, all they've done is given his owners false hope.

Unlike Fitzgerald, Floyd's production didn't improve for those five games when starting quarterback Carson Palmer was back from injury, and now Palmer is out for the year. Between Stanton's shortcomings and John Brown's emergence, you shouldn't be hoping for any sort of rebound from Floyd.


Giants K Josh Brown limited to extra points in Week 12
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:58 am ET) Giants kicker Josh Brown didn't attempt a field goal in his team's 31-28 loss to the Cowboys in Week 12 but managed to successfully convert all four of his extra-point tries.

It's the fifth time this season Brown hasn't received a field-goal attempt, and he's managed multiple attempts just twice in his 11 games this year. Brown will square off with the Jaguars in Week 13.


Keenan Allen turning over a new leaf?
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:56 am ET) For the second time this season, Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen topped 100 yards in a game Week 12 against St. Louis, and for the second time this season, he found the end zone, scoring on a 29-yard catch in the fourth quarter. It was the first time he did both in the same game, which was the kind of production Fantasy owners expected from him coming into the season.

So is he finally delivering on his potential? Oh, who knows?

Here are the positives for Allen: With another nine targets in Week 12, he has averaged 10.8 over his last five games, a clear improvement from his first six, and his primary competition for red-zone looks, tight end Antonio Gates, has been conspicuously absent the last three weeks.

Here are the negatives for Allen: Even with all those extra targets, he has still averaged just 69.0 yards over his last five games, and quarterback Philip Rivers has stopped throwing touchdown passes not just to Gates but in general.

I have enough confidence in Rivers and the Chargers offense as a whole to keep Allen on my roster, but I'm not activating him based on this performance.


Giants' Rueben Randle paces secondary targets in Week 12
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:55 am ET) Giants wide receiver Rueben Randle caught all three of his targets for 36 yards in his team's 31-28 loss to the Cowboys in Week 12.

Eli Manning was locked in on rookie Odell Beckham (10 catches, 146 yards, two TDs) and running back Rashad Jennings (eight catches, 68 yards), and Randle was one of the quarterback's six other targeted receivers to split 11 catches. Tight end Daniel Fells also secured three receptions for 35 yards, while tight end Larry Donnell managed just two receptions for 24 yards. Wide receiver Preston Parker caught one of his three targets for 16 yards, while tight end Adrien Robinson caught his only target for a one-yard touchdown.

Randle, Parker and the team's TE corps should continue to play a complementary role behind Beckham moving forward. The Giants will take on the Jaguars in Week 13.


Giants RB Andre Williams scores touchdown in Week 12 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:50 am ET) Giants running back Andre Williams rushed for 35 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown and added a 12-yard catch in his team's 31-28 loss to the Cowboys in Week 12.

Williams was out-touched 27-11 by starter Rashad Jennings but managed to bounce a carry to the right side late in the first half for a three-yard score. The touchdown was his third in his last four games, but he's still hovering around 3.0 yards per carry for the season. Williams will square off with the Jaguars in Week 13.


Giants RB Rashad Jennings totals 120 yards in Week 12 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:47 am ET) Giants running back Rashad Jennings rushed for just 52 yards on 19 carries but caught eight of his 10 targets for 68 yards in his team's 31-28 loss to the Cowboys in Week 12.

Jennings drew the start and out-touched rookie Andre Williams 27-11 but watched his teammate score from three yards out in the second quarter. Despite averaging just 2.7 yards per carry, Williams was able to stay involved by being the second-most targeted receiver on the team. Though Jennings hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 3, his total yardage represented his best performance since rushing for 176 yards in his third game of the year. Jennings is set to face the Jaguars in Week 13.


Ryan Mathews pulls away from Branden Oliver
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:45 am ET) Even though Chargers running back Ryan Mathews was more effective than Branden Oliver in his return from a shoulder injury, he split carries almost evenly with his replacement Week 11 against Oakland. That wasn't so much the case Week 12 against St. Louis, though, when Mathews took his first carry 11 yards and never looked back en route to 105. He also scored a touchdown on a 32-yard run in the third quarter.

He injured his shoulder on that play, which was a big reason why Oliver got the six carries he did, but Mathews returned and still finished with twice as many. Imagine how many yards he would have had if he had gotten 15-to-18 carries.

If Mathews had struggled to keep up with Oliver after the long layoff, the Chargers might continue to ease him in, but since he's been far and away the more effective of the two in two games back, he looks like he'll take the job and run with it, reducing Oliver to just a handcuff option in Fantasy.

Mathews falls a little short of must-start status with an especially tough matchup Week 13 at Baltimore, but for most owners, he's probably still worth running out there.


Giants QB Eli Manning tallies 338 yards, three TDs in Week 12
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:42 am ET) Giants quarterback Eli Manning completed 29 of his 40 pass attempts for 338 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in his team's 31-28 loss to the Cowboys in Week 12.

Manning hooked up with rookie Odell Beckham on a pair of touchdowns in the first half, including an outstanding one-handed, 43-yard catch that will certainly find its way on every Play of the Year list. The Giants took a 21-10 lead into halftime before the Cowboys scored two touchdowns in the third quarter. Manning was able to bring his team back by connecting with Adrien Robinson from one-yard out with just three minutes remaining, but the Giants defense was unable to stop the Cowboys from responding one more time.

Manning's one interception came on an overthrow to a wide-open receiver who looked like he had a clear lane to the end zone with an on-target throw. Even with that mistake, it was an excellent rebound performance after throwing five interceptions in his previous game. He's set to face off with the Jaguars in Week 13.


Cowboys K Dan Bailey scores seven points vs. Giants
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:37 am ET) Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey kicked four extra points and made his only field-goal attempt in his team's 31-28 win over the Giants in Week 12.

Bailey put his team on the board with a 38-yard field goal in the first quarter, but the Cowboys were able to reach the end zone four times thereafter and needed all four touchdowns in a high-scoring game against their division rivals. Bailey had missed field goals in each of his last two games coming into the Sunday night matchup. He's set to face the Eagles at home Thursday.


Cowboys WR Terrance Williams catches just one pass vs. Giants
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:34 am ET) Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams managed just one reception on two targets for 18 yards in his team's 31-28 win over the Giants in Week 12.

Williams has struggled to emerge of late, following up a targetless performance in Week 11 with just one catch Sunday. He's managed just 37 yards on three receptions over his last three games. Williams will look to get back on track Thursday against the Eagles.


 
 
 
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