The Tampa Bay Buccaneers of 2012 looks to be a bigger player in the realm of fantasy football because there are more players with potential than the youth-laden squad of 2011. Here is a breakdown for each position.
Josh Freeman is looking to prove that 2011 was a fluke. Head coach Greg Schiano helped lift a heavy burden off of Freeman's shoulders when he announced the team will be a heavy-run oriented offense. Conventional wisdom will tell you the main key for a quarterback's success in the league is a balanced running attack. The explosiveness of first rounder, Doug Martin should help Freeman improve in his numbers especially with the playaction pass.
Adding receiver Vincent Jackson to the mix doesn't hurt either, so expect Freeman's numbers to definitely improve this season. Freeman is a solid starter in deep leagues and should be a reliable backup in others. The way the support is set up for Freeman this year, it will be hard not to top the numbers he produced in 2010.
Make no mistake about it, this WILL be the strength of the offense. Doug Martin could a solid top 10 back if the initial training camp reports are true of his explosive nature. As long as the offensive line holds, he could be a potential steal of the draft and breakout rookie due to many people tend to be squeamish in picking Bucs offensive players.
If LeGarrette Blount's pass protection skills improved, compared to be virtually non-existent last year, he could see a lot more playing time spelling Martin. For all intensive purposes he could be benchwarmer and a potential flex pickup in a bye week, which makes him an ideal handcuff pick. You can easily see potential combined 1500+ rushing yards from these two this year.
Vincent Jackson is as viable a pick as he was when he was still with the San Diego Chargers. He'll top 1,000 yards again and may see more balls thrown his way in Tampa especially in possession and deep routes. Chances are in most leagues, he'll end up being the first Buc taken.
With Jackson on the field, Mike Williams should get more open looks and drop less balls under the more discipline-minded Schiano. He could very well regain his form back in 2010. Most leagues he'll be a late pickup. Beyond Jackson and Williams, the competition at receiver is heavy with the likes of Sammie Stroughter, Tiquan Underwood and Preston Parker for the slot receiving position. Unfortunately, you're not going to see a regular scoring threat among them to warrant picking any of them up.
I'm going out on a limb and say that Dallas Clark will be the sleeper pick on this team. While he may have lost a step and no longer the threat he once was with the Colts, he may very well be as popular target with Freeman in the end zone as the man he replaced in Kellen Winslow was. Sure he's been fighting off a nagging injury that kept him sidelined for the better part of 2011, but if he's recovered he could still get a few scores here and there..
He's far removed from his top 5 standing as a tight end, but my stance is that he could be as successful as Freeman is. A great late pickup in deeper leagues and a competent backup in others. Clark's backup in Luke Stocker is being developed but also fought injuries that hampered his production in 2011. With the uncertainty of Clark and preseason still to go, Luke Stocker could very well end up in Clark's spot. He'll likely get the same looks Clark would get from Freeman especially in the end zone where the attention will most likely go to the wide receivers.
The biggest question mark of the Bucs is how they will be given the dramatic system changes to the defense. Gerald McCoy has yet played a full season in the NFL and the pass rush has mostly been suspect. Perhaps new faces like rookies Mark Barron and Lavonte David could build a new identity to the Bucs defense in the way that John Lynch and Derrick Brooks had in the past.
They have potential to be as opportunistic and physical as the Kiffin era Bucs and they have the potential to surprise a few people, but don't hold your breath for any hope for long term longevity. They have a long way to go to get back to draft prominence to the likes of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.
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