Josh Freeman anchored the 27th
ranked scoring offense in the league last year. He tallied up 16 more interceptions and 9 fewer touchdowns which, in fantasy land, are unacceptable from your No. 1 quarterback.
When you find yourself in close fantasy matchups, it is not only essential to have a quarterback who will put up big numbers but, you need a quarterback who will consistently produce in order to have a successful fantasy season; especially in the close games.
Coming into the 2011 season, Freeman was predicted to be one of those quarterbacks who would produce on a consistent basis due to his stellar 2010 year. This, however, was not the case last year. Freeman not only decreased in his production but, caused a number of fantasy owners to do poorly in their leagues since they more than likely drafted him as their starting quarterback. Unless you were lucky enough to draft Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford or Cam Newton in the later rounds of the draft as backups, then your fantasy team would have taken a big hit as it would have lacked a No. 1 quarterback.
This year I am predicting a comeback for Freeman. He is an agile quarterback that is a threat to run the ball but, who will also stay in the pocket and read the defenses to find the open receiver down the field. It could be argued that his lack of production corresponded with the lack of offensive talent he had around him – who can really know for sure? This year the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offense did improve in almost all positions which can lead to Freeman having a much stronger fantasy year.
Starting with the core of the Bucs’ offense, their offensive line, it is easy to see that management noticed a huge problem from last year and fixed it immediately. With the signings of Carl Nicks and Jeremy Zuttah the Bucs’ now officially have the most expensive front five in the NFL – $168 million combined. The pass blocking will be greatly improved in 2012, especially with a top tier guard such as Nicks anchoring the line, which will allow Freeman to sit in the pocket much more comfortably and let the offensive plays develop. Their offensive line is also an agile group of athletes as well, which will allow for blocks to be made outside of the pocket when Freeman decides to bootleg left/right and run with the ball. We all know how much value a quarterback who can run with the ball is to a fantasy team; Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers anyone?
Another area the Bucs’ improved on is their running game. With the addition of Doug Martin from the rookie draft, a versatile running game is now capable of occurring in 2012. Martin, along with probable backup LaGarrette Blount, can help limit the predictability of the Bucs’ offense. This bodes well for Freeman as the door is left open for more play-actions and it reduces the amount the opposing defense will blitz. With less pressure being put on Freeman, he will have more time in the pocket to make plays. As a result, it should increase his fantasy production.
The biggest improvement made over the offseason was the signings of Vincent Jackson and Dallas Clark. These players add two all-pro caliber targets for Freeman to utilize in the passing game. This will also open the door for third year receiver, Mike Williams, who also struggled in 2011. There is no way a defense will be able to double team all three of these receivers at the same time, so Freeman’s job is almost made easy for him as he just has to find the single coverage. The receiving core this year compared to the receiving core in 2011 does not even compare. The Bucs have one of the scariest receiving tandems in the NFL, which will only raise the stock of Freeman as a No. 1 fantasy quarterback.
In standard fantasy football leagues it is possible to get Freeman in the later rounds which will make him one of the best draft value players in the NFL if he takes advantage of his newly formed offense. Based on the offense he lead in 2010, and the new additions for 2012, I believe Freeman will bounce back and be a No. 1 fantasy quarterback yet again.