Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
In the next edition of the series, we head back to the NFC South and check out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs were 3-13 in 2009, finishing last in the division. They scored just 15.2 ppg (30th of 32 teams) while their defense yielded 25.0 ppg (27th).
To say that the Bucs' offense struggled is an understatement. They scored more than 25 points just once, and put up seven points-or-less in five games. Unless there is a drastic improvement in 2010, there likely won't be many players on this roster with any significant fantasy value.
Josh Freeman - The best thing about a rookie starting quarterback is that he becomes a second-year player. There have been a couple of exceptions, but Freeman's 2009 season wasn't one of them. With his best receiver, Antonio Bryant, hurting for most of the season and a questionable offensive line, Freeman's struggles weren't unexpected. In 10 games, nine starts, Freeman threw for 1,855 yards, 10 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Even extrapolated to a 16-game schedule, those numbers aren't good enough to be a fantasy starter. Probably not a backup either. He and his young receivers will have to grow together, and it just isn't likely to happen in 2010. Freeman's Average Draft Position in 199 and even at that price I would have to look elsewhere.
Cadillac Williams - For a man who played just 10 games over the previous two seasons because of multiple knee injuries, Williams rebounded with a nice season in 2009. He played all 16 games and rushed for 821 yards and four scores. It came out of the blue for fantasy owners who though Derrick Ward would be the primary ball carrier. Williams has apparently convinced owners of his health as he has gone from an ADP of 139 in 2009 to 88 this year while Ward has dropped from 68 last season to 179 in early 2010 mock drafts. I still worry about the injuries with Williams and I doubt you would want your title hopes to lie with him. Still, he might be valuable in a spot starter role as your third or fourth running back.
Derrick Ward - Ward was a major disappointment in 2009. After a 1,025-yard season with the New York Giants, Ward was expected to carry the load in Tampa Bay, but fell well short of expectations with 409 yards rushing and a total of three touchdowns. His 3.6 ypc average wasn't much worse than Williams' 3.9 ypc, but by the end of the season it was obvious who the No.1 running back was and it wasn't Ward. However, it's a new season and I still expect Ward to get significant carries in this "shared backfield" situation. At his inexpensive "price," a 15th-round selection, Ward has considerable upside, particularly with only the injury-prone Williams in front of him. Neither fullback Earnest Graham, return specialist Clifton Smith or Kareem Huggins have any fantasy value at this time.
Arrelious Benn - While Benn will likely be the first Buccaneers' receiver off the board, he's not likely to go before round No.13 or No.14 (ADP 136) indicating just how far the Tampa Bay passing game has to go to become fantasy-worthy. Benn has all the physical tools and has been compared to Anquan Boldin on more than one occasion. He had a good junior year at Illinois (1,055 yards receiving), but tailed off dramatically in his senior season (490 yards). He has solid keeper league "late-round flyer" type, but won't be a star this year.
Mike Williams - The former Syracuse receiver has plenty of talent, but questionable work ethics. He quit on his college team which has to make any GM, real or fantasy, concerned. You can certainly get him for a cheap enough price (ADP 205), but given the offense he'll likely not contribute to your team this season.
Sammie Stroughter - The second-year receiver earned the No.3 role last season until breaking his foot in December. Assuming he is healthy, he could find his way into the starting lineup until both rookies are ready to contribute. Stroughter could have some spot value early in the season, but the long-term view has little upside. He is not being selected in most mock drafts.
Maurice Stovall - Stovall has had four years to assert himself in the Bucs' passing game and his best year was 2009 when he caught 24 balls for 366 yards and one score. Given the high draft picks spent on Benn and Williams it looks like any fantasy value he might have had is long gone.
Kellen Winslow - Considering the quarterback situation, Winslow had a very nice 2009 season with 77 receptions for 884 yards and five scores. However, there isn't much optimism with this offense and with the growing number of quality tight ends around the league, Winslow's ADP as fallen from No.79 in 2009 to No.89 in early drafts. At that price (mid-eighth round), Winslow could be a bargain.
Connor Barth - Barth was the third of three kickers used by the Bucs in 2009 and went 14-for-19 on field goal attempts, including 3-of-4 on 50-yarders. He should be the Opening Day kicker in 2010, but given the ineptness of the offense, won't get enough opportunities to warrant fantasy attention.
The Tampa Bay defense finished 16th among fantasy squads with 110 points. They didn't get to the quarterback enough (28 sacks), but did create 29 turnovers. Four scores, two on special teams and two on defense helped make them a middle-of-the-pack option. The Bucs added three talented pieces to the defense in tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price along with cornerback Myron Lewis, which might make them a surprise in 2010. Currently, they aren't being selected in drafts.