Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.
… But, things are a little bit different this week (as they have been throughout the offseason). Instead of having just three angles to cover, I’m going to give you a “Cover 6” as we dive into the who, what and where of drafting Buccaneers players in fantasy football for the 2017 NFL season.
Sikkema’s Stat of the Week
A few weeks ago, I went on Roto Street Journal’s Fantasy Fullback Dive podcast to talk about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ fantasy football outlook for 2017. With so many new weapons and such a promising young offense from top-to-bottom, the Buccaneers players have been the talk of the virtual offseason – how good can they be, and what is a good price to draft them at?
I received a ton of responses from readers chiming in to my podcast appearance with thoughts and questions of their own, so I’ve decided to do a big fantasy football preview for the team, by the numbers, with the help of some outside sources that can put all this potential versus production into perspective.
Let’s start by looking at some overall numbers in terms of the schedule.
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing TDs touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing TDs (TDS). – Shawn Childs, Senior Fantasy Football Expert
To start, let’s look at the very last line, the “Total” for each category, and see which area of attack the schedule hints an advantage to. What jumps out to me right away is how all the numbers in the rushing categories are tougher than the league’s average, and all the numbers in the passing categories are higher. If we scroll up a bit to look at some of those passing numbers, like yards and touchdowns, you’ll also see that the first seven weeks of the season are all below average for passing, which means to end up with a positive all around, the passing defenses would have to be pretty bad in the second half of the season – they are.
That second half of the season will also likely contain some serious shootouts. After the by week, the Buccaneers play against Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Drew Brees in that order. Only one of those games should be affected too much by weather, and that’s the Green Bay game in Wisconsin in early December. The rest are either at home, in a dome, or in Charlotte, where it should be in the 50’s.
So, the passing attack could pay off with some big numbers due to the high variance of weapons coming in for the Bucs to face those shootouts. The running game, however, doesn’t predict to be so fortunate.
We’ll dive into the details of the Doug Martin situation on the following pages, but overall, looking at the schedule, it’s hard to invest too much into the Buccaneers rushers on a week-to-week basis. The first two games of the year set up great with Miami and Chicago both being well worse than the league average against the run. However, after that, the statistics really turn on Tampa Bay. Due to a combination of good teams, good run defenses and facing good quarterbacks that either dominate the scoreboard to the point of abandoning a run game, or just getting themselves into a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair, the touches – and therefore chances – for a Buccaneers running back to pay off, whomever it may be, is diminished.
Overall, there are definitely some highlight games and some lowlight games. I think the positive passing statistics for the Giants game is fool’s gold. The Giants have a lot of talent in that secondary, and with a good pass rush, that could end up being a turnover heavy game, or at least a struggle when passing. The Jets game, though their defense shows to be average across the board, should be totally in the Buccaneers favor. I know the Jets have some defensive talent, but their lack of offense should benefit both the passing game for an early lead, and the running game to control it afterwards.
I would stay away from the Cardinals game all together. I’m not saying the Bucs couldn’t have a good game, but the odds aren’t in their favor when facing a defense that is very aggressive on the blitz going against Tampa Bay’s offensive line. Winston had just nine fantasy points last year when these teams met, and though I think he’ll fare better than that this time around, he doesn’t seem like a Top 10 play that week.
The Patriots’ game is scheduled to be a passing frenzy. New England was the fourth highest in terms of passing yards and third highest in terms of total points in 2016, so if the Buccaneers are going to keep up, they’re going to have to let it fly. You always want situations where you can get the most touchdowns for your players, regardless of turnover chance. That’s a good week to roll the dice.
On the next few pages, we’ll go in-depth into each position player’s 2017 projections and average draft positions.
Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org