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Fantasy Football Weekly: Bucs-Jets

Posted Nov 10, 2017

The unfortunate developments that will keep Jameis Winston and Mike Evans out of the lineup against the Jets leads us to some pointed fantasy questions about other Buc performers

When drafting a fantasy football team, you should divorce any specific team fandom from the process. I know, I know – that's not exactly groundbreaking advice.

I know this, you know this, it's painfully obvious. You should keep your love of the Buccaneers out of it…but do you? I know I've been guilty of breaking this rule from time to time. In fact, it sometimes sneaks up on me without any conscious planning.

For instance, I have one team in which I ended up with Mike Evans AND Cameron Brate AND Doug Martin. I believe I can defend any of those three decisions independently. I was picking eighth overall and Evans had an ADP of seven at the time and was the obvious choice, especially with the top three backs off the board. I took Brate very late and as my second tight end. And back in August you could get Martin pretty cheap due to his suspension and hope he'd make a RB2-type of impact upon his return.

Again, in a vacuum, drafting Evans and Brate has mostly worked out. Martin, not so much, but that he probably wasn't one of the first two backs taken by any fantasy drafter. The problem is having all three at the same time. I personally don't like to start three players from any team at once because one bad NFL game can throw off your whole week.

Well, if you drafted multiple Bucs like I did on that one team, things just got worse, at least in the very short term. Quarterback Jameis Winston, who was a good fantasy play for the first month of the season, will be out at least two weeks due to a shoulder injury, and Evans will miss the Jets game on Sunday to a league suspension. Those back-to-back developments on Monday have a lot to do with what will be discussing this week in our latest Three Burning Questions. You'll find below, after we first review the advice from last week.

**

Accountability Section: This season, each Fantasy Football Weekly article is going to include a review of the previous week's advice to see if it was actually helpful. Here's a recap of what I covered last week, along with self-assigned letter grades for each piece of advice:

Advice #1: If you have Jameis Winston and a somewhat comparable quarterback, feel good starting Winston against the Saints. Expect a fantasy rebound.

Review: F. Obviously, the shoulder injury that kept him out of the second half made this a bad call, but Winston and the Bucs' offense were not doing well even before that. Winston has had some very good second halves this year, but we can't assume that would have happened last Sunday.

Advice #2: If you happen to own Doug Martin, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara but could only start one, choose Kamara.

Review: A. Really, I could get an A+ for this one, but I'm a little too depressed about how correct that choice was. Kamara had 152 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. I guess he might have lost two points depending upon your scoring system due to a fumble, but that's still a superb fantasy outing. Ingram had 79 yards but no scores and Martin was almost totally bottled up by the Saints' defense.

Advice #3: After going two-for-two during the first seven weeks, I made my third prediction that this would be a good day for DeSean Jackson, a very boom-or-bust fantasy player

Review: D. Jackson did lead the Bucs in receiving yards, but with just 25 of them. It was a complete bust for the entire Bucs' offense, unless you happened to start Luke Stocker. And you didn't do that.

Not a great week for the Bucs or me. Let's try to do a little better with the Jets coming to town.

**

Three Burning Questions: Buccaneers at Saints

1. Mike Evans is out this week. Should that change my plans for starting or not starting anybody else in the Bucs' passing game?

Well, I assume I don't have to tell you not to start Evans. It's a tough break for Evans owners, albeit just for one week, because he's an obvious weekly start and potentially difficult to replace in your lineup. But it is what it is. Other than that, I don't think this changes things too much.

Rookie Chris Godwin is likely to get most of Evans' snaps on the outside, with Adam Humphries remaining in the slot. You could try picking up Godwin and sticking him in your lineup if you don't have other good options, but that seems awfully risky to me. As good as the rookie from Penn State looked during the summer, this will be his first extended regular-season playing time and that's reason enough for caution in my book. I just checked Yahoo! and ESPN fantasy sites and there has been no rush to pick Godwin up by the fantasy populace in general.

I wouldn't expect Humphries' role to change too much, and as important as he is in the Bucs' offense he hasn't often produced big fantasy numbers because he hasn't been a frequent visitor to the end zone. DeSean Jackson could see more targets in Evans' absence, but he will probably also get more attention from the Jets' defense. Start Jackson if you were going to anyway, but I don't think the situation with Evans changes his outlook much. The same goes for Cameron Brate, who is close to a must-start at tight end these days.

If there's one player in the Bucs' passing attack that I would perhaps feel differently about with Evans out, it's rookie tight end O.J. Howard. Perhaps you picked him up after his huge breakout game in Buffalo in Week Eight; if so, you haven't got much fantasy return in the two games since. That could be different this week. This is mere speculation, but with Evans out the Buccaneers' offense might lean more heavily on its multiple-TE sets and try to get both Brate and Howard involved in the passing attack. Howard is certainly talented and he's eventually going to see more regular targets; this could be a sneaky good play this week.

2. If I happen to have an ugly quarterback situation on my fantasy team right now, should I consider one or two Ryan Fitzpatrick spot starts?

This is all contingent on your specific quarterback situation, of course. On one team, I was starting DeShaun Watson and then, after his injury, I got snaked out of Jared Goff on the waiver wire. That team is not in a good spot, quarterback-wise, and any marginally good option is worth exploring. Conversely, if you have Tom Brady or Carson Wentz (sadly, I can't use any of my own teams as an example on this one), you're skipping this section entirely.

Let's say you're somewhere in the middle of those two scenarios. Maybe you're a bit tired of the underperforming (fantasy-wise) Matt Ryan or Kirk Cousins. Maybe you do own Wentz, but he's your only good QB and you just noticed the Eagles are on their bye this week. Considering that the Jets' defense is giving up 234.3 passing yards and just over two touchdown passes per game, could you squeeze at least one good week out of Fitzpatrick?

The numbers are at least mildly encouraging. Over two relief performances in Arizona and New Orleans, Fitzpatrick played a total of 85 snaps. (He also had six snaps in a mop-up performance in the Week Two win over Chicago, but I'm not going to include those because he wasn't really asked to do anything.) The Buccaneers have averaged 66 offensive snaps per game, so Fitzpatrick's playing time has been the equivalent of 1.29 games. In that time, he has thrown for 358 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions and run for 40 yards. If we divide those number by 1.29, we come up with single-game totals of 278 yards, three touchdowns and 31 rushing  yards. The math on the two interceptions leaves you right in between one and two, so take your pick as to which way you think that would go.

If your league has the standard scoring system of one point for every 25 passing yards, one point for every 10 rushing yards, four points for every touchdown pass and either negative-one or negative-two points for every interception, Fitzpatrick's potential game as outlined above would net you somewhere between 22 and 25 points, depending upon how you score interceptions and if you're expecting one or two of them. That's certainly not bad for an emergency fill-in.

So, yes, Fitzpatrick could do in a pinch this week, and there are obviously plenty of owners out there in that kind of pinch right. Fitzgerald has been added in nearly 18% of ESPN leagues this week. That said, I wouldn't be too bullish on the addition. Remember that both times Fitzgerald has come in to relieve Winston the Buccaneers were well down on the scoreboard, necessitating a lot of passing. He'll be starting this one, and I'm sure the team will make an effort to establish a balanced attack. Hopefully Fitzpatrick won't be trying to erase a big deficit in this one, and that could mean a statistical rate lower than the one I figured above.

3. Is Peyton Barber worth stashing on my bench, especially if I'm a Doug Martin owner?

Barber has seen his ESPN ownership go up this week, too…by 0.5%. He's now up to 0.6% ownership.

Still, if you're a Bucs fan you probably saw him have a nice second half in New Orleans. The numbers were nothing fantasy-relevant (11 carries for 34 yards) but he appeared to be running hard and breaking tackles. With Doug Martin hardly playing in the second half and ending the game with seven yards on eight carries, one might be tempted to think we're about to see a changing of the guard in the Bucs' backfield.

I don't think so. I could see Barber getting an uptick in carries, but probably not to the point where you'd feel comfortable using him in your starting fantasy lineup. Head Coach Dirk Koetter praised Barber's play against the Saints but also made a point of contrasting the opportunities that he and Martin were given. Koetter said that breakdowns in the blocking scheme led to many carries in which Martin was met by a free runner in the hole before he could even pass the line of scrimmage. That was not the case, for the most part, when Barber took handoffs.

The point is, I think Martin is still very much the lead back in the Bucs' offense, and if he can get some better lanes and rip off a few good runs, the team is likely to stay with the hot hand. Barber only had two carries, total, in the six games prior to the trip to New Orleans.

Now, if you happen to be a Martin owner and you've got room on your bench, it's not unreasonable to pick up Barber as a handcuff. I don't think it will pay off in the end, but I've had plenty of teams that, at this point in the season, are desperate for any warm body at running back. It's worth a flier in that case, but that's probably all it will be.