The NFL's 2018 regular season begins in just under eight weeks when the defending-champion Philadelphia Eagles take on the Atlanta Falcons on September 6. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' own campaign begins three days later with a game at the Superdome against the division-rival New Orleans Saints.
Many NFL fans have other, earlier dates circled on their calendars, however, reminders of events they are anticipating almost as much as the return of real football. And those dates are…preseason games! No, wait, not preseason games. Fantasy football drafts! Yeah, that's it.
Some leagues have already conducted their drafts, though most fantasy players wait until late August to pick their teams. At the very least, committed fantasy football players are already browsing magazines at the bookstore and looking up rankings on their favorite websites. If you haven't started that process yet, worry not; we've done it for you, at least in terms of how Buccaneers players are being evaluated. Below you'll find a rundown of what the popular fantasy football sites are writing about players such as Mike Evans, Ronald Jones and Cameron Brate.
View some of the best pictures of WR Mike Evans from the Buccaneers' 2018 offseason.
WR Mike Evans
The thinking on Evans appears to be pretty consistent across different fantasy platforms and league formats: If you want the Bucs' top receiver, you will probably need to target him late in the second round. Of course, if you don't happen to be slotted in that part of the round and you still want Evans, you're going to have to make that move earlier than the experts would suggest. You are not likely to get him if you wait until late in the third round.
ESPN ranks Evans 23rd overall in non-PPR leagues and 19th in PPR leagues. SI.com also ranks Evans at #19 overall. In 12-team leagues, those rankings mean the last five picks of the second round. For the leagues that have already drafted in Yahoo! non-PPR leagues, that ranking is spot-on; Evans' average draft position (ADP) is 23.9. SI.com has Evans' ADP at 19, exactly in line with their rankings.
Both ESPN and SI.com rank Evans as the ninth-best fantasy wideout. Given that a lot of fantasy team owners will try to get one running back and one receiver out of the first two rounds, it makes perfect sense that Evans would be gone before the second frame is over.
View some of the best pictures of RB Ronald Jones from the Buccaneers' 2018 offseason.
RB Ronald Jones
It's always hard to predict fantasy outcomes for rookies, but enough first-year backs have come up big – especially in recent years – for fantasy owners to believe they can find second-round value in the fourth or fifth round. There are a lot of intriguing rookie backs to sort through this year, though the Giants' Saquon Barkley is likely the only one who will go in the first round of your draft.
Part of assessing rookie backs for fantasy is determining how good of a situation they've been dropped into. Barkley, for instance, seems like a lock to get the vast majority of New York's carries. It's not quite as clear for Jones, who will be sharing a backfield with Peyton Barber, who came on strong at the end of the 2017 season. Still, he's a back with explosive-play ability, and if he shows that early he could become the lead ballcarrier in Tampa.
Fantasy platforms seem fairly bullish on that possibility. Jones is ranked as the 21st running back by ESPN in both PPR and non-PPR formats. In 12-team leagues with two starting spots for backs, that makes Jones a projected starter. SI.com has him as the 26th running back, which would make him more of a Flex option.
Overall, ESPN ranks Jones as the 47th player off the board in both formats, which means he would be selected right at the end of the fourth round. If you're picking early in the first round, this could set up an interesting strategy for you in which you use that top-three pick on a running back like David Johnson or Le'Veon Bell. If you then chose to use both of your picks at the turn from the second to the third round on receivers – or maybe one on a receiver and one on Rob Gronkowski or the first quarterback – you could then target Jones as your second back late in the fourth round.
SI.com isn't quite as sold on Jones, ranking him 26th overall. And that fits in with what is happening so far in Yahoo! drafts, as the Buccaneer rookie has an ADP of 66.6 so far. That means you might be able to wait until the fifth round, or maybe even early in the sixth, to jump on Jones.
WR DeSean Jackson
Jackson is the one player among the Bucs' fantasy options who sees a notable difference in his rankings between PPR and non-PPR leagues. That's because his fantasy production has always been a bit boom-and-bust, even when he was ranking as one of the better receivers in the NFL. He has long been one of the best in the NFL in producing big plays, and much of his value has been tied up in 50-yard touchdowns and the like. When he gets those, he'll give you a good game, but there will be other weeks where his fantasy impact is muted.
Accordingly, Jackson's non-PPR ranking by ESPN is 78, better than his PPR ranking of 89. Either way, he's right about the 40th wide receiver off the board. In a 12-team league, that means he's going to be an early choice as a fourth receiver for depth. Jackson's ranking by SI.com is 113th overall (47th among receivers) but his SI ADP is actually 13 spots better than that. Contrastingly, he's going at about 130.4 in Yahoo! leagues, which would indicate those fantasy players are not as high on the Buc wideout as the experts are.
In other words, Jackson's rankings and results are all over the board. You're just going to have to guess when your league gets around to drafting.
TEs Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard
We're going to break these two down together because something a little strange is happening in this year's fantasy drafts.
First, let's rewind to last year, when the Buccaneers took Howard in the first round and paired him with Brate, who was coming off a breakout eight-touchdown season. Together, those two produced 74 catches for 1,023 yards and 12 touchdowns. Those would be elite numbers if they came from a single dominant tight end like Gronkowski, but the fact that they were split relatively evenly – they both had exactly six touchdowns, for instance – makes things tough on fantasy players. Basically, if you're going to draft a Buccaneer tight end this summer, you're going to have to decide which one, if either, is going to pull ahead of the other.
That's where the early results seem unusual. ESPN clearly favors Brate, and he did have more catches and yards last year. ESPN has Brate right around 150 in both formats while Howard is farther down around 2010. Brate ranks 15th among tight ends in PPR leagues, 14th in non-PPR; Howard ranks 22nd and 21st, respectively.
SI.com disagrees rather emphatically, putting Howard 12th among their tight ends and 121st overall while dropping Brate all the way down to 25th and 248th. The fantasy players go even farther, drafting Howard three spots higher than his overall ranking, on average, while making Brate wait an additional eight spots. In Yahoo! drafted leagues, Howard is coming off the board with an ADP of 123.9, about a round ahead of Brate at 134.1.
It doesn't look like it will cost you a ton to get either one of the Bucs' tight ends, so they could be good late-round value plays. Heck, maybe draft them both and see how it all falls out.
QB Jameis Winston will miss the first three games due to a suspension and that has clearly impacted his perceived fantasy value. ESPN has him as the 25th quarterback and the 244th player overall, though his ADP on Yahoo! to this point is 128.8. You may be able to wait and pick up Winston after your draft.
Second-year WR Chris Godwin is basically profiling as a late-round sleeper with some good upside. ESPN ranks him 165th overall (167th in non-PPR leagues) which would put him in the 14th-round of a 12-team draft. SI.com likes him a little more, ranking him 148th and 59th among receivers, and their users have taken note, drafting him eight spots higher than his ranking.
If you want to take a deep flyer on RB Charles Sims or WR Adam Humphries, you can probably wait until after your league has started and see what the early results for the Bucs are. ESPN puts Sims at #236 and Humphries at #263, and neither player is currently being drafted in Yahoo! leagues.