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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Fantasy and Reality | S.S. Mailbag

This week, Bucs fans have questions about the Bucs in fantasy football, the battle for the kicking job and more


By now, you've probably played, or at least heard of, the Immaculate Grid. If not, how's the view from under that rock?

Like Wordle, the Immaculate Grid is a daily communal experience that invites conversations and result comparisons. Except it's also about sports, so even better! It started with Major League Baseball but has since expanded to have daily puzzles about the NFL, the NBA and the NHL. These days, it lives on the great Sports Reference pages; you can find the NFL one on Pro Football Reference.

It's a simple concept, like the best ones usually are. Each day you are presented with a 3x3 grid. At the top of each column is either a team from that sport or a statistical achievement/award. Same thing at the left of each row. That creates nine squares, each of which has to satisfy two topics. For instance, if the first column says Chicago Bears and the first row says All-Pro quarterback, then you have to try to fill the top left corner square with a quarterback from the Bears who won All-Pro honors. Okay, that might have been a bad example. Most of them aren't that hard.

Every now and then the Buccaneers appear in the grid, and those days are the most fun days, at least where I work. You get a "rarity score" on your answers based on what percentage of respondents used the same answer. For example, a couple of weeks ago there was a box that combined the Buccaneers with the Patriots, meaning you had to name a player who played for both teams. I'm guessing you can think of at least one guy right off the top of your head, but I wanted a better rarity score so I went with linebacker Dane Fletcher, who was a Patriot from 2010-13 and a Buccaneer in 2014.

All of which got me thinking.

What I wanted to know is, what would be the easiest and hardest crossover teams for the Buccaneers in the Immaculate Grid. That is, which team has had the most players who also played for the Bucs and which has had the least. The Grid has a rule that the person has to have already played in at least one regular-season game for both teams, so you couldn't use Chase Edmonds for the Buccaneers and Cardinals yet. And even though Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz played for the Bucs in the preseason in 1993, you couldn't use him as a Tampa Bay-Cincinnati answer because he didn't make it to the regular season.

Fortunately for me, Pro Football Reference also has another nifty tool into which you input two teams and it spits out every player who played for both of them. (You can find it at the bottom of the page under "Frivolities" and, yes, it happens to be the perfect cheating tool for the Immaculate Grid, if you want to go that cowardly route.) I punched in all 31 combinations and these were the results:

- The team with the most players who were also Buccaneers at one point is…the Detroit Lions? Yep, with a total of 82, and it's not even close. Second on the list is Cleveland, with 71. Why Detroit? I guess the Bucs and Lions were in the same division for a quarter-century, so maybe they saw each other's players more often and developed an affinity for them. But if that's the case then why is Green Bay so low on the list, with 39 crossovers? The player who hit the highest games-played threshold for both teams was Ndamukong Suh, with 79 for the Lions and 48 for the Buccaneers.

- Second on the list, as noted, was the Browns. The guy with the highest games-played threshold for both teams is not Vinny Testaverde, as I had assumed, but Kellen Winslow Jr., who played 48 in Tampa and 44 in Cleveland. Rounding out the top five are the Jets (69), the Commanders (69) and the Raiders (68).

- Last on the list are the Texans (30), Ravens (34) and Panthers (37). All of that makes sense because Houston only started playing in 2002, Baltimore in 1996 and Carolina in 1995. Of course, the Jaguars also started play in 1995 and they have 59 Buccaneer crossovers, so that one doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Of the teams that have been in the league as long as the Bucs (since 1976), the lowest total in the list is the Packers, with 39, as noted above. The Chargers are next at 42.

- The most unusual thing about this list to me is the relative uniformity of the crossover totals. Twelve of the 31 teams fall between 60 and 65 and 18 fall between 55 and 70.

So I guess when the Bucs are in the Immaculate Grid we want to see the Lions on the opposite axis and we don't want to see the Texans at all. (There actually was a Bucs-Texans crossover last week; I went with safety D.J. Swearinger.

There was a much more obvious answer to that Bucs-Texans combination, and it's a name you need to keep in your back pocket at all times. You know who I'm writing about: Fitzmagic! Ryan Fitzpatrick has played for nine different teams so he's going to be a valid answer on many a Grid. Another former Bucs quarterback, Josh Johnson, has seven different teams on his resume (so far), so keep him in mind too.

And if this really is the first time you're hearing about the Immaculate Grid, you're welcome.

Now on to your questions.

A reminder that you can send questions to me any time you want on Twitter (@ScottSBucs) and they're easier to find if you include the hashtag #SSMailbagBucs. We are also now soliciting questions each week on our Instagram page; look for that story on Wednesdays. As always, if you want to get a longer question into the mailbag and would prefer to email your question, you can do so to

Which Bucs would be good to draft in Fantasy this year?

- @robeyecomer (via Instagram)

If you listen to the fantasy football "experts," not many of them. I think we have a couple of players who could surprise those prognosticators.

Now, I'm not saying you're going to see any Buccaneers in the first round this year, probably not even the second, but if we're talking about getting value with your picks we may have a couple of Tampa Bay sleepers. To that end, let's look at some rankings. For this exercise, I'm just going to use one of the "Cheat Sheets" on because they're free and probably pretty similar to the other eight million rankings and ADP lists out there. I'm going with the full-PPR (one point per reception) format and the draft setup rather than auction. Here are the rankings for the Bucs' most relevant fantasy targets (first number is overall rank, second number is rank within the position):

RB Rachaad White: 43, 17

WR Chris Godwin: 51, 23

WR Mike Evans: 54, 26

TB Defense: 190, 12

RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn: 242, 79

TE Cade Otton: 258, 28

QBs Baker Mayfield/Kyle Trask: 296/301, 32/33

Ks Chase McLaughlin/Rodrigo Blankenship: Not listed

Russell Gage is also on this sheet at number 198 overall, but unfortunately it looks like he won't be playing this year.

So if we're talking about 12 team leagues, White is valued as a mid-fourth round pick, Godwin and Evans as early fifth-rounders, the Bucs' defense as a late 13th-round selection and the rest unlikely to be drafted. And listen, I get it. There is obviously plenty of concern in the fantasy football community about how the Bucs' quarterback situation is going to shake out, and that's going to affect the way the pass-catchers are valued. I actually a fourth-round grade on White is pretty respectable, given that this is going to be his first year as a full-time starter.

If you're a Bucs fan and you want a Tampa Bay player or two on your fantasy team, this is actually a good thing. I wouldn't be tempted to reach on Godwin, Evans or White unless you're in a league with a lot of big-time Bucs fans. Let these guys fall to you and you might end up with a pretty sweet reward.

That said, the guy on that list who I believe is being undervalued by fantasy analysts is Mike Evans. I'm not saying their reasoning is unsound. Last year, Evans finished as the 18th-highest scoring receiver in fantasy football, and that ranking got a huge late boost from his 10 catches for 207 yards and three touchdowns in Week 17. If you had Mike Evans last year, that performance only helped you if you were in the championship game. Evans' fantasy totals in recent years have been highly touchdown-dependent, and his TD totals went from 14 in 2020 and 13 in 2021 to just six last year.

Again, there's the quarterback situation that is deflating fantasy players' confidence in Evans, and some analysts may believe the 10th-year receiver is in some kind of slow decline since his reception and yardage totals over the last four seasons haven't come close to his huge 86-1,524 line in 2018.

Like I said, I can follow the reasoning…I just don't necessarily agree with all of it.

Evans is still only 29 and he's in better overall shape now than he was at 25 (by his own estimate, and that passes the eye test, too). His yardage totals in recent years has somewhat been a function of the style of offense the Bucs were playing. In 2022 in particular, Tom Brady had the quickest average time to throw (TTT) of any qualifying quarterback in the league. That means fewer plays that take a bit more time to develop, like deep shots downfield. I believe we are going to be seeing more of those types of plays in Dave Canales offense.

Furthermore, I doubt any of those fantasy analysts have spent much time at the Bucs' training camp. One of the biggest storylines of this year's camp is Evans' dominant play on a nearly daily basis. This is not homerism in this case; Evans' strong camp has been reported by numerous sources outside the team. He says he is "energized" by the new offense and thinks being moved around the formation a lot more than in the past is going to lead to him getting more open targets and fewer double teams.

I'm not trying to oversell the Bucs' 2023 offense, and I understand that it's perfectly fair to have doubts about, especially with the quarterback situation unsettled. I'm personally not going to be making an effort to draft Bucs players above their ADP. But if there's one guy I would consider drafting a round earlier than those rankings above, it's Evans. This is a receiver who was a regular fixture in the second round for a good portion of his career and I think he's primed to put up the numbers that a second-rounder is expected to give you this year. So if you get him with, say, a fourth-round pick, you could end up with excellent value.

I'd also keep an eye on Ke'Shawn Vaughn late in your draft. By the above rankings, he's probably not going to be drafted in your league unless it goes 20 rounds or it's a 20-team league. But the last round is a good place to take a flyer, and you could do worse as deep sleeper than Vaughn, especially if you draft Rachaad White and want to get a handcuff. Vaughn has looked good in training camp and if he gets any reasonable part of the backfield load he could be a good bench asset in your running back group.

Do you believe playing in the hot heat give you an advantage among other teams?

- @e_train98 (via Instagram)

Hot heat is the worst kind of heat, isn't it?

The Buccaneers clearly believe that learning to handle the Florida heat is an advantage, and they have always believed that. I hear it said by coaches and players in every single training camp, perhaps even more so this season because it has felt like the hottest camp on record. In nearly 50 years of existence, the Buccaneers have never taken the training camp out of Florida.

The idea is that building up stamina to withstand withering heat and humidity during the summer months will help you when you get to early-season games played in Tampa. What you hope is that your players can still be sharp in the fourth quarter after several hours of doing battle in the cloying heat while your competitors are wilting. It does make sense.

That said, I'm not sure we can prove that this heat advantage is anything beyond anecdotal. Here are the Bucs' all-time regular-season winning percentages by month in home games:

August/September: .422

October: .457

November: .551

December/January: .472

Yeah, I know, it's still blazing hot in Tampa in November sometimes but theoretically an advantage of being able to play better in the heat than your opponents should gradually fade over the course of the season. I'm not saying that the above numbers prove there is not a dealing-with-heat advantage for the Bucs, but it definitely doesn't prove that there is one. I mean, the Bucs' all-time winning percentage in August/September regular-season games is actually better on the road (.440) than at home (.422).

I guess it doesn't really matter what the winning percentages say. If Buccaneer players believe they are better equipped to handle the heat than their opponents – and it really does seem like they do, year after year – than that can only be a mental advantage on game days.

Everyone talks about QB battle, what about the kicking battle?

- @jaaay_el (via Instagram)

Of course everyone is talking about the quarterback battle. No offense to kickers, who obviously perform an essential task, but quarterback is the most important position in the game and you're not going to have a lot of success as a team if you don't have a competent one.

That being said, I actually agree with the implied premise here from drawn out-Jay here that there has been a relative lack of discussion over the battle between Chase McLaughlin and Rodrigo Blankenship to replace Ryan Succop as the Bucs' kicker. I mean, while Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask are battling for a position they both want very badly, at least they both know they will likely be on the roster come September. Whichever kicker doesn't win that battle will be looking for a new team. So, personally, the stakes are awfully high for those guys.

I think the reason it has been a relatively muted conversation is that there hasn't been much to move the needle during training camp. The quarterbacks throw dozens and dozens of passes every day and virtually every one of them is scrutinized. The kickers only occasionally have a live field goal period and it generally consists of just four kicks by each guy. For instance, I charted it in one practice last week and came up with this:

A few days before that we had this:

I mean, are we going to call front-runner out of that kind of information? Both Head Coach Todd Bowles and McLaughlin have said that both kickers are doing very well in camp and both have made field goals from as far as 58 yards out. The reason none of this moves the needle much is that we all know what happens in the games is what's going to really matter. Unfortunately, in the preseason opener against Pittsburgh there were only three placekicking opportunities: two PATs by McLaughlin (equivalent of 33-yard field goals) and one 35-yard field goal by Blankenship. All were good. Hopefully there will be some more in-game opportunities to sort this battle out over the next two weeks. In particular, the Bucs want to find a kicker who they can rely on to routinely make field goals of 50 yards or more, since that was an element lacking in their kicking game the last couple years.

What time do you have to be at training camp?

- Jacobwelvaert9 (via Instagram)

It depends on the football schedule, of course, but with most practices starting at 8:30 I generally made sure I was there no later than 8:00 to take care of a few things first. That morning practice schedule and the fact that camp is held at our usual headquarters made it so that most camp days really weren't that different from a normal work day (except on the weekend).

But really, who cares when I have to get to work? What is far more interesting is what a typical camp day is for a player or coach. And guess what? Brianna Dix has that answer for you! In her ongoing three-part "A Day in the Life" series, she has already broken down what a camp day is like for cornerback Jamel Dean and Running Backs Coach Skip Peete. Check it out.

And, for the record, Dean says he usually wakes up at 6:45 a.m. and heads in to the AdventHealth Training Center shortly thereafter, while Peete arrives at work around 5:45. Breakfast service begins at 6:00 and the training room opens for any players needing treatment at 6:30. The first thing a coach has to be in the building for is a 7:15 coaches meeting, which lasts 20 minutes. The first player obligation is a full-team meeting beginning at 7:45.

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