Team Profiles- Tampa Bay Buccaneers by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles
For having the coaching record that he has, Lovie Smith hasn’t had a problem being employed in the NFL as a head coach. In ten seasons as a head coach, Smith has just five that were winning seasons. His first year in Tampa Bay finished with a disappointing 2-14 record. On January 2, 2014, Smith was signed to be the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, replacing Greg Schiano. It’s a five-year contract. He was previously the head coach of the Chicago Bears from 2004 to 2012. The Bears fired Smith on December 31, 2012 when the team failed to reach the playoffs after achieving a 7-1 record at the season’s halfway point.
2015 Team Outlook – The Buccaneers reside in the NFC South division with Carolina, New Orleans and Atlanta. In 2014, no team in the division had more than 7 wins. The Panthers won the NFC South with a record of 7-8-1, just squeaking by the Saints.(7-9-0) The Bucs haven’t won their division since 2007. The team is still rebuilding and even unsure as to who the 2015 starting quarterback is going to be, so they won’t threaten the other 3 teams. Carolina and Atlanta will fight for the division title, with Tampa Bay and New Orleans lucky if they get 5 wins each in 2015.
2015 Fantasy Outlook –
QB– Lovie Smith’s last season with the Chicago Bears was in 2012, where he coached QB Josh McCown, the back up for QB Jay Cutler. McCown was drafted by Arizona back in 2002, and he has played for 7 NFL teams before reuniting with HC Smith in Tampa for the 2014 season. McCown was immediately named the starter. In week 3, he was replaced by Mike Glennon after suffering a thumb injury during a 56-14 blowout by the Atlanta Falcons. Glennon, a third round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft by former HC Greg Schiano, took over as the starter. In his 1st game, he led the Bucs to a 27-24 win over the Steelers. Glennon failed to record another win over the next four games, so Smith named McCown again the starter. On February 11, 2015, after under-performing, McCown was released after just one season with the Buccaneers. QB Glennon is still on the Bucs roster, but Tampa Bay has the 1st overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and it is believed that they will select Florida State QB Jameis Winston. UPDATE: QB Winston went to Tampa Bay as the #1 overall, and he has potential, but I see more of a cross of QB Josh Freeman and QB Vince Young, and they weren’t great. QB Vince Young ( who ironically, was selected by Tennessee in 2006) and Winston are both 6’5″ ish, 230 pounds, not particularly fast, and have cannons for an arm. What would be perfect for this article, is if Young had also won the Heisman Trophy. He did not. In 2005, he came in 2nd to RB Reggie Bush. Although Vince Young’s 5 year NFL career wasn’t completely void of adequate performances, he didn’t come close to being worthy of the 3rd overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, and certainly was not a franchise quarterback.
RB– When a team has 3 running backs all getting 50+ carries in a season, fantasy owners don’t have one that they should have drafted. In 2014, Tampa Bay had RBs Bobby Rainey, Doug Martin and Charlie Sims all splitting playing time at tailback. It was the epitome of a RBBC situation. Because of this, no Tampa Bay running back ranked in the top 40 of NFL running backs. Looking back at their 2014 seasons, each of these running backs only had one stellar game a piece, that would have helped fantasy in a significant way. In Week 2 of the 2014 season, RB Bobby Rainey had 22 carries for 144, and 0 TDs. That is the best week for any TB running back. Although RB Martin was injured for the first 3 games of the 2014 season, 2015 promises to be more of the same. No Tampa Bay RB should be picked by fantasy owners until the later rounds this fall. UPDATE: The Bucs are raving about Doug Martin in OTAs and he has been getting first-team reps. Draft him if you want, but I’ve spelled out here why I am not. Defenses won’t be afraid of Winston and whatever TB RB is here there, he’ll be facing 8 men in the box all season.
WRs– Tampa Bay did not have a running back ranked in the top 40 of the NFL, but they did have a rookie wide receiver, Mike Evans, rank #13 among all NFL wide receivers. They also had a veteran wide receiver, Vincent Jackson, rank #36. Mike Evans was one the star wide receivers drafted from the impressive class in 2014. He was selected in round one-7th overall. (The last time the Bucs selected a WR in the first round of a draft was 10 years earlier- Michael Clayton 15th overall.) WR Evans ended the 2014 regular season with 1051 yards and 12 TDs, despite the QB merry-go-round in Tampa Bay. A rookie QB will take time to learn the game at the NFL level, so Evans’ numbers could take a hit in 2015. Tampa Bay’s #3 WR Louis Murphy ranked #91 in the NFL with only 380 yards and 2 TDs.
TEs– In 2014, the Bucs used their 2nd draft selection on 6’5″ TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Despite the high draft pick (he went 38th overall) Seferian-Jenkins first year was an unmemorable one with only 221 receiving yards and 2 TDs. (A back injury did prevent him from playing in the final 5 games.) Tight ends are not key weapons in the Bucs offense, but in 2013, former Buc TE Tim Wright was able to rank #13 in the NFL with 571 yards and 5 TDs. Seferian-Jenkins should be able to achieve those kind of numbers in 2015.
K– Undrafted rookie Patrick Murray won the Bucs’ kicking job over former K Connor Barth in 2014, and ended the season as the #26 kicker in the NFL. He was fairly accurate, but was next to last in NFL in field goal attempts with 20. He punched in 16 of them and all 31 extra points. Tampa Bay’s offense could struggle again in 2015, so Murray is not a good candidate to fair much better than he did last year.
DEF– Tampa Bay’s defense ranked the middle of the road in most categories. What hurt them the most in 2014 was in points allowed. Opposing team averaged 25+ points which was 8th worst in the NFL, and Tampa Bay did not have an 2014 offense that could could match up…i.e. a season ending record of 2-14. Somewhere in April’s draft, the Bucs need to get solid help on their front four and help in the secondary so opposing teams can’t score on them as easily. Most of Tampa Bay’s free agent concerns are defensive players. UPDATE: Bucs sign CB Sterling Moore, DT Henry Melton, and FS Chris Conte all to 1 year deals. Bucs acquired DE George Johnson and a late-round pick from the Lions in exchange for a late-round pick.
2014 Tampa Bay Fantasy Surprises – The best case scenario for any rookie wide receiver in the NFL, is to crack into the top 20 of WRs. WR Mike Evans almost cracked the top 10. Evans had a better 2014 season than WRs Calvin Johnson, DeSean Jackson, Torrey Smith, A J Green and Roddy White to name just a few. Regardless of his late season injury, the Bucs barely used TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins when he was healthy. The Bucs spent their valuable #2 draft selection on him in 2014.
2015 Free Agents that Tampa Bay Needs to Address – DE Da’Quan Bowers- DE Adrian Clayborn (signed w/ Atlanta)- DE Lawrence Sidbury (re-signed)- OLB Lawrence Sidbury (resigned)- OLB Jonathon Casillas (signed w/ NY Giants)- ILB Mason Foster (signed w/ Chicago) – CB Mike Jenkins (re-signed)- S Major Wright (resigned)-TE Luke Stocker (resigned)
2015 NFL Draft– The immediate needs of Tampa Bay are at quarterback, on their O-Line, and on defense. The Bucs will likely select Jameis Winston with their #1 overall (QB), a rookie QB will need plenty of pass protection which TB didn’t have last year (OL), and the Bucs need to stop other teams from scoring so many points, so they need help serious help in their secondary (CB & S). UPDATE: Tampa Bay’s entire 2015 NFL Draft can be seen at this link- TAMPA BAY’S DRAFT
Did You Know – HC Lovie Smith has never drafted any quarterback, in any year, before the 4th round…ever. In his 8 years as head coach of the Chicago Bears, he only drafted 5 quarterbacks in total, and only one was drafted as high as the 4th round (Kyle Orton in 2005) The rest were from rounds 5, 6 and 7. In his first year coaching the Bucs, no quarterbacks were drafted. If Smith drafts a rookie quarterback #1 in this year’s NFL Draft, it will be a first of firsts.
All team reports can be seen at this link- TEAM REPORTS