As the leader of one of the youngest teams in the NFL, Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman demonstrated why he was one of the top picks in the NFL Draft last season. In a surprisingly efficient and clutch way, he led an average Bucs team to a winning record in a stingy division littered with Super Bowl contenders such as the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons.
In 2009, Freeman did what most rookie quarterbacks do, he struggled. He passed for 10 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, making it tough for anyone to forecast how he would improve in the coming seasons. He would surely get better, but just how much better was the question.
For those lucky enough to snag Freeman in your dynasty leagues, you should be in for a real treat in 2011. The Bucs were a puzzle with rough-edged pieces that needed to mold together in order to fit, and Freeman has so far displayed the leadership skills needed for those pieces to prosper.
Among one of those potentially jagged pieces was rookie receiver Mike Williams from Syracuse. A guy most dubbed a head case coming out of college for his mysterious departure from the Orange midway through the season, the Bucs took a chance on Williams in the fourth round and it proved to be the right move. Williams impressive rookie campaign was perhaps only surpassed by Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. Williams caught 11 touchdowns along with 964 yards receiving, leading all rookie receivers and breaking the Bucs franchise record for touchdowns in a season.
Alongside Williams, there was another young gun who began his ascent as an impact player last year before an ACL tear flat lined his season. That man was receiver Arrelious Benn. However, his 9-month recovery from the injury is going smoothly and he expects to be 100% come August. Benn was one of the top receivers coming out of the 2010 draft, but didn’t really play like one in his first year, catching only two touchdowns. However, if the speed he displayed in college and early on in 2010 is still there, other teams won’t have an answer in the secondary for two young receivers as fast as Williams and Benn.
These two players played a big part in Freeman’s stat increase in 2010. He passed for nearly 3500 yards, 25 touchdowns, and six interceptions, a league low for starting quarterbacks. All of Freeman’s stats for 2009 were doubled in 2010. He also ran for more than 350 yards.
Freeman didn’t let worthy opponents stunt his stats either. The Bucs were competitive in all their division games, and Freeman showed a knack for coming on late in the fourth quarter to give the Bucs a chance to win.
I’d go as far to say that Freeman is a legitimate No.1 quarterback in 2011, though most people won’t draft him like one. That’s all the more reason to steal him late.