The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a long road ahead of them to become a legitimate threat again. But that's not to say the pieces aren't falling into place. The Bucs have a lot of diamonds in the rough that simply need polishing, and we may see some of them shining sooner rather than later.
In 2009 the team juggled quarterbacks before putting their foreseeable future in the hands of young gun, Josh Freeman. While they will likely still struggle to stay out of the NFC South basement in 2010, they should do better than 3-13, and they have some intriguing fantasy options to keep an eye on.
Division: NFC South – Projected Finish: 4th Place
Strength of Schedule - #25 = 8th best. This should help some of the young players to have an easier schedule.
Josh Freeman gets his first full season to show what he can do. Josh Johnson and Jevan Snead are hiding in the wings, but Freeman should have a good amount of room for growing pains. I currently have him ranked at 28th, so at best he's a number 2 QB with upside potential.
It's hard to peg what will happen with the running game in Tampa this season. Last year was a four-headed mess, and no one really stood out. Here's my best guess for how it plays out.
- Cadillac Williams - As he did last season he will likely get the primary carries. That said I still only have him ranked at #32 at this point.
- Derrick Ward - He was expected to be the #1 guy last season, but he was fairly unimpressive. He may even get cut before the season starts.
- Earnest Graham - The odd man out heading into the season. Scraps are about all I expect, and he's playing fullback.
- Clifton Smith - He's more of a return guy, but he could get into the mix.
- Kareem Huggins - This undrafted rookie has solidified himself as the team's #2 back behind Cadillac, officially supplanting Ward. The kid has been on fire this preseason and could push Cadillac Williams for touches, and may be only an injury away from fantasy stardom. Huggins is explosive and may be a sweet sleeper pick this season.
This is where it gets interesting for the Bucs. They have a lot of untapped talent at the receiver position, including two rookies from this season's draft. Last season not one TB WR made the top 50, and Stroughter and Clayton below came in at 92 and 100 respectively. So we can only hope for improvement.
- Sammy Stroughter - He should be the primary slot guy, but I'm not expecting fantasy worthy numbers in all but deep leagues.
- Michael Clayton - Fighting to hang onto his job. He'll lose.
- Arrelious Benn - He or Williams below will surprise us this year. My money's on Williams, but it could go either way. Benn has not impressed so far this ssummer.
- Mike Williams - Has set himself apart this spring/summer and is now the team's #1 WR.
The Bucs have one of the league's best tight ends in Kellen Winslow. He was the 4th most targeted TE last season with 127, and the 7th best fantasy TE, outperforming guys like Jason Witten, Greg Olsen and John Carlson to name a few. On a rookie-filled team he'll be Josh Freeman's veteran safety valve and a sweet pick at his position.
Connor Barth took over for Mike Nugent mid-season last year and averaged 6 fantasy points per game, which was still only good for 30th. Things change from year to year, so i expect better this season, but he's not likely on the fantasy radar.
Despite how feeble their defense was overall, from a fantasy perspective they ranked 18th, neck and neck with the New York Jets. They should rank somewhere in the middle this season as well, but that still puts them out of range for fantasy usefulness.
On the IDP side these are the names to know: Linebacker - Barrett Ruud and Geno Hayes, Defensive Lineman - Greg White, Defensive Back - Tanard Jackson and Sean Jones.
2010 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE
Wk Date Game Stadium Time (ET) 1 Sep 12 CLE @ TB Raymond James Stadium 1:00 PM 2 Sep 19 TB @ CAR Bank of America Stadium 1:00 PM 3 Sep 26 PIT @ TB Raymond James Stadium 1:00 PM 4 Bye 5 Oct 10 TB @ CIN Paul Brown Stadium 1:00 PM 6 Oct 17 NO @ TB Raymond James Stadium 1:00 PM 7 Oct 24 STL @ TB Raymond James Stadium 1:00 PM 8 Oct 31 TB @ ARI University of Phoenix Stadium 4:15 PM 9 Nov 07 TB @ ATL Georgia Dome 1:00 PM 10 Nov 14 CAR @ TB Raymond James Stadium 1:00 PM 11 Nov 21 TB @ SF Candlestick Park 4:05 PM 12 Nov 28 TB @ BAL M&T Bank Stadium 1:00 PM 13 Dec 05 ATL @ TB Raymond James Stadium 1:00 PM 14 Dec 12 TB @ WAS FedEx Field 1:00 PM 15 Dec 19 DET @ TB Raymond James Stadium 1:00 PM 16 Dec 26 SEA @ TB Raymond James Stadium 1:00 PM 17 Jan 02 TB @ NO Superdome 1:00 PM
Coach Raheem Morris head's into his second year as Captain of the Bucs ship. He's a defensive minded coach so he'll need to rely heavily on his former QB coach turned offensive coordinator, Greg Olsen, and his staff to wring every last drop of untapped talent they can from a ragtag offense of vets and rookies.
Morris is also pulling double-duty as the team's defensive coordinator this year. The team uses a 4-3 defensive scheme. Morris will look bring his defense along and keep his young offense in the game.