By Alex Levin
With the draft complete and the bulk of the free agency rush over with, it’s time to start looking ahead to the 2020 season! And with that, I’m back with year 2 of my Opportunity series.
For those who didn’t see this series last year, I try to take a different approach to fantasy projections than your run-of-the-mill rankings. The basis of my process is that the number one indicator of fantasy success is opportunities to touch the ball. Obviously individual player skill can (and will) affect that, but at the end of the day players are at the mercy of playcalling and play design. Therefore, if we want to make accurate projections, we need to look at each coach’s scheme and how they like to spread the ball around.
As a result, this series is very coach-centric. I’ll touch on individual players, but only as they relate to their coaches’ schemes. On a related note, this series will only aim to establish projections on how touches will be split up, not what individual players will be able to accomplish with those touches. That will come later once depth charts settle through training camp. Think of this series more as a basis for realistic expectations.
Make sense? Good. Let’s dive in.
Most of my stats are pulled from Pro Football Reference. Please support them. They are awesome and are my primary source of statistical information.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Year’s Accuracy
For league wide stats, see this spreadsheet.
Not that the Bucs had a bad offense before, but new head coach Bruce Arians actually turned all those yards into points. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles also did rather well with a defense largely devoid of talent. Sure he allowed a few more points than you’d normally like to see, but he was put in bad positions rather frequently by a certain turnover-prone quarterback. Both coaches will return for the 2020 season. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich will also return, though Arians is truly the one in command of this offense.
As we mentioned last year, Arians has been remarkably consistent throughout his recent runs as a head coach. He typically likes to run a pretty fast paced offense, and picks up the pace even more when he has to compensate for a weaker defense. Combining his time as Arizona’s head coach with last year, Arians’s offenses average about 1050 plays per year and have twice hit a high water mark of 1086. As for what he does with all those plays, his offense usually settles in somewhere around a 40/60 run-pass ratio, give or take 3% depending on how well things are clicking.
What is unusual, however, is how small of a target share the wide receivers posted. Arians’s wide receivers never fell below a 60% target share in Arizona, and only fell below a 63% share once in five years. Yet despite boasting one of the best receiver duos in the league last year, Tampa’s wideouts fell just shy of the 60% mark. This was partly due to a lack of depth behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin (Ravens castoff Breshad Perriman was the next best receiver on the roster) and partly due to a much better tight end group than Arians has ever worked with before. The Buccaneer tight ends’ 18.7% target share may not have been that high relative to NFL norms, but it beat out anything Arizona’s tight ends could muster under Arians. Those units averaged a scant 14.8% target share and only topped out at 17.2%.
Where to even begin? I guess the first thing worth mentioning is that some 6th round QB was signed to replace Jameis Winston. You may have heard of the new guy. Oh, and he brought his friend along too. So yeah. That might shake up a few things. For starters, Tom Brady isn’t really known for playing the same brand of YOLO-ball as Winston. After last year’s turnover-fest, Winston is sitting at a career average interception rate of 3.5%. Brady’s worst single year of his entire 20-year career was a 3.0% rate, way back in 2004.
Needless to say, cutting down the picks will probably change a few things. The biggest change will be that the defense might not have to face the most drives in the NFL against the highest average starting field position. Combined with their highly touted rookie safety, Bowles’s defense has a great opportunity for noticeable improvement. It also means that the total plays Arians calls will likely stay very high as Brady should be more adept at extending drives than his predecessor. Look for the run-pass ratio to jump back closer to Arians’s career average as the new and improved offense won’t dig itself into passing situations nearly as often.
The arrival of Rob Gronkowski will also provide some shakeup in the positional target shares. As noted above, last year was unusual for Arians in terms of positional target shares as the Bucs had very little wide receiver depth and very good tight ends. Tampa didn’t do much about the wide receiver depth this offseason, but adding Gronk to the already loaded tight end group might very well push the tight end target share over 20% for just the second time in Arians’s coaching career. Between this tight end boost and the dynamic wideout duo of Godwin and Evans, it’s unlikely that the running backs will see any significant boost despite Brady’s perceived reliance on running backs in the passing game.
Alex Levin – Projections/Redraft
Ride or Dynasty