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Player Spotlight: Jameis Winston

A detailed look at Jameis Winston's fantasy prospects for 2016.

WINSTON IN WAITING

Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter acknowledges two things about the development of Jameis Winston, the quarterback they drafted at number one overall in 2015.

The first is that Koetter deliberately limited what he was asked to do in year one. He had already seen what can happen when too much is expected of a young quarterback from the get-go. A few years prior, Koetter had served as the Offensive Coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars had just taken Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert with the tenth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Fan pressure forced Gabbert off the bench early and he floundered, ultimately being benched and then later traded to the 49ers. In an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Robert Klemko, Koetter acknowledged that Gabbert was given too much, too soon: “I think when we had Blaine Gabbert in his first year—and I’m not criticizing anybody—but there’s an example where Blaine maybe got forced into situations a little bit too early.” In turn, Winston embraced keeping things more simple in his first campaign. When Sports Illustrated’s Peter King asked Winston what was the best lesson he had learned from his rookie year, Winston responded with the following:

Something that coach Koetter taught me that really helped me with my whole game: Just do the simple things. I’m such a passionate player, I always want to make big plays and I always want to have excitement. It seems so cliché saying this, but do the simple things and you’ll be OK. Don’t overdo. It just sounds like, OK, it’s like reading the Bible. The Bible tells you from right and wrong and you do that and you will have a good life. But it’s really that easy: Make the simple decision. If you don’t get too over-hyped, if you just make smart decisions and do the right thing, the sky is the limit.

The second thing Coach Dirk Koetter will openly admit about Winston’s development is that more will be expected of Winston this year. He will be allowed to both call audibles and to run more no-huddle plays to quicken the tempo of the offense. There will be less max-protection schemes employed and more personal control for Winston.

When it comes to film study, Koetter calls Winston a “wild man.” Winston also made working on his foot frequency an off-season goal:

I want to work on my foot quickness. I believe I have good pocket presence, but you never can be too good with your feet, so I have to make sure my feet are quicker. Sometimes I get too wide in the pocket, and I need to keep my feet up under me and be a little smoother in the pocket. I need to improve everything, really, but I just have to get quicker.

Early accounts of Winston’s offseason progress are favorable. He has been working with Michael Jordan’s former personal trainer and has shed 15 pounds. With exceptional study habits and a workman-like approach to improvement, Winston seems equal to the task.

WINSTON WONDERMENT

There’s much to admire about what Winston did in 2015 and his potential going forward. Despite missing Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins to injuries at various points in the year, Winston had a spectacular season. It rivaled the rookie performances of Cam Newton, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, and others who went on to become stars of the game. He had 58.3 percent accuracy on his passes, threw for over 4,000 yards, and had 22 touchdown strikes. Though not known for being a mobile quarterback, Winston also managed to rush for six scores. He demonstrated great understanding of when to get rid of the ball, taking only 27 sacks all year. He accomplished this, despite having an offensive line that ranked among the bottom third of the league heading into 2015. The running game came alive again with a reinvigorated and motivated Doug Martin, which also helped take pressure off of Winston. One other development that really helped (and will continue to help) Winston was the emergence of running back Charles Sims. He materialized as a reliable pass-catcher out of the backfield, giving Winston yet another viable target. While tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins spent most of the year injured, Cameron Brate filled in admirably. Cameron Brate may not have the physical prowess of Seferian-Jenkins, but he proved last season that he can be where he needs to be on the field.

WAYWARD WINSTON

There are only a few reasons for reservations about Winston headed into 2016. Most have to do with not Winston himself, but his targets. Though he will be recovered from the sprained MCL that hampered him last season, at age 33 Vincent Jackson is nearing the end of his career. Though they’ll undoubtedly get more out of him this season, the team may want to think about giving Matt Waldman favorite Kenny Bell increased opportunity, as Bell’s game is very similar to that of Jackson. Aside from the injury issues, Austin Seferian-Jenkins seems to be having some maturity problems. In a recent team activity, Koetter sent Seferian-Jenkins off the field, claiming, “he didn’t know what he was doing.” Later that day, Seferian-Jenkins was seen on Twitter battling back and forth with users who had made disparaging remarks about him.  A sports anchor at a local TV station claims that ASJ is close to being off the team:

The offensive line got decisively worse this offseason when Logan Mankins retired. The team signed former Seahawk J.R. Sweezy to take his place, but one could argue that Mankins was still a better option than Sweezy. Also, as we know, offensive lines take time to gel when personnel changes. According to our own Matt Bitonti’s offensive line rankings, the Buccaneers’ unit currently ranks 29th in the league. With the team planning to call less max protection and a degraded unit, Winston may be hurried, pressured, and sacked a lot more than he was last season.

Finally, Winston does need to do a better job taking care of the ball. This was one of the criticisms about his game coming out of Florida State and has continued to be a problem for him at the professional level.  His 15 interceptions and 3 fumbles lost really hurt his touchdown-to-turnover ratio. He becomes less attractive in leagues that penalize two or more points per instance.

POSITIVES:

  • Winston is in better shape and continues to study and work hard to improve.

  • He will have some of his limitations removed by Koetter, which should allow for more offensive production.

  • In addition to quality complementary targets, Winston continues to have one of the best young wideouts in the game to whom to throw.

NEGATIVES:

  • Vincent Jackson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins have lost the luster as receiving options.

  • The offensive line may not be able to protect Winston as well in 2016.

  • As a risk-taker, Winston tends to generate more turnovers than others at the position.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Winston seems to be putting the college character concerns behind him with the proper study and diligence needed to be a successful NFL quarterback. With one of the best young wideouts in the game in Mike Evans and with Dirk Koetter allowing Winston a longer leash, we should see improvement.  As was the case last year, Jameis is once again being undervalued in redraft formats. Our consensus ADP data shows Winston is usually going in the mid- to late-ninth round. For a quarterback who is likely to finish in the top ten, this is a great value. In dynasty circles, Winston’s stock is heating up as people begin to realize that he is more likely to succeed in the NFL. He currently is going in the early- to mid-seventh round in startup drafts. There are usually options that present more value at that point in a dynasty draft, but if Winston slips further than that in your draft, he may be worth consideration.

2016 PROJECTIONS

BOB HENRY’S PROJECTIONS

G

PYD

Y/ATT

TD

INT

RSH

YD

TD

FPT

16

4280

7.64

26

15

58

250

4

352.00

MAURILE TREMBLAY’S PROJECTIONS

G

PYD

Y/ATT

TD

INT

RSH

YD

TD

FPT

16

3906

7.47

21

15

59

229

3

271.25

OTHER VIEWPOINTS

Sander Philipse of Bucsnation.com believes that Winston showed greater potential for long-term success in 2015 than did Marcus Mariota:

In general, I tend to prefer a quarterback that takes more risks: it's easier to teach him prudence than it is to teach an overly careful quarterback to be more aggressive. Alex Smith still refuses to throw into tight windows, while players like Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning have learned to balance their aggression -- most of the time, anyway. So notch that up as another win for Jameis Winston on the field, at least in my book.

Mike Clay stated in his ESPN Dynasty Rankings that he is expecting progress in year two for Jameis Winston:

Mariota and Winston, the top two players selected in the 2015 draft, showed flashes as rookies. Mariota was the more fantasy-relevant of the two, but he missed four games due to injury. Winston, who's reportedly in much better shape as he enters his second season, is a candidate for a major leap forward.

Jamey Eisenberg of CBS Sports thinks Winston and the Buccaneers may surprise owners this year:

"This should be a fun offense to watch if Winston improves as expected in his second year. Most Fantasy owners won't point to the Buccaneers as an offensive juggernaut like the Patriots, Packers or Saints, but they could be a nice surprise this season if everyone stays healthy."