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Player Spotlight: Jameis Winston

A detailed look at Jameis Winston's fantasty prospects for 2017 and beyond.

POSITIVES

  • Winston has receiving weapons in spades this year.

  • The questions surrounding the Buccaneer run game and offensive line suggest his passing attempts will be high.

NEGATIVES

  • Winston needs to improve his completion percentage to enter the elite ranks.

  • As has been the case from his rookie year, Winston needs to improve his turnover rate.

WINSTON WORKING

Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter must be pleased with Jameis Winston’s development to this point. He is the only player to have ever thrown for over 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons. Last year, he finished fourth in air yards per attempt with 4.77, a metric that is closely tied to quarterback success. From all accounts, he is putting in the work, both in the film room and on the field. Yet both coach and player recognize there’s work to be done. Koetter said of Winston:

...no one has higher expectations for his performance than he does. I mean, he’s aiming to be elite, not just one of the 32. And because he has such high expectations, and we have such high expectations, it’s a never-ending process. We’re hard on Jameis and he’s hard on himself. Always improving, but not where it needs to be.  

Winston and Tampa Bay barely missed the playoffs, despite posting their first winning season since 2010. Shortly after their week 17 win against the Carolina Panthers, Winston acknowledged, "We have to continue to get better. We have to continue to expect to win rather than hoping to win.” Winston’s drive for constant improvement bodes well for our fantasy teams.

WINSTON WINNING

Considering what the Buccaneers accomplished in both the Draft and free agency, it’s fair to say that Winston is armed to the teeth with a variety of offensive weapons. They added the speedy DeSean Jackson, who can stretch the field vertically and work in the slot. Both of these elements were largely missing from Tampa Bay last season. The original blueprint was to run a two tight end system utilizing Cameron Brate and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. When Seferian-Jenkins’ struggles with alcoholism behind the scenes became too much for the team, they cut him and Cameron Brate largely became the go-to option at tight end last year. The team drafted an athletic matchup nightmare in O.J. Howard to man the second tight end position. They also added Chris Godwin, a wideout who should be able to quickly win the third spot on the wide receiver depth chart and who many believe has the skills to become a perfect compliment to Mike Evans. All things considered, Winston now has one of the most loaded corps in the league.

The Buccaneers struggled to run the ball last year due to a combination of injuries, ineffectiveness of their backups, and poor run blocking. Doug Martin has been oft injured and will also serve out the remaining three games of a suspension handed down last season. We can’t even be sure that he’s a significant part of their plans going forward. When Coach Koetter was asked about him on a recent podcast, he did not commit to Martin, stating:

If everything was 100% perfect, I don’t have experience with a guy taking three weeks off then coming back. So, you have practices in there and you have to kinda see it. It would kinda depend on how we’re doing as an offense, how we’re doing with our running game. We’ll just have to see.

Behind Martin, there is Jacquizz Rodgers, who is competent, but not dynamic at this late stage of his career. Charles Sims is more of a pass catching back. Peyton Barber and Jeremy McNichols have traits to suggest they may get an opportunity to contribute at some point in their careers, but they are unlikely to be ready to do that in year two and year one respectively. Uncertainty in rushing personnel paired with the fact that the offensive line is currently a better pass blocking unit than a run blocking unit suggest that this offense will seek to pass more often than not. All of our projectors agree that he will log at least 570 attempts through the air this season.

WET BLANKET ON WINSTON?

There are a couple of things Winston needs to improve upon if he is to reach the precipice of elite NFL and fantasy quarterback alike.

Winston’s completion percentage must get better. Last year, he completed just above 60% of his passes. While this was an improvement from his rookie year, it still was not on par with what top fantasy passers logged. For comparison, top quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Matt Ryan all hit above the 65% market. The good news is one has to think that Winston’s improved receivers will help him stay on target more consistently this season.

Winston also continues to have issues with 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. It’s an inherent issue in a quarterback that prefers to play with a high-risk, high-reward style. When discussing quarterbacks who fit this mold, images of Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees come to mind. For those players, the extra touchdowns and yardage totals that resulted from aggressively tossing the ball down the field more than made up for the interceptions. We can hope the same thing will ring true for an improving Winston.

FINAL THOUGHTS

In redraft leagues, Winston is still a value at current ADP in all leagues except those in which interceptions are heavily penalized. In most scoring systems, he’ll be a lock to record a top-ten finish with the upside to finish within the top five if he improves in the ways that were outlined earlier.

In dynasty circles, the window to buy Winston at a value slammed firmly shut last season. Winston now costs at least a future first-round pick in these leagues where few quarterbacks command that type of trade capital. If you are in need of a difference maker at quarterback and can deal what you project to be a late first to acquire him, it’s still a worthwhile venture.

2017 PROJECTIONS

JASON WOODS’ PROJECTIONS

G

PYD

Y/ATT

TD

INT

RSH

YD

TD

FPT

16

4475

7.62

29

14

51

185

3

361.75

MAURILE TREMBLAY’S PROJECTIONS

G

PYD

Y/ATT

TD

INT

RSH

YD

TD

FPT

16

4433

7.45

25

19

51

204

2

335.05

OTHER VIEWPOINTS

Dave Richard of CBS Sports suggests that Winston is in for a good year:

Entering his third season, Winston is armed with the most potent receiving corps he's ever had, a stable offensive line, a questionable run game (which means more passing) and a good supporting defense. He saw his numbers nudge northward last season, improving his completion percentage, passing yardage and touchdowns by modest amounts. Another jump should be in store.”

Michael Fabiano predicts a banner year for the young quarterback:

Winston has a ton of weapons in the pass attack, including Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, so his arrow is pointing upward. I'm expecting him to have his best fantasy campaign.

Sean Wagner-McGough of CBS Sports questions how far the Buccaneers can go with Winston at the helm:

At some point, Winston needs to show signs of improvement. That point needs to be this year if the Buccaneers have any hope of playing football into January. Fair or not, the Buccaneers' success in 2017 comes down to Winston's progression as an NFL quarterback.”