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Spotlight: Josh Freeman

posted by Mark Wimer on Jul 14th


Mark Wimer's thoughts

Josh Freeman made huge strides from 2009 (10 games played; 159/291 for 1,857 yards, 10 TDs and 18 interceptions, with 31/162/0 rushing) to 2010 (16 games played; 291/474 for 3,451 yards, 25 TDs and six interceptions, with 68/364/0 rushing). He vastly outperformed expectations last year and ended the season as the seventh-best fantasy quarterback in the land. Though he never broke through the 300-yards passing barrier last year (his best total in passing yardage came during week five when he tossed 20/33 for 280 yards, one TD and one interception), Freeman had seven games with two or more passing TDs, and only failed to score once (week three, vs. Pittsburgh). He's a smart, talented runner who gains big chunks of yardage when he elects to run the football (he's averaged 5.2 and 5.4 yards per rush during his two seasons in the league). His scrambling ability should mean a sweetener of one-to-two rushing TDs for his fantasy owners this season and somewhere between 300-400 yards rushing.

Entering 2011, the Buccaneers have a vibrant, young starting offensive unit stocked with last year's best waiver-wire acquisition at running back (LeGarrette Blount, 13 games played for 201/1,007/6 rushing and 5/14/0 receiving), two exciting young receivers in Mike Williams (128 targets for 65/964/11 receiving) and Arrelious Benn (38 targets for 25/395/2), and steady veteran Kellen Winslow at tight end (98 targets for 66/730/5 receiving last year). In short, this unit is ready to put up more good numbers during 2011.

There are a few concerns with the stable of players, though - Benn is rehabbing his season-ending knee (ACL) injury at a furious pace, but he wasn't hurt until week 16 of the regular season, meaning that he'll be just eight months removed from surgery when August rolls around. According to all reports out of Tampa, Benn should be ready for the regular season, but we have yet to see him going at full-tilt vs. defenders in pads. Winslow has chronic knee problems thanks to the motorcycle accident that injured him years ago, and though he says that the knee feels 'really good' as of May 24th, Winslow often needs to skip practices to ensure the joint's functioning during regular season. The team did draft Luke Stocker in April to provide some youthful depth behind Winslow, but the guys behind Benn and Williams at wide receiver aren't household names (Michael Spurlock, Sammie Stroughter).

Freeman has been a team leader during the long NFL labor dispute, organizing player workouts during June. 'I don't know about some of the free agents and rookies, but we're hoping to have about 45 guys there,' Freeman said on June 14th. 'We're going to try to get everybody in and go over some scheme stuff and even install some stuff. I held on to some of my playbooks from the (regular) season and we're putting together scripts and everything and just trying to get things back to normal as much as possible.' He is held in high esteem by the other players on the Buccaneers and Freeman seems to be highly motivated to succeed during 2011.

Positives

  • Freeman showed a big improvement from his rookie season to his sophomore effort, and he looks poised to continue to build on his momentum
  • Freeman is young (just 23 this year), but he's got veteran experience and is confident enough to assert himself as a team leader
  • Tampa Bay has built a good offense around Freeman over the last two years

Negatives

  • There are injury concerns for starting players in the lineup as detailed above
  • The depth behind the wide receivers isn't very impressive, which could be a problem if the team needs guys to step up into the starting lineup during the season
  • The team is youthful enough that key cogs in the offense are still learning the pro game, and the labor stoppage has kept the coaching staff away from the Buccaneers much longer than usual this year

Final thoughts

Freeman is one of my favorite QB selections this year. He's ninth on my quarterback board, while the consensus ranking puts him out of the top ten (currently 11th overall at his position). I think that the Buccaneers have a lot of potential for growth on offense, and I think that Freeman has the work ethic and physical tools to maximize that potential this year. I plan on drafting him regularly during 2011.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

Raiderfan32904 said:

You won't find a harder working young QB than Josh Freeman. He's playing out of the spotlight down in Tampa Bay and a lot of people haven't yet grasped that he's indeed a franchise QB. He grew up a lot last year, and especially with the game on the line. His overall stats last year were better than his fantasy performance, but he was steady and consistent. This is a young team with a star WR in Williams, another good one in Benn, and a very good receiving tight end in Winslow. These guys are forming a potent core, but for now Freeman is a better NFL QB in real football than fantasy football.

That said, I think it's a mistake to ignore his maturation in the 2nd half of last season, particularly the sharp decrease in interceptions. He'll face a much tougher schedule, in a conference that is already tough to win in. Freeman, I suspect is going to go deeper in fantasy drafts than he should go. I have him pegged as a borderline QB#1 (read: Value), and would be good to pair up with similarly drafted QB like an Eli or a Roethlisberger.

Sweet Love said:

I'll be the first to say, I was absolutely wrong about this guy. As a Jets fan, I was estatic that they moved up to take Sanchez instead of letting Freeman fall to them (as what was widely projected). Not because I was such a huge Sanchez fan, but more so, because I did not want Freeman. After watching him last year, I would not have minded having that guy on my team at all. He was poised, had a wickedly young receiver corps and still managed to make them look good. He is a beast to bring down and already knows this is he is team; not because he happens to be the QB, but because he commands respect.

With that said, I am a little bearish on projections for 2011. (1) He will not sneak up on anyone in 2011. He ended the year with an exclamation point and teams will be ready for him this coming season. (2) Benn is coming off of injury and Williams will be hard-pressed to follow up such a great rookie year with a marked improvement.

When I look back 365 days ago the Bucs were picked by many to be the worst team in the NFL (with STL). Obviously, both teams surprised and while the Bucs are a team on the rise, that rise is not always "true". I see them taking a small step back (say 8-8) before they make their push to be a consistent playoff contender.

rzrback77 said:

Josh Freeman has improved in every phase every step of his career. He played in only ten games in his rookie season and completed only 54.6% of his passes and had 18 interceptions against 10 passing TDs.

In his second campaign, he increased his completion percentage all the way to 61.4% and his TDs up to 25 against only 6 ints. His receiving corps is young, but talented. Mike Williams was an excellent red zone target and a capable WR #1. His RBs caught 69 passes with most going to Cadillac Williams, who I anticipate will resign with Tampa and has been working out with Freeman. Winslow is an excellent target at TE and hopefully second year player Arrelious Benn will be ready to go at training camp this summer.

I am not a huge L. Blount fan and think that the Tampa offense will maintian or even increase the passing opportunities for Freeman in 2011. He has also been an effective runner when oppotunities are presented, averaging 5.3 ypc for a total of 526 yards in 26 games, or 20 yards per game. I see him using that ability to get in the end zone a few times this year as he matures in his red zone decision making.


Josh Freeman projections

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Mark Wimer325520370028103202
Message board consensus310509364625113732