Fitzmagic or Fitztragic, we won’t know which Ryan Fitzpatrick will suit up Week 1 against the Saints until it’s too late. But the fate of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ season – and potentially your fantasy season – hinges on Fitzpatrick’s ability to win with Jameis Winston suspended the first three games, a factor which could have a ripple effect on the Bucs’ wide receivers.
Fitzpatrick didn’t exactly light the world on fire in his three starts last season (66-105, 745 yards, three touchdowns, one interception) but he did manage to go 2-1 which is a good sign. His overall numbers in six games: 58.9 completion percentage, 1,103 passing yards, seven TDs, three INTs.
Evans Won’t Go Hungry
The good news: Mike Evans was Fitzpatrick’s favorite target in the two full games the pair played together, so his prospects with Fitzpatrick look good. Evans was targeted 22 times in those two games; DeSean Jackson (11) and Adam Humphries (10) combined didn’t match his target total.
If Evans starts strong in Winston’s absence, he’ll have a great chance to finish top-10 at his position with top-five upside. A slow start could spell a repeat of last season and a poor return on investment. Evans has topped 1,000 yards receiving in each of his first four seasons, although de did it last season in uninspiring fashion. He impressed by topping wide receivers with 208.1 standard league points in 2016, and was widely drafted as a top-3 wide receiver heading into 2017. He proceeded to post one 100-yard receiving game, caught only five TDs and finished as WR20, a huge disappointment from a fantasy perspective.
As a target hog with or without Winston, and at his current ADP in the mid-20s, Evans should rebound and deliver a more bountiful fantasy season for owners.
Can Fitzpatick Help D-Jax Get Back on Track?
Jackson’s potential with Fitzpatrick is more volatile. The Bucs’ speedy deep threat struggled to find any consistency or chemistry with Winston or Fitzpatrick in his first season with the team in 2017. He could still be an X-factor if Fitzpatrick’s game is on and the two manage to develop some rapport in the offseason.
The biggest questions: Can Fitz get D-Jax the ball, and does D-Jax still possess the necessary speed to beat defenders down field?
For Jackson, the answer is yes. He’s averaging just over two yards of separation from the nearest defender when the pass arrives, ranking him 12th according to Player Profiler. At age 31 entering his 11th season, Jackson might have lost a step but he still has enough in the tank to make an impact.
In 14 games last season, Jackson caught 50 passes on 91 targets for 668 yards and three touchdowns. It marked only the second time in his career that he had less than 700 yards receiving (he had 528 in 10 games with Washington in 2015), and his longest catch went for 41 yards, a new low. The prospect of a bounce-back season for Jackson is strong.
But can Fitzpatrick get him the ball?
Fitzpatrick threw Jackson two of his three touchdowns last season, but none of those receptions went for more than 27 yards. In the three 2017 games in which Fitzpatrick was the only Bucs’ quarterback to throw a pass, Jackson totaled 16 receptions, 170 yards and one TD (the other TD that Fitzpatrick threw Jackson came in relief of Winston against Arizona). That doesn’t exactly spell deep threat. But since they’ll have time to work on their chemistry I’m optimistic Jackson can make a fantasy impact as a flex option.
Best of the Rest
Humphries and the rest of the Bucs’ receivers will also have a chance to develop some chemistry with Fitzpatrick. Stranger things have happened then a third-string wide receiver connecting with a backup quarterback, so stay tuned.
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