Bruce Arians retired from the coaching scene after the 2017 season in hopes to spend more time with family and take it easy. He ended up taking a job in the broadcast booth with CBS. During Friday practices open to the broadcast booth, he found himself wanting to correct mistakes players were making during practice and having to restrain himself from doing so.
The itch was still there, so Arians was back on the scene as a head coaching candidate. Rumors were circulating that he would only take the Cleveland Browns job, but they decided to remain in house and hire Freddie Kitchens. This led many to believe that Arians wouldn’t return to the NFL as a head coach, that is until Tampa Bay came knocking. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made an announcement that Arians would be their next head coach, after letting Dirk Koetter go.
Arians brings a lot of coaching experience to Tampa Bay and he is also reunited with his former defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles. Arians also brought Byron Leftwich from Arizona to be his new offensive coordinator, so we should see some similar styles to what he ran in Arizona both on offense and defense.
From a fantasy perspective, this should be an interesting team to watch as far as potential draft selections come for the fantasy season in 2019. The big question mark is going to be what can Arians do to make Jameis Winston a solid quarterback in the NFL. He has some great receiving options in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin at wide receiver and he finally has some capable tight ends in Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard.
Let’s dive further position by position to see how Arians can make this Tampa Bay offense worth a second look when it comes to setting up your fantasy draft board come late-July.
Fantasy Focus: Head Coach Bruce Arians Fantasy Impact On Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Winston has shown flashes of ability that made him a former Heisman Trophy winner and also a number one overall pick. The problem has been that he hasn’t been able to sustain that level of play over the course of an entire 16-game season. Winston had a solid rookie season and looked to be on an upward trend after a successful sophomore campaign as well. The thing that has prevented him from really ascending in this league is his tendency to turn the ball over. Not to mention a few off the field issues that kept him from focusing on just football. Having a solid mentor and quarterback guru can really turn his career around before he ends up being another failed first-round (first overall pick), quarterback.
Arians has worked with some household names when it comes to the quarterback position. He helped mold the career of Ben Roethlisberger, helped Andrew Luck have a successful rookie campaign, and squeezed the last of the juice that was Carson Palmer. This can mean a lot of good things for Winston. Working with Winston and making him a more consistent quarterback was one reason why the Buccaneers decided to target Arians for the head coaching position.
Winston will be an interesting name to keep in mind when it comes to draft time for fantasy football. Arians has a proven track record when it comes to mentoring quarterbacks in the NFL. The thing that Winston really needs to control is preventing the turnovers and that is something that Arians will need to focus on. As of right now, there is optimism for Winston as a fantasy option, but not as a QB1 just yet. A good option to keep on your bench and a player to keep on your watch list once the season begins.
24, 27, and 29. These are the ranks for the offense in rushing yards over the past three seasons for Tampa Bay. Part of that is injury, part of that is talent but it’s something that for sure needs to be fixed. The Buccaneers recently drafted Ronald Jones II with their second round pick in 2018. He did not play to his draft placement and looked overmatched more often than not.
On the plus side, Peyton Barber was able to pick up the load and was a somewhat dependable option out of the backfield. Now the offense was pass-first, so we didn’t really get to see all that Barber could do but it was a good option as a change to passing all the time.
Having worked in Pittsburgh as an offensive coordinator, Arians knows the value of having a solid run game. Also, he had the pleasure of coaching David Johnson in Arizona and knowing the value of having a running back that can run the ball and catch passes. So Arians will come into this situation with some work on his hands. Jones II and Barber are not pass-catchers and their passing-down back, Jacquizz Rodgers, is a pending free agent. So being able to move the ball on the ground will be a crucial part of the offense in order to further develop Winston as a quarterback. The hope is the Jones II has a better go in his second year and that Barber rides his momentum from 2018 into the new season.
As of right now, you’re better off going with other options at running back. Barber may be worth a last round stash on your bench, but even that is not advised. Monitor this situation, but overall you want to use the wait-and-see approach with the Buccaneers backfield. The first three weeks of preseason will be a geat tell-sign.
One thing that was consistent from the Tampa Bay offense was the production from the wide receivers. Five different receivers had 500 or more receiving yards and five different receivers had five or more receiving touchdowns (this counts tight ends). Evans is the consummate professional, as he turned in his first 1,500 receiving yard season and fifth-straight 1,000 receiving yard season.
Also, we saw great production from young, promising receivers in Godwin and Adam Humphries. This is a position group that can only get better if there is more consistency from the quarterback position.
Arians is no stranger to coaching premier receivers. Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne, Michael Floyd, Santonio Holmes, Antonio Brown, and Hines Ward have all produced 1,000-yard seasons under Arians’ tutelage. Arians has produced a 1,000-yard receiver in nine out eleven seasons since 2007, including three seasons where he had two receivers cross that mark. This is a good reason why Evans should have another solid year with Arians at head coach.
So bottom-line, Evans is a great fantasy option even if Arians was not the head coach. With Arians in the fold, Evans’ stock is definitely rising and should be a solid WR1 in most formats. Godwin also sees more value in being drafted as Arians likes to employ a balanced passing offense. Humphries is a pending free agent, but he can be a solid option as well if he returns to Tampa Bay.
Another thing that the Buccaneers’ offense has going for them is solid play from the tight end position. Brate is a great short yardage receiver and an excellent red zone option. Howard broke out in his second year and became a dynamic, chain-mover, in the Tampa Bay offense. If it wasn’t for foot and ankle injuries that put him on injured reserve for the second half of the season, Howard most likely would have been in the Pro Bowl.
This is an interesting position group to watch with Arians taking over the offense. Back in Pittsburgh, Arians was able to utilize Heath Miller in the balanced, passing attack. Moving on to his brief stint in Indianapolis, Dwayne Allen was a dependable option in the offense for rookie quarterback, Luck. The wrinkle comes here when Arians took the job in Arizona. Never having a solid option at tight end, Arians found that position in his offense becoming less and less involved. Sure, they caught some passes, but nowhere near the level of Miller in Pittsburgh or to a lesser degree, Allen in Indianapolis.
So based on the recency bias, you might want to think twice about picking Howard or Brate in your fantasy draft. However, Arians just never had a solid producer at tight end to rely on in Arizona. So when push comes to shove, take the latter option in this case because Arians can really open up the playbook now with solid options on the outside and also in the middle of the field. Having good production from receivers and tight ends will keep defenses guessing when the Buccaneers drop back to pass. Howard is worth drafting as a starting caliber tight end, for sure. Brate is to touchdown dependent to be relied on in your starting roster, but he can be a valuable handcuff. If Howard were to go down at all during the season, Brate would become an instant starting option for you tight end slot.