The Arians Effect: Bucs Offense on the Rise
This is an update of a previous article in my New Coaching Impact series to reflect roster moves and changes since it was first published on January 11th, 2019. Please enjoy.
There have been a lot of changes in Tampa Bay since the first edition of this article was published. There were a lot of targets vacated with the departure of DeSean Jackson (Philadelphia) and Adam Humphries (Tennessee). The duo combined for a whopping 179 targets last year. That was with Jackson missing four games due to injury as well.
The Arians Effect: Bucs Offense on the Rise
Savvy fantasy football owners focus on all positions of a football team. This includes the coaching staffs. Changes in the offseason can have a huge impact on the production of a player at a certain position. Bruce Arians is known for his aggressive nature on both sides of the ball. In this article, we examine Arians’ potential impact on the Bucs key offensive positions next year.
Jameis Winston (QB1)
There should be a spike in Jameis Winston’s numbers next year. Barring any more suspensions or injuries, the controversial quarterback should see a full allotment of 16 games in an Arians offense. During the five years in Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger as his quarterback, Arians coached up an average finish of 11.8 at the position. Big Ben’s highest fantasy finish was in 2007 (QB4), but the perennial Pro Bowlers low came the very next year in 2008 (QB18).
Look for an increase in the number of pass attempts for Winston. Under Dirk Koetter, the Buccaneers averaged 542.5 passing attempts per year. Compare this to an average of 589.6 passing attempts in Arizona during the five seasons Arians was in charge. This included 646 passing attempts in 2016 followed by 598 in 2017, third and fifth in the league, respectively.
FFStatistics’ own Michael Zingone projects Winston to have 586.4 passing attempts in 2019. This is right on par with an Arians led offense.
If these projections hold true, Winston would have been QB6 in 2018. This is worth the risk at the cost of the much-maligned quarterback’s ADP of 73.88 (QB11). There is certainly cause for trepidation as the Florida State grad has seen a steady decline in his fantasy rank every year he has been in the league, as has his draft counterpart, Marcus Mariota. Winston did only start 13 games in 2017 and just nine in 2018. However, if you are waiting on a quarterback in redraft, Jameis is certainly one to consider.
Blaine Gabbert was signed on March 27th to be the backup in Tampa, replacing the recently departed Ryan Fitzpatrick. This leaves little competition for Winston unless the Buccaneers oddly were to draft another quarterback in 2019.
Ronald Jones III/Peyton Barber (RB1/RB2)
The Bucs do not have a clear cut RB1 in this offense (one would assume it would be Jones given his draft status), but Arians never had an RB1 in the top-10 before he coached David Johnson. In Arians coaching career, the RB1 average finish in his offense was 17.57 and that is with an RB1 and RB8 from Johnson. The RB2 average finish was 61.21.
The Buccaneers did re-sign Peyton Barber to a one year, $2.025 million dollar contract on March 13th, so Arians must like a little of what he brings to the table for his offense. Neither Barber nor Jones was very efficient on a per touch basis. Part of this can be contributed to a bottom-tier ranked offensive line. The Buccaneers will likely address the offensive line position in the 2019 draft, thus bolstering both players’ chances for success this fantasy season.
Monitor this situation closely in training camp this summer. If one of the two appears to be running away with the job, draft them as a potential RB2 in a high-powered Arians offense. The quality receivers and tight ends in Tampa will take some of the pressure off of the running game as well. There are expected to be about 350 touches available looking back at Michael’s projection model above.
As a side note, Andre Ellington was signed for depth on February 19th. With so many other needs in the draft, it is likely this rotation will not change much before the season starts. Arians seems content to rely on his passing game weapons.
Mike Evans (WR1)
One of the passing game threats Arians will certainly rely on is Mike Evans. The WR1 position finished in the top-10 in six of the last 11 seasons Arians was an offensive coordinator or head coach. The average finish over those 11 years was 14.7 with a 24th and 44th finish mixed in to bring the average down. In his five years in Pittsburgh, the veteran head coach relied on both his WR1 and WR2. This will be discussed below.
The WR1 still averaged 131.9 targets per year in the Kangol wearing head coach’s offense.
Evans has done just fine for himself even with less aggressive coaches at the helm. The 2014 wide receiver class was loaded with talent (compared below). While a little inconsistent for the purpose of fantasy finishes, Evans has been over 1,000 yards in each of his first five seasons. The only other two wide receivers to do that were Randy Moss and A.J. Green.
Even though Evans is a little up and down, the Texas A&M product has finished as a top 25 PPR wide receiver in each of his five years in the league. He has also proven to be durable, playing at least 15 games a season his entire NFL career.
There are a few things you can count on here. Arians will target Evans heavily. Evans will do his best to play every week. The stud wide receiver will finish in the top 25 at the position in 2019. Draft with confidence in any format.
Chris Godwin (WR2)
With DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries out in Tampa, Chris Godwin is projected to move into the WR2 spot. The former Nittany Lion flirted with WR2 numbers even as the team’s WR3 (184.2 PPR points) in 2018. His target number of 95, 32nd in the league, from last year is sure to increase.
When Arians had a competent WR2 during his five-year stint as offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, the position averaged a whopping 116.4 targets per year. As we see from the statistical data from FF Statistics, the WR2 position in an Arians offense sees a much larger target share than the average NFL offense.
With all of the targets vacated by Jackson and Humphries, look for the up and coming young wide receiver to live up to the hype in 2019. Godwin landed in the 99th percentile on the Prospect Success Indicator courtesy of Miguel Chapeton right here at FFS. As you can see by the company Godwin joins on this list, he is among an elite group of talent.
Expect the potential Pro Bowl receiver to garner at least 100 targets in 2019 and do not be afraid to reach a little for him in redrafts. By all means, try to buy low on Godwin in your dynasty league before this projected explosion.
Breshad Perriman/Justin Watson/2019 Draft Pick (WR3)
Breshad Perriman was signed to a one-year, $4 million contract on March 13th. The contract is fully guaranteed likely meaning that the Buccaneers want the Cleveland cast-off to be heavily involved. If he falters, Justin Watson may be waiting in the wings. The WR3 position under Arians has been beyond serviceable with an average of 68.2 targets per year. As you can see, this is also well above the league average. The only other active wideout listed on the official website is Bobo Wilson.
For futures/reserves, they have K.J. Brent and Sergio Bailey. Not an inspiring bunch. These targets need to go somewhere. Tampa Bay may also decide to select a slot wide receiver in 2019 to replace the departed Humphries or Jackson. Hunter Renfrow, Penny Hart or Greg Dortch could all be options.
O.J. Howard (TE1)
Unless the Buccaneers draft a wide receiver or tight end, a large chunk of those vacated targets are likely to go to O.J. Howard, who acts as a slot receiver anyway. When Arians had a capable tight end in Heath Miller, the targets were there to be had at the position. Miller averaged a healthy 73 targets per year over five years with Arians calling the plays.
With Koetter at the helm, Jameis Winston’s targeted the position well above league average also.
Do not worry about Cameron Brate here. In the games they played together with Winston, Howard was targeted 34 times to just 20 targets for Brate. The Alabama grad also had 4 touchdowns to just 2 TDs for Brate during that stretch.
The average fantasy owner will think of Arians’ offense and be scared off by his poor TE production in Arizona. Take advantage of your league mates on draft day and take Howard comfortably if you miss out on one of the “big three” of Kelce, Ertz, and Kittle. The biggest knock on Howard has been his durability. Looking at the point per opportunity ratios, the athletic tight end could be in the discussion as one of the best in the NFL and in fantasy.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a legitimate shot to be a top-five fantasy offense in 2019. Jameis Winston should thrive in an aggressive Bruce Arians offense. If they can eliminate the turnovers from Winston, the former Seminole quarterback could finish in the top-10 at the position.
The backfield situation is muddled at best. By not spending up at the position, the Buccaneers seem to be conceding that the run game will not be a big factor for them. Keep an eye open during training camp for injuries or one of Barber or Jones to pull away from the other.
Mike Evans will do Mike Evans things. The two big winners of the Jackson and Humpries departure appear to be Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard. Even Breshad Perriman could have some value in larger leagues due to the volume received by the position in an Arians scheme.
Grab at least some part of the Tampa passing attack in 2019 and dominate your league. Try to monitor the ADP on Godwin and Howard. There is the potential for them to be value picks and thus league winners for you in redraft.