Shark Bites

Bucs RB Doug Martin was busy and productive in the team's 2nd preseason game on Thursday night. He carried 5 times for 30 yards and score in 2 series, adding 2 catches for 11 more yards. Martin looked quick and elusive -- and was the focal point of Tampa's attack. He's suspended for the first 3 games of the regular season but should return to something at least close to a workhorse role.

Bucs HC Dirk Koetter recently talked up RB Charles Sims' pass-catching ability. "At the very least, at the very least, Charles is a really good third-down back," Koetter said. "He's great in protection, really good on the perimeter, an excellent receiver." Sims racked up 203 receptions across 4 college seasons and has averaged over 3 catches per game as a pro. He finished 16th among RBs in PPR points back in 2015 on the strength of a 51-561-4 receiving line. That came despite Doug Martin's big 1,402-rushing-yard campaign. Martin, of course, is suspended for the first 3 games of this season. Sims could carve out a sizable role during that stretch and maintain it even when Martin returns.

Bucs RB Jeremy McNichols has been cleared for the start of training camp after offseason shoulder surgery. He has catching up to do after missing all of spring workouts. There's some opportunity in Tampa's backfield with Doug Martin suspended for the first 3 games, but McNichols is at least behind Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims right now.

Buccaneers GM Jason Licht said this week that his lead RB "looks like the Doug Martin of 2015," according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. Licht reportedly said that Martin "looks lean" and "looks like he's got that burst." The veteran back will miss the 1st 3 games of the year to finish off the drug suspension that ended his 2016 season and landed him in rehab. But this report falls in line with other positive buzz surrounding Martin this offseason. The Bucs sport a fairly crowded backfield, but a healthy, focused Martin remains their clear top option. He presents big fantasy upside and discounted risk at his late-Round 7 ADP in current MFL 10 drafting (RB32).

Bucs WR Chris Godwin has "consistently made the most plays" among the team's pass-catchers in OTAs, according to insider Rick Stroud. That's among a group that includes Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. HC Dirk Koetter agreed with Stroud's assessment, tabbing Godwin (along with Adam Humphries) the most consistent guy of the group. "I'm real happy with what Chris is doing," Koetter said. "He can play (inside) or out, either one." Godwin's path to playing time on the outside is blocked by Evans and Jackson, but he could certainly push Humphries for primary slot duties. That still might not be enough to make him a 2017 fantasy asset, though. The rookie remains more of a dynasty stash than redraft option.

The Buccaneers on Friday signed QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to back up Jameis Winston. There's obviously no fantasy relevance here unless Winston goes down. But if that happens, Fitzpatrick would inherit a nice corps of pass catchers and present some spot-start potential.

The Buccaneers selected Boise State RB Jeremy McNichols in the 5th round of the 2017 NFL Draft. At 5’9, 214 pounds, McNichols posted 1,337 yards in 2015 and 1,709 in 2016. He combined for 43 rushing scores over that span. Plenty elusive, McNichols also adds strong receiving skills (88 catches over the past 2 years). A Round 3/4 talent, the 21-year-old likely dropped due to post-Combine surgery on a torn labrum in his shoulder. Aiming to be 100% by July, McNichols will have a shot at early-season playing time — especially with Doug Martin suspended for the first 3 games.

The Bucs stopped a falling Penn State WR Chris Godwin with the 84th overall pick. He’s surprisingly the 11th WR off the board. Godwin broke out as a true sophomore in 2015, racking up 69 catches for 1,101 yards and 5 scores. His numbers weren’t as big this year (59-982-11). But he finished strong, tallying 34 catches, 618 yards and 8 TDs over his final 7 games. That included a 187-yard, 2-TD stomping of USC in the Rose Bowl — 1 of the most impressive single games we saw from any WR in this class. Godwin’s momentum continued with a strong performance at the Combine that earned the 6’1, 209-pounder a 90th percentile SPARQ score. While there’s some inconsistency on tape, this guy flashes a big catch radius and high-end contested-catch ability. In fact, WR guru Matt Harmon charted Godwin with an 85.7% contested-catch conversion rate — the highest of any WR in the last 2 draft classes. Godwin is also 1 of the best blocking WRs in this year’s class, which boosts his odds of getting and staying on the field. Of course, it’ll be tough for him to get on the field in a loaded Bucs offense that features WRs Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. Godwin could win the #3 WR job but would still be competing for leftovers with TEs O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. He’s unlikely to emerge as a 2017 fantasy asset. Longer term, though, the Bucs figure to be trotting out Godwin alongside Evans for QB Jameis Winston.

The Buccaneers drafted Texas A&M S Justin Evans in the 2nd round Friday night. NFL Network's Mike Mayock said he expects Evans to start right away at FS, touting the player's coverage range and aggressiveness as a tackler. Multiple analysts have criticized his propensity for missing tackles, however. Evans should face a fairly clear path to playing time in a weak secondary that has struggled to find full-time safeties in recent years.

10:27pm EDT 4/27/17

The Bucs selected Alabama TE O.J. Howard with the 19th overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. Howard’s college numbers don’t jump off the page — HC Nick Saban even admitted that he was under-utilized in the passing game — but he finished 3rd on a stacked Alabama offense in receiving yards both of the past 2 seasons. Flip on the tape and you see a big, strong, athletic dude. Howard checked into the Combine at 6’6 and 251 pounds, ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash and earned a SPARQ score in the 84th percentile among TEs. He’s also 1 of the best blocking TEs we’ve seen come out in recent memory. Howard is already a better all-around TE than Cameron Brate and should quickly pass him on the depth chart. He won’t be any higher than 3rd in line for targets, though, behind Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. Don’t bank on Howard being more than a fantasy spot starter in 2017. But tied to QB Jameis Winston, this is a nice long-term landing spot.

As expected, RB Doug Martin reported for the start of Tampa Bay’s offseason workout program on Monday. 2016 was a lost year for the veteran, as hamstring trouble and a PED suspension limited him to 8 games. Note that Martin will serve the final 3 games of his suspension during the 2017 regular season. We’ll see if the Buccaneers select a RB come draft day.

Here's what Buccaneers HC Dirk Koetter had to say about RB Doug Martin Wednesday, according to ESPN's Jenna Laine: "Who knows what's going to happen? Are we going to add a running back in the draft? Is Doug going to continue down the path of good health? And we have other guys we like at the position, too. I don't know what's going to happen, as I sit here today. But right now, we have time on our side." Koetter has no reason to convey anything other than uncertainty to the public. We'll see whether the Bucs make a significant backfield addition through the draft. If they don't and Martin stays on the path back, though, he looks like the best RB bet in a decent situation and at a terrific price in early MFL10 drafting.

10:07am EDT 3/18/17

The Bucs have signed K Nick Folk. He'll compete for the starting job with K Roberto Aguayo, who's coming off a disappointing rookie campaign that saw him convert just 71% of his FGs. Folk has bested that mark in 7 straight seasons.

The Bucs have reached an agreement with WR DeSean Jackson that will become official later today, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. This is a perfect fit on paper. Tampa was desperate for a #2 WR after using Adam Humphries in that role for much of last season. D-Jax is a huge upgrade and will provide a field-stretching presence opposite Mike Evans. Evans is unlikely to see the 173 targets or 30.3% target share he did last season. But he'll remain the clear top dog and should be more efficient with Jackson drawing away some defensive attention. Jackson, meanwhile, has proven capable of producing without big volume. Five different times he's finished as a top 30 non-PPR WR on fewer than 120 targets. QB Jameis Winston is also a big winner here.

The Jets have voided the final year on QB Ryan Fitzpatrick's contract, making him a free agent. It was an easy decision after Fitzpatrick tanked in 2016, completing just 56.6% of his passes with 12 TDs and 17 INTs. The 34-year-old will need to settle for a backup job in 2017.

Updating the Doug Martin story, ESPN reports the Bucs RB has been suspended 4 games by the league for violating the substance abuse policy. Martin is checking into a treatment facility, which indicates a significant issue. The team was reportedly notified last week, so we'll see if that game counts toward his suspension. He'll at least miss the 1st couple of games next season, though. We'll see this offseason what that means for Tampa's 2017 backfield plans.

Update: Martin's suspension was for Adderall. That's better news for his long-term outlook than an alcohol or drug issue. His suspension starts in Week 17, though, so he'll miss the first 3 games of next season.

Bucs RB Doug Martin is stepping away from the team to "take care of personal issues," according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. That explains why Martin was a healthy scratch for last week's loss to the Saints. We don't have any other details but at this point have no reason to believe it'll impact his 2017 season. We'll update the story as we learn more.

The Bucs have placed RB Charles Sims on IR. No word yet on his injury. With RB Doug Martin reportedly set to be a healthy scratch again on Sunday, Tampa will be down to RBs Jacquizz Rodgers, Peyton Barber and Russell Hansbrough.

9:02pm EST 12/27/16

The Bucs have placed TE Cameron Brate on IR with the back injury he suffered in last week's loss to the Saints. He'll miss the season finale against the Panthers. It's a disappointing end to what was an impressive year for Brate. He hauled in 57 balls for 660 yards and a TE-high 8 TDs. He's currently sitting 6th at the position in PPR points. Brate should be back as Tampa Bay's starter in 2017.

Bucs RB Doug Martin will again be inactive for the team's season finale against the Panthers, according to the Tampa Bay Times' Rick Stroud. HC Dirk Koetter called Martin's deactivation last week a "coach's decision." He missed a large chunk of this season with a hamstring injury and has mustered just 2.9 yards per carry in his 8 appearances. Still, it's a strange turn of events for a guy who just received a 5-year, $35.75 million contract this past offseason. We'll see whether Martin remains a Buc in 2017. Jacquizz Rodgers figures to operate as Tampa Bay's lead back vs. the Panthers this weekend. He tallied 78 yards and a TD on 17 touches last Saturday.

 
 
 

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