Apologies to Mrs. Humphries, but the #2 WR spot in Tampa Bay was 1 of the biggest holes in the league heading into free agency.
Adam Humphries filled that role last year, finishing 2nd on the squad with 83 targets. He parlayed those into 55 catches, 622 yards and 2 scores. A 5’11, 195-pounder with subpar athleticism, Humphries is nothing more than a #3, slot receiver. That’s what he’ll be in 2017.
The Bucs landed themselves a legit #2 WR in DeSean Jackson. The 9-year vet arrives in Tampa Bay with six 1,000-yard seasons, including 1 this past year in Washington. Jackson’s career 17.7 yards per catch leads all 111 active WRs with 100+ grabs.
And, despite turning 30 in December, Jackson hasn’t shown any signs of decline. He’s rattled off 3 straight seasons of 17.6+ yards per catch, including a 17.9 mark last year. His 19.0 yards per catch over the last 3 years leads all 75 WRs with 100+ catches during that stretch.
In Tampa, Jackson will settle a few pegs below Mike Evans on the target totem pole. But D-Jax has never been a high-volume receiver — nor has he needed a boatload of targets to put up fantasy numbers.
He set a career high in targets in 2013 with 126. That ranked just 23rd among WRs. Jackson has reached 100 looks just 3 other times and never finished higher than 20th at his position in targets.
But that hasn’t stopped him from turning in a pair of top-12 PPR finishes and 5 seasons inside the top 30. Jackson has ranked better in PPR points than targets in 6 of his 9 seasons, including each of the past 4.
In fact, D-Jax has finished top 5 in fantasy points per target in 4 straight seasons — the only WR to do that. This is an uber-efficient pass catcher.
Jackson won’t have any trouble surpassing the 83 targets Humphries saw as the Bucs’ #2 WR last year. Combine those 83 looks with the 32 Vincent Jackson saw in his 5 games and you get 115 total. That feels like a fair projection for D-Jax in 2017.
That assumes 16 games, which isn’t a smart assumption. Jackson has only once played a full 16-game season. But he’s also played at least 13 in 7 of 9 years. Fantasy owners should be prepared for him to miss a few this season, but there’s no reason he can’t provide WR3 production with some spiked weeks as a Buc.
What about Mike Evans?
Evans led the NFL with 171 targets last year — a massive 29.6% of the Bucs’ total targets. That target share is a near lock to drop in 2017 with Jackson on board. The raw number of targets likely will too, even if Tampa throws more. (They ranked 16th in pass attempts and 23rd in pass rate last year.)
Improved efficiency should offset any loss in volume, though. Evans posted a subpar 56.1% catch rate and a career-low 13.8 yards per catch last year. He ranked 51st in yards per target among 92 WRs who saw 50+ looks.
That was due in large part to the barrage of double teams Evans saw last year. The threat of Jackson on the other side of the field will draw some attention away. Note that Evans finished 25th in yards per target as a rookie when he was paired with a still-effective Vincent Jackson.
Evans remains a top 5 fantasy WR as the #1 target in what should be a high-scoring Bucs offense.
How about Jameis Winston?
Winston’s pro career is off to an impressive start. He ranks 2nd all-time in passing yards through 2 seasons and 5th in TDs. He finished 13th among QBs in fantasy points as a rookie and 10th this past year.
He did that with an over-the-hill Vincent Jackson and slot-man Adam Humphries as his #2 WRs. DeSean Jackson is easily the best #2 Winston will have had as a pro. The 23-year-old Evans is still on the ascent. And TE Cameron Brate has emerged as a reliable target.
Winston has the look of a fantasy football QB1 whose ceiling could climb into the top 5.