Jameis Winston: 2017 Fantasy Outlook

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When someone asks who the best quarterbacks in the NFL are, who immediately comes to mind? Tom Brady? Aaron Rodgers? How long would it be before Jameis Winston gets mentioned? Ten names later? 15? Whatever it is, it’s pretty clear that he is not one of the top five quarterbacks in football. However, Winston will be a top five fantasy football quarterback in 2017.

Jameis Winston: 2017 Fantasy Outlook

Fantasy football is an entirely different animal when determining the value of a quarterback. It’s more about the numbers you put up and less about the efficiency with which you do it. Things like completion percentages have less weight in fantasy football than they do in real life. Touchdowns reign supreme in fantasy football, with yardage being another major factor. So, with that being said, let’s take a look at some of the quarterback numbers from last season.

By The Numbers

One of the most common ways to measure a quarterback’s performance in the NFL is through a metric known as Total QBR. This factors in passing attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns, and interceptions. Last season, the top five quarterbacks based on QBR were as follows:

  1. Matt Ryan – 83.3
  2. Tom Brady – 83.0
  3. Dak Prescott – 81.5
  4. Aaron Rodgers – 76.9
  5. Drew Brees – 72.0

Now let’s compare that to the top five quarterbacks based on fantasy points:

  1. Aaron Rodgers – 380.02
  2. Matt Ryan – 347.46
  3. Drew Brees – 332.32
  4. Andrew Luck – 307.70
  5. Kirk Cousins – 300.28

In the transition from QBR to fantasy points, two players fell out of the rankings: Dak Prescott and Tom Brady. The reason Brady fell out is because he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension. But why did Prescott drop out? The answer is passing touchdowns. Prescott finished the season with 23 passing touchdowns, which wasn’t even enough to crack the top 15 in that category.

To be specific, he was 16th in passing touchdowns and 19th in passing yards. He did lead all quarterbacks in rushing touchdowns with six, which catapulted him all the way up to sixth in total fantasy points, but it wasn’t quite enough to keep him in the top five. However, Prescott and Brady did have something in common that made them QBR darlings. They both had completion percentages in the top five for quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts.

Now let’s take a look at the two quarterbacks that replaced Prescott and Brady in the fantasy points rankings: Andrew Luck and Kirk Cousins. Cousins finished in the top three in yards and was tied for fifth most rushing touchdowns among quarterbacks. Luck, despite a completion percentage in the bottom half of the league, finished in the top five in both total yards and touchdowns.

Where Does Winston Factor Into All of This?

In terms of Total QBR, Jameis Winston ranked 13th in the league in 2016. In terms of fantasy points, he ranked 16th. While that is underwhelming, what’s even more troubling is his turnovers and completion percentage. He had the second most turnovers among quarterbacks last season and was in the bottom ten for completion percentage. While that is a QBR killer, it is less deadly when it comes to fantasy points. Want proof? Look no further than Drew Brees. He was top five in both turnovers and fantasy points last season. His QBR was just barely kept afloat, in part, by his 70 percent completion rate.

The one silver lining for Winston? He was tied with Derek Carr and Tom Brady for seventh most passing touchdowns. So, it’s pretty evident that the two things that matter the most when it comes fantasy points are yards and touchdowns, with things like completions percentages and turnovers taking a back seat. But how will Winston increase his production in those categories enough to be a top five fantasy scorer among quarterbacks?

Tampa’s New Toys

Jameis Winston has always enjoyed the luxury of having one of the best and most physically imposing receivers in the league to throw to in Mike Evans. However, the drop off after Evans in Tampa has been pretty significant, especially when the aging and oft-injured Vincent Jackson is unable to suit up. Last season, Tampa’s second leading receiver was tight end Cameron Brate.

But 2017 is a new season with shiny new toys for Jameis Winston. Tampa brought in DeSean Jackson in line up opposite Evans and then drafted a physical specimen in Alabama tight end O.J. Howard. Howard is a beast of a human, standing at 6’6″ and weighing 250 ppounds, and he somehow runs a 4.5 40 yard dash. That is a combination of size and speed that we haven’t seen in the NFL since Calvin Johnson. They also drafted another receiver in Penn State standout Chris Godwin who can line up in the slot and provide solid depth at the position. With these new weapons, Winston will be able to go through his proper progressions and have reliable check down options when needed. As a result, Winston’s turnover rate should decline this season.

With Evans and Jackson lining up out wide and the potential two tight end sets with Howard and Brate, the passing game in Tampa has become deadly and Jameis Winston is poised to reap the benefits. The run game continues to be a concern with the questionable durability of running back Doug Martin as well as a below average offensive line. However, with the weapons that Tampa has in the pass, expect to see wide open running lanes for Martin.

Playing the Matchups

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play in the NFC South, which is a decent division overall. They have a Super Bowl contender in the Atlanta Falcons and a solid, albeit unpredictable, team in the Carolina Panthers. However, the NFC South is arguably the worst division in terms of defense. The Panthers, Saints, and Falcons all averaged over 25 points allowed per game last season, which was good enough for all of them to be in the bottom seven of the NFL in that category. Not only will Winston and the Tampa offense carve up its division rivals’ defenses for six games out of the season, they won’t have too much competition for the other ten games. Winston is projected to have one of the five easiest schedules for quarterbacks in 2017, having the benefit of playing teams like the Bears and Jets.

So Who Will Be in This Year’s Top Five?

The combination of a new, lethal offense and one of the easiest schedules in the NFL for quarterbacks creates a perfect storm for Winston this season. A storm that will most certainly make him one of the highest scorers among quarterbacks in fantasy football. Expect both Brees and Cousins to drop out of the list of top five fantasy scorers in 2017.

Brees lost his favorite and most dangerous target in Brandin Cooks and the Saints are geared to focus on their run game with the addition of Adrian Peterson and no replacement for Cooks. Cousins also lost a big time target in Jackson and Jamison Crowder alone will not be enough to keep Winston from surpassing him. Replacing Brees and Cousins will be Brady and Winston. With that being said, here are the projected rankings for the top five highest scoring quarterbacks in fantasy football this season:

  1. Tom Brady
  2. Aaron Rodgers
  3. Matt Ryan
  4. Jameis Winston
  5. Andrew Luck

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