The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were a somewhat surprising supplier of some very good fantasy football players last year. Doug Martin was one of the four most valuable running backs in fantasy football last season, and depending on the format may have been the second-best player overall. Vincent Jackson was one of the top wide receivers, while Mike Williams made a very good number two. Even Josh Freeman had some very good ways, although his value plummeted toward the end of the season.
This year, nothing has changed in that department. SB Nation Fantasy's Alex Strouf lists three Buccaneers in his fantasy top 100: Mike Williams at number 76, Vincent Jackson at 31 and of course Doug Martin as the second best fantasy player in the NFL. He's one of the rare running backs who will get almost all of his team's carries, and a significant number of receptions to boot. And while Martin needed about four games to acclimate himself to the NFL, that learning curve should now be gone, further increasing his value. Don't forget the return of Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks, either -- two Pro Bowl guards can do wonders for any offense.
The Buccaneers did look to add some competition to that group this year, though. They signed Peyton Hillis and Brian Leonard and drafted Mike James. Those three are battling with Michael Smith to be the backup. But while Rotoworld suggests that Peyton Hillis should be the handcuff for Doug Martin, that seems rather unlikely at this point.
Mike James has gotten the bulk of the second-team carries, while Brian Leonard and Michael Smith appear to be fighting for the third-down job. Hillis has barely featured, although he did get some more reps today after a Mike James fumble. We'll have to wait through preseason to be sure, but early goings say James is your best bet if you have a throwaway pick at the end of your draft.
The Bucs have a number of other players who could be worth a late look, though. Tom Crabtree is the team's main pass-catching tight end and with Luke Stocker sitting out most of training camp with an injury he could play a sizable role in the offense. Greg Schiano today noted that they needed better play out of that position group than they got last year, and if anyone emerges as a viable fantasy player from that mediocre group, it will be Crabtree.
Josh Freeman himself may be worth a gander if you can't get one of the top quarterbacks. He's up-and-down, but has the weapons and talent to put up massive numbers if you need him. Pair him with another mediocre quarterback and you can play the matchup game every week to get some decent production out of the position.
If you're running an IDP format, Lavonte David and Mark Barron may be worth a look. David was one of the top tacklers in the NFL last year and the defense is designed for him to finish plays. Barron, meanwhile, is likely to see more time in the box and was a pretty solid option for the first weeks of the season before he ran face first into the rookie wall.
Finally, the Tampa Bay defense should be much improved over last season. How could they not be? They were awful. Draft them, if only because they face the New York Jets in week one. If they keep it up, they could be a gem. And if not, defenses are relatively easy to replace.