A four-game suspension to start the season, back-and-forth status changes between he and Ryan Fitzpatrick, and at least a perceived disconnect between the former Heisman winner and former head coach Dirk Koetter certainly didn’t help matters.
So, it would be perfectly understandable for any fantasy football participant to feel hesitant or even to completely scratch Winston from their board of draftable quarterback for this coming season.
However, the hiring of Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich has rejuvenated hope in Winston’s long-term prognosis as an NFL quarterback. This means his fantasy value is worth - at a minimum - researching to see if there is hidden value in the underestimated fifth-year pro.
Before we look forward, let’s reflect backwards a bit.
JAMEIS WINSTON’S 2018 FANTASY FOOTBALL SEASON
Finishing 22nd overall means you likely didn’t win any championships with Winston as your QB1. Hell, if you’re in a 12-team, two quarterback league, he barely cracked QB2 status.
THE GOOD: LEADING THE ELEVENS
Jameis Winston was one of four starting quarterbacks in the NFL to play in eleven games. The others being Andy Dalton (Cincinnati Bengals), Ryan Tannehill (Miami Dolphins) and Carson Wentz (Philadelphia Eagles).
Winston’s 195.78 fantasy points led the group with Wentz being the closest competitor with his 192.66 showing.
Dalton finished nearly 20-points behind and Tannehill came in at 141.96 points.
Despite this, and the back-to-back injury shortened seasons, Wentz is being drafted nearly 20-picks ahead of Winston on average.
THE BAD: (ALMOST) LEADING THE INTERCEPTIONS
Stop me if you’ve heard this before (just don’t stop reading): Jameis Winston throws a lot of interceptions.
Despite playing in just eleven games, Winston finished in the Top-5 in interceptions among NFL quarterbacks. This is the bad kind of Top-5.
Even Sam Darnold did arguably equal to or maybe even better than Winston relatively speaking by throwing his 15 over the span of 13 games.
In the end, Winston was just two interceptions off the lead pace as Ben Roethlisberger took the 2018 fantasy crown as most defensive friendly. His 16 interceptions led the league, but even he threw those spread out over 16 games.
Among the other 11s, Andy Dalton finished with the second-most interceptions in the group with 11 of them.
JAMEIS WINSTON’S 2019 FANTASY FOOTBALL POTENTIAL
There’s reason for hope this coming season if you are looking at Winston for your fantasy football roster. For multiple reasons.
Of course, there’s Bruce Arians. Under Arians’ coaching and Byron Leftwich’s coordination, the expectation is Winston will take strides to becoming an NFL franchise quarterback in the eyes of the nation, not just the eyes of Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans. Well, some Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans.
If he’s going to win over his entire fan base, and show the national media and audience he can be one of those guys, then he’ll certainly do well by your fantasy team.
Another reason for optimism are his opponents. Winston had two 20+ fantasy football performances last year. One against the Carolina Panthers and the other against the New Orleans Saints. Those two performances came in his only two starts against those particular division rivals.
Winston’s third-best fantasy performance came in Week 6 against the Atlanta Falcons. He put up 19.84 points in that game which was good enough for a Top-5 finish.
In fact, of these three divisional match-ups, Winston finished outside the Top-5 for the week only once. In Week 14, against the New Orleans Saints, Winston plummeted to sixth.
The only divisional rival he started against twice was the Falcons. In his second appearance versus Dirk Koetter’s new team, he dropped down to just 17.51 points and finished the week as the NFL’s ninth-ranked fantasy quarterback for the final week of the season.
Either way you slice it, Winston turned in four Top-10 finishes against opponents he’ll face a total of six times this season. Now, we can’t necessarily guarantee six Top-10 finishes, but you get the trend here.
In addition to those games, Winston’s fifth-best fantasy finish in 2018 netted those who started him 18.89 points and another Top-10 weekly finish. It came in Week 12 and at the expense of the San Francisco 49ers, who the Buccaneers welcome to Raymond James Stadium in Week 1 of the NFL season.
All this considered, nobody could be blamed for being hesitant when considering Winston for their fantasy rosters. My own projection for him is a bit tentative. But in the end, I do believe Winston will improve his fantasy standing, and it makes him worth a late round draft selection.
2019 PROJECTION: QB12; Draft in the *9th Round or later
*Draft projection based on 12-Team Leagues