After a frustrating 2017 season, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston is a man with a lot to prove in 2018. With a new head coach, a new offensive coordinator, and new offensive weapons in the form of wide receiver DeSean Jackson and tight end O.J. Howard, Winston will have new weapons to play with on offense, which will be good news for fantasy football gamers.
It will be difficult to fill Drew Brees’ shoes, but Jameis Winston will be the first to put them on.
Sean Payton has designated the first overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft as the starting quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. After beginning his first five years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Winston spent the whole 2020 season on the bench in New Orleans.
Winston earned the job after a solid showing in New Orleans’ second preseason game. In the Saints’ 23-21 victory against the Jaguars, Jameis completed nine of ten passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
While Winston’s beginning has many real-world consequences, it also has fantastical implications. Especially for Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, two of the greatest skill position players in the NFL.
Jameis Winston aided in the development of Chris Godwin and Mike Evans as fantasy superstars.
When the two were teammates with the Buccaneers, Jameis Winston (L) and Chris Godwin (R) celebrate a touchdown. | Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Winston’s last season as a starter was remembered for topping the league in a variety of categories, both good and negative.
On the plus side, Jameis led the NFL in passing yards with over 5,100, or almost 320 per game. He also led the league in passing attempts and threw for 33 touchdowns. However, with the high number of throws came a slew of interceptions, including a league-leading 30.
While Jameis’ turnovers harmed his total fantasy worth and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ record, Evans and Godwin benefitted tremendously.
Godwin, in particular, was outstanding; his 276.1 points in point-per-reception (PPR) leagues in 2019 were second only to Michael Thomas among wide receivers. As Winston’s main red-zone target, Evans wasn’t quite as effective as Godwin, but he still managed eight touchdowns and over 1,000 yards.
With Winston at quarterback, Alvin Kamara’s value rises, but Thomas is a ‘wait and see’ player.
The Saints’ devotion to throwing the ball is shown by Payton starting Winston over Taysom Hill.
New Orleans averaged just under 235 passing yards per game, ranking 19th in the NFL, with Brees and Hill starting all 16 games. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the greatest disparity was in throws of 20 yards or more, when the Saints have the fewest of any team since 2014.
With Winston at the helm, the Saints should be able to launch a more vertical passing assault in 2021, much to the pleasure of Kamara and Thomas.
Kamara is the Saints’ main pass-catcher while being a running back by profession. The 26-year-old has averaged 81.5 catches and 706 yards each season with Brees, Hill, and Teddy Bridgewater as quarterback. Winston now has a comfort blanket in Kamara to throw to if his downfield options are limited, so Payton won’t go too far from his game plan.
Thomas’ prediction is more difficult. The three-time Pro Bowler had ankle ligament surgery in June, which will keep him out for many weeks during the regular season.
The 28-year-old wide receiver has previously led the league in catches and receiving yards, but his output dropped last season due to injuries and quarterback difficulties. With Winston in the lineup, Thomas should be able to put up better receiving statistics once again, but it’s difficult to say when he’ll be back on the field.
Winston’s emergence may pave the way for a second-year player to shine.
While Kamara and Thomas are the Saints’ top fantasy players, keep an eye on Marquez Callaway.
Callaway, an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee in 2020, didn’t have much of an effect in his first season. The 23-year-old caught 21 passes for 213 yards in 11 games, starting three of them.
However, if preseason performance is any indication, Callaway and Winston are developing a solid bond. In the Saints’ preseason victory against the Jaguars, the second-year receiver caught both of Winston’s touchdown throws, the first for 43 yards and the second for 29 yards.
Callaway may gain the most from the new quarterback in control, as New Orleans tries to make the passing offense more dynamic. This makes Callaway a viable target for fantasy drafts in the latter rounds.
Pro Football Reference provided all statistics.
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