O.J. Howard is a Tight End Worth Paying For
The Buccaneers passing game is coming off of a year that would be recognized as one of the greatest in recent history if it weren’t for a perpetual game of musical chairs between the starting quarterbacks and Patrick Mahomes overshadowing everyone with one of the best single-season performances of all time. Tampa Bay led the league in passing yards and the 24.4 fantasy points per game produced between Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick ranked second among all team quarterbacks and was the second-highest mark since Cam Newton’s 2015 season.
All that passing goodness resulted in the only offense of this century to support four top-36 PPR wide receivers in a single season (through Week 16). Their tight end finished sixth at his position in PPR points per game.
Much of this success came out of necessity—the Bucs’ atrocious defense kept the offense in negative game script, resulting in the most plays in the league run while down by a touchdown or more. With the departure of DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries, though, there is opportunity for Tampa’s pass catchers to ascend up the fantasy ranks, even if the passing offense as a whole takes a step back. The following will focus on how O.J. Howard fits into that equation.
Vacated Targets Equals Opportunity
With Jackson and Humphries no longer in town, along with a couple of other ancillary pieces not returning to Tampa Bay’s 2019 roster, the Buccaneers have nearly 15 targets per game available from last year, or 38% of their total target share. Of course, we can’t readily assume 620+ balls up for grabs like last season, but it isn’t reckless to project Tampa to again be one of the most pass-heavy teams in the league, especially because of game script concerns. As it stands, the over/under on the Bucs' win total is just 6.5 and they will largely rely on rookies to patch up their sieve of a secondary.
There is a new coaching staff in town, with Byron Leftwich expected to call plays as the offensive coordinator, but Bruce Arians will still be heavily involved and his history suggests that this offense should carry over many of its recent characteristics. In his last 11 seasons as a head coach or offensive coordinator, Arians’ offenses have ranked outside the top half of the league in passing rates in neutral game script just twice—last season, Tampa Bay ranked 11th.
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