Finding value in the Buccaneers' backfield

Finding value in the Buccaneers' backfield

Player Analysis

Finding value in the Buccaneers' backfield

(Jonathan Dyer, USA TODAY Sports)

This is definitely a niche topic for fantasy football purposes, so we’ll get right to the point: Which Tampa Bay running back offers the most bang for the … Buc? (So, so bad.)

To establish a reference point for determining value returned, one must have an idea of the investment. Therefore, a buzz through the Average Draft Position (ADP) of this backfield is a fine place to start.

ADP figures are listed in parentheses as standard/PPR:

  1. Doug Martin (4:10/5:03): A carryover suspension will cost him the first three games of 2017. Add prospective lost time based on his lengthy injury history and we’re talking about investing a top-50 pick in a player who is practically guaranteed to miss a quarter of the season. Martin could be legitimately great when he’s on the field, although the investment accompanies a high level of risk to go with not as much reward.
  2. Jacquizz Rodgers (8:12/9:01): The presumed replacement for Martin during his suspension, Rodgers is the second Bucs back drafted in both scoring systems. He’s better suited for PPR, and the ADP shows he comes at a relative value in this scoring format. However, gamers could receive only a handful of meaningful games from him without a Martin injury. Otherwise, we’re looking at a potentially pass-friendly offense that already makes it difficult to regularly support two fantasy-worthy starting backs. Week 13 at the then San Diego Chargers was the only game in 2016 in which Rodgers had more than two offensive touches when Martin was active.
  3. Charles Sims (N/A): Surprisingly, if only a little, Sims is not even being drafted. He was a top-20 PPR back in 2015, but having played in only seven games last year drastically lowers his stock. Head coach Dirk Koetter effusively praised Sims recently. The do-all running back is the best receiver and pass protector of this backfield. Healthy and having a great camp, look for Sims to provide the greatest return on investment — which should be a late-round flier, despite his undrafted ADP.

While Martin is out, Sims and Rodgers will shoulder the load behind this extremely talented offensive line. The better Jameis Winston’s passing game fares, the more running room these backs will find. Koetter is committed to the running game, especially when it works.

Even with Martin’s return, Sims should have a substantial role in the offense. In 2015, the Bucs had the league’s fifth-best rushing attack with both players enjoying strong seasons. For as good as Martin played that season, Sims was more effective per touch. He produced nearly two full yards per touch than Martin, accounting for 6.9 per play.

Martin scored 0.67 PPR points per touch, whereas Sims logged 0.81 points each time he handled the rock. Of the 16 games the two played together, Sims amassed one-third of the touches in nine contests and accumulated 33 percent of the entire touch count between the two over the season. This is an example of an explosive player forcing fantasy owners to pay attention.

Second-year back Peyton Barber has made strides but is buried at this point. It would require multiple injuries for him to find the field on offense. Rookie Jeremy McNichols is reportedly on borrowed time with the Bucs. Koetter recently said the rookie reminded him of where Barber was last year — flashes but has a ways to go yet. The fifth-rounder may not make the roster at this point.

Buc the trend

I told myself I wouldn’t subject readers to more terrible wordplay, but it’s too much fun!

Getting on track, the immediate takeaway for drafters is Martin will receive the bulk of the touches when he’s healthy, while Sims and Rodgers will vie for the cleanup and third-down chores. Between the latter two, Sims is the better bet for returning season-long fantasy utility. Martin is better in non-PPR scoring because of his role in the red zone.

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