Jameis Winston is a Top 5 QB in 2017 (Fantasy Football)

Jun 27, 2017

Can Jameis Winston take the next large step forward in 2017?

Geoff Lambert breaks down why Jameis Winston will be a top five fantasy QB this season.

This piece is part of our article program that features quality content from experts exclusively at FantasyPros. For more insight from Geoff, head to GoingFor2.com.

Last season Winston had a decent fantasy season. In fact, he was a top 15 QB with 21.2 fantasy points per game (4 points per passing TDs). He finished tied with Cam Newton and ahead of Russell Wilson despite being drafted much lower than both of those guys. The barometer for a QB in fantasy is 20 or more points per game, a feat that Winston hit in nine of his 16 games. That is pretty impressive when you consider the second leading receiver on his team was Cameron Brate, a slightly above average TE that wasn’t expected to be the starter going into camp last season.

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The 2017 version of the Buccaneers offense looks much improved over last year’s, and it’s the reason I think Winston can be a top five fantasy QB this year. But, before we get into why I think he makes the jump from 15th to top five, let’s first look at last year’s top five fantasy QBs in terms of points per game (4 points per passing TD) and figure who might be dropping out.

  1. Aaron Rodgers 27.6 FPPG
  2. Drew Brees 26.4 FPPG
  3. Matt Ryan 25.7 FFPG
  4. Andrew Luck 25.5 FFPG
  5. Tom Brady 24.7 FFPG

That is a pretty impressive list, and I could see all of those guys repeating in 2017 as top five fantasy QBs in 2017, but in order for Winston to crack that list, one will have to drop off.

Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees are pretty much locked into top five, and Andrew Luck will be top five strictly based on his volume passes. I also never bet against Brady, so I’ll put him in the top five. That leaves Ryan as the QB falling out to make room for Winston.

The Falcons are coming off a devastating Super Bowl loss, not to mention they lost their offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan — now the head coach of the 49ers. The Super Bowl loser has historically struggled the year following the big game, and the loss of Shanahan may hurt more than expected. The Falcons will likely take a step back offensively in 2017 — just enough to knock Ryan out of the top five.

Now, let’s look at that Bucs much-improved offense. Of course, WR Mike Evans will continue to be Winston’s No. 1 and go-to receiver, but lining up on the other side is speedster wide receiver, DeSean Jackson. With Jackson on the opposite side, safeties will be forced to play a little deeper to respect his speed, making it harder to roll coverage in Evans’ direction. That will result in a lot more man-to-man coverages for Evans. Advantage Evans.

When the defense does roll coverage Evans’ way, Jackson has proven he is one of the best deep threat receivers in the NFL, something Winston has never had since coming into the league. In fact, Winston had only four passes over 40 yards last season, tying him for 28th in the league. Jackson, on the other hand, had five such catches in 2016, one short of the league lead.

The Bucs didn’t stop there, no pun intended. They went out and drafted what many experts considered the best TE in this year’s draft and one of the best TEs to come out of college in a while. NFL.com’s scouting profile had this to say about OJ Howard;

Can adjust to poorly thrown balls and secure contested catches. Shows no lack of toughness over the middle. Can be lined up all over the field… Has elite ceiling as playmaker.

He will likely start the season slowly, as most tights end do because of the dramatic learning curve from college to the pros at the position, but he is still a weapon that defenses will have to respect and could become a good red-zone option for Winston.

And finally, I’m expecting the Bucs running game to be better than it was in 2016. Doug Martin was not himself last season and spent part of the season — and offseason — in rehab for drug abuse. Martin will miss the first three games of the 2017 season, but by all accounts, he is a new man and ready to get back to the player he was two seasons ago when he was a First Team All-Pro RB, rushing for over 1,400 yards. Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims will carry the load over those first three games, something they did admirably in Martin’s absence last season, but all three will have a role when Martin gets back.

The outlook for the Bucs is a good one in 2017, and Jameis Winston will benefit from it the most. It is still too early to talk about a player’s ADP, but my guess is Winston won’t go as high as he should, and he could end up being this year’s Matt Ryan, which is ironic because it’s Ryan’s spot that Winston will take in the top five.

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