From FitzMagic to Jameis: How Tampa Bay’s Quarterback Switch Affects the Bucs’ Fantasy Stars

By: Jeff Bartl | October 12, 2018

Ryan Fitzpatrick had success in Jameis Winston’s absence throwing the deep ball. Now that Winston is back as the Buccaneers full-time starter, the value of Tampa Bay’s array of fantasy-relevant skill players could change given the differing tendencies of each quarterback.

Remember “FitzMagic?” When a bushy-bearded journeyman took center stage and wooed onlookers with an array of abilities that fooled the unsuspecting?

Ryan Fitzpatrick, the creator of the short-lived FitzMagic Era, made history during his time in the spotlight prior to the Chicago Bears publicly exposing his every trick in Week 4. Now Jameis Winston, the former main attraction turned brief FitzMagic assistant, has been reinstalled as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ leading act – and the supporting cast surely will be affected in the fantasy football world.

Fitzpatrick’s flare for the dramatics is being replaced by Winston’s more leveled approach. An offense featuring a plethora of fantasy-relevant skill players must adjust to the switch, which was inspired by Fitzpatrick’s uninspiring performance of that 48-10 loss to Chicago. They’ve had the bye week to get fully re-accustomed to Winston’s tendencies. That is to say the receivers can expect less deep balls thrown from Winston compared to Fitzpatrick.

Here’s the breakdown by percentage of throws to specific routes for each QB:

And here are the routes the Bucs’ pass-catchers run most frequently by percentage, with the right side of the chart detailing the percentage of total team routes that specific player runs:

NOTE: O.J. Howard is nursing a knee injury suffered against the Bears and might not be available for this week’s matchup with Atlanta.

DeSean Jackson’s game matches up best with Fitzpatrick based on Jackson running 32.6 percent of his routes deep – nearly 13 percent more than any other Bucs pass-catcher. Fitzpatrick hit Jackson for touchdown scores of 36, 58 and 74 yards in the first three weeks, when Fitzpatrick set an NFL record by becoming the first player to throw for at least 400 yards in three straight games. Jackson hasn’t caught a pass of more than 41 yards from Winston since Jackson’s signed with Tampa prior to last season.

Overall, Fitzpatrick had four touchdown passes of at least 50 yards in those three weeks, including a pair of 75-yard scores in the same game. Winston’s career-long completion is 70 yards. None of this means Winston won’t go deep to Jackson – or anyone else – but fantasy owners are going to see more upside with guys like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Cameron Brate now that Winston is back under center.

Adam Humphries also is someone to keep an eye on. Humphries had one target from Fitzpatrick in the first half of the Bears game, then had six with five receptions when Winston entered in the second half. That’s not surprising, considering Humphries very rarely runs a deep route, which matches up more with Winston’s style.

And although Mike Evans runs the majority Tampa’s deep routes, he receives the bulk of targets no matter who is under center and always will be a top fantasy option. It remains to be seen how the others adjust, but Tampa has the talent to keep the passing game going strong.

According to STATS’ advanced metrics, the Bucs have the No. 2 receiving corps overall in the NFL. Wide receivers are No. 1 in burn percentage (catches / targets), No. 6 in burn rating and No. 2 in burn percentage above expected – creating quality plays above expected when considering down and distance, air yards, quality of throw, etc.

Tight ends rank second in burn percentage, fifth in burn rating and second in burn percentage above expected. Here’s a player-by-player breakdown. The rankings listed are among the 73 wide receivers with at least 20 targets in the NFL. Brate’s and Howard’s rankings are among tight ends with at least 10 targets.

Tampa Bay Bucs - Burn Percentage

PlayerBurnsTargetsBurn % Above ExpectedBurn Rating
Chris Godwin16223rd (+24)16th (+33)
DeSean Jackson18224th (+21)3rd (+58)
Mike Evans293911th (+16)26th (+20)
Cameron Brate8102nd (+31)7th (+34)
O.J. Howard12177th (+15)6th (+36)
NFL ranks. Number in parenthesis = percentage above league average

STATS fantasy football expert Corey Schwartz has Winston as the No. 5 quarterback in this week’s projections, behind only Patrick Mahomes, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Stacking Winston – who is a bargain salary-wise – in DFS with Evans (No. 8 WR) or Brate (No. 12 TE and also a salary bargain) could help boost your lineup.

Those projections take into account Tampa’s favorable matchup with Atlanta’s defense, which has allowed the NFL’s second-most passing touchdowns (12) and ranks 28th in opponents’ completion percentage at 69.8. The Falcons’ weaknesses also play more into Winston’s tendencies than Fitzpatrick’s, according to STATS’ advanced metrics.

Here are the Falcons’ NFL ranks when defending specific routes:

Now that the curtain has been pulled on FitzMagic, it’s time to find out how the Bucs’ fantasy-relevant talent responds to Winston’s old but still effective routine.