The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have started the 2018 season on fire, leaving fantasy football owners to ponder just how valuable players like quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, tight end O.J. Howard and wide receiver DeSean Jackson will be going forward.
We'll start with Fitzpatrick, who may be playing on borrowed time but is certainly making the most of the time he's been given. In Week 1, he lit up the New Orleans Saints for 417 yards and four touchdowns. In Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles, he had four passing scores with nine minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Since 1950, only three QBs have thrown 4 TD passes in each of his team’s first 2 games:— Sporting News (@sportingnews) September 16, 2018
☑️ Drew Bledsoe (1997)
☑️ Patrick Mahomes (2018)
☑️ Ryan Fitzpatrick (2018) pic.twitter.com/5sliKYGfVt
Fitzpatrick has the Buccaneers humming along nicely, but there are two important factors to remember: Jameis Winston is set to return in Week 4 after his suspension, and Fitzpatrick has hit pretty major highs and pretty drastic lows in his career as a quarterback.
As for the first consideration, the Buccaneers are going to have an interesting decision on their hands in Week 4 if Fitzpatrick keeps dealing. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported that the Bucs could stick with Fitzpatrick, at least in the short term, following Winston's reinstatement:
"That said, sources say the Bucs might hold off installing Winston as the starter when he returns from suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy in Week 4. With a short week after playing on Monday night in Week 3, Fitzpatrick could remain the starter for at least another week.
"Both Winston and Tampa Bay are committed to doing what's in the best interest of the team. If that means riding the hot hand, that will be OK. Winston has told the team as much, while also noting that he expected Fitz to play well."
Why is it so hard for people to give Ryan Fitzpatrick credit? I'm already seeing, "Oh, it's not Fitz, it's the Bucs' receivers."— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) September 16, 2018
Every player who has caught a pass for the Bucs today was on the Bucs last year. Jameis Winston never looked this good last year.
If you decide to add Fitzpatrick to the roster, do so with the understanding that he may only be a short-term option. At some point, it seems likely the Bucs will turn the ball over back to Winston, their franchise quarterback.
But even if Fitzpatrick's tenure as the starter continues past Winston's suspension, can you trust him to be a consistent QB1?
Nope. But I think Jameis starts again when Fitzpatrick turns back into a pumpkin spiced latte by about midseason. https://t.co/7KMIEKqieH— Mike Tanier (@MikeTanier) September 16, 2018
Coming into Sunday, Fitzpatrick averaged 205 passing yards, 1.3 touchdowns and 1.0 interception per game. Over a 16-game season, that averages out to 3,280 yards, 21 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Not exactly inspiring stuff, right?
For his career, he's had two seasons with over 3,500 passing yards and one season with 30 or more passing touchdowns. At some point, history suggests that Fitzpatrick will hit a wall and the turnovers will accumulate.
So, by all means, ride him while he's the hot hand. But there are too many factors suggesting his hot hand won't last long to trust him as your QB1 for the long term.
As for Howard and Jackson, both players appear to have nice value going forward, though it's unclear if their newfound chemistry with Fitzpatrick will translate if Winston returns to starting duty. Howard has clearly surpassed Cameron Brate as Tampa's TE1—at the time of publication, Brate didn't have a reception on the season—though Winston and Brate have consistently shown chemistry together, a factor to consider when it comes to Howard.
It appears Humphries and Brate are the odd men out in the Ryan Fitzpatrick offense. Evans, Jackson, Godwin and Howard are all crushing it— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) September 16, 2018
With Fitzpatrick under center, he appears to be a low-end TE1 or high-end TE2. With Winston, it's harder to project, though he should probably be considered a TE2 upon Winston's return until he proves he can develop the same chemistry with the quarterback that Brate once had.
The most recent #Bucs jersey I bought was Lavonte David, and I feel like the next jersey I’m buying is O.J. Howard. I’ve said all summer, the kid doesn’t need that many targets to be Fantasy Football viable.— David Gonos (@davidgonos) September 16, 2018
Given the lack of great options at tight end, however, Howard is a player who should be owned in all formats.
Jackson, meanwhile, is probably safe to consider as a feast-or-famine flex option at this point. He's always been the sort of player who could reward a fantasy owner with just one long touchdown reception, but he also struggled to make an impact last year, catching 50 passes for 668 yards and three scores.
DeSean Jackson has caught 5 TD from Ryan Fitzpatrick since joining the Buccaneers.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 16, 2018
He has 1 TD from Jameis Winston.
Like Fitzpatrick, ride the hot hand with Jackson for the time being. If Tampa is committed to maintaining a field-stretching, vertical passing game, he could have a huge season. But Jackson hasn't exceeded six touchdown receptions since 2013 and has hit 1,000 receiving yards just once since 2015. So keep your expectations in check.