The Bucs do not bring much to the table for fantasy owners. Aside from Kellen Winslow, there isn’t a reliable option. That doesn’t mean you should avoid them all together.

 

Fantasy Playoffs Schedule:  Favorable
Too bad the Bucs don’t have more fantasy options because their schedule, on paper anyway, is very soft. They start off against the Redskins at home in Week 14. Then they have two home games against fellow bottom dwellers Detroit and Seattle.

 

Five Star Fantasy Options
None

 

Four Star Fantasy Options
Kellen Winslow – Winslow is forever an injury risk, but he has shown enough toughness to fight through the pain that you can rely on him. He has had at least 77 catches and 875 yards in three of the last four seasons.  The main knock on  him is that he doesn’t score TDs (only 16 career TDs). He has added value in PPR leagues.

 

Three Star Fantasy Options
None

 

Two Star Fantasy Options
Cadillac Williams – The Auburn duo of Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown have had more of their share of injuries. There aren’t many players that I pull for more than Cadillac because of everything he’s endured. He was overlooked last year because of the acquisition of Derrick Ward, yet managed to compile a 1040 total yard (823 rushing), 7 TD (4 rushing) season. You have to be a little skeptical that Ward will play a larger role, but as of now it appears Williams is the Bucsback to own.

 

Reggie Brown – Newcomer Reggie Brown has a chance to start over in Tampa Bay. He was passed in Philly’s depth charts by youngsters DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. He’ll have to hold off veteran Michael Clayton and rookies Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams.

 

Buccaneers Defense/Special Teams – For starters I like their Week 15 and 16 match-ups against the Lions and Seahawks respectively. They also take on the Browns (Week 1) and Rams (Week 7).  Plus, their second match-up against the Saints is after the fantasy season.

 

One Star Fantasy Options
Josh Freeman – Freeman has the tools to become a good NFL QB, but it’s going to take some size. Without quality options at the WR position or a solid ground game, it will take a little longer. He’ll have his moments, but they will be few and far between.

 

Derrick Ward –  Ward did not exactly live up to the hype last year combining for 559 total yards (409 rushing) and 3 TDs (1 rushing). His paltry 3.6 yards per carry didn’t help matters. He could make a run at the starting gig this summer, but until he earns the gig, his stock is very limited.

 

Michael Clayton, Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams – After an impressive 80 catch, 1193 yard, 7 TD rookie season, Clayton has just 141 catches for 1743 yards and 3 TDs over the past  five seasons. Surely you don’t expect him to suddenly remember how to be an elite fantasy WR. Benn could beat out Clayton or Brown for a chance to start, but I wouldn’t put much faith in a rookie WR given Tampa Bay’s offense. Williams has the tools, but will likely take longer to make an impact.

 

Click here for additional 2010 NFL Team Previews.

All three backs are going around the 4th or 5th round in fantasy drafts.  Derrick Ward has an Average Draft Position of 47, while Reggie Bush’s is 49 and Ray Rice’s is 61.  The question, is which back will be the most reliable fantasy option?

Obviously if he can stay healthy, Reggie Bush has the ability to put up some huge numbers in that Saints offense.  1000 receiving yards is not out of the question, with an additional 500-600 on the ground.  He will score his TDs in a variety of ways, but they usually come in bunches.  He is steadier in the passing game than carrying the ball, which gives him a major advantage in PPR leagues.  He was much better at home (93.4 yards per game, 4 TDs) than on the road (75.4, 2 TDs) last year.  His career numbers on the road (86.1 ypg) are actually slightly better than his home numbers (76.6), but he does almost all of his scoring at home (15 TDs compared to 5 road TDs).  The talent is there.  It’s just a matter of staying on the field.  Aside from the injuries, the only thing that worries me is the plethora of weapons at Drew Brees’ disposal.  Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey are good bounceback options.  Lance Moore was steady and reliable last year.  Robert Meachem as big time potential.  Devery Henderson is still in the mix.  Pierre Thomas can catch the ball out of the backfield.  Bush isn’t a lock to catch 80 passes.  If he doesn’t do serious damage in the passing game, he won’t meet his expectations.

Ray Rice has won the starting RB job in Baltimore, but is unlikely he will get the ball at the stripe. Those duties will belong to Le’Ron McClain and/or Willis McGahee.  Rice was productive in a limited capacity last year with 454 yards on 107 carries (4.2 ypc) and 33 receptions for 273 yards.  He failed to score a TD though, which really hurts is fantasy value.  It’s great if you’re going to pile up the yards, but if you don’t get the occasional six point TD bump from Rice, he’s not going to give you the big games you occasionally need from your RBs to win a fantasy matchup.  Even though the Ravens are a run-first team, there just won’t be enough yards for Rice because if he’s healthy McGahee is going to get 8-10 touches per game.  McClain will probably get a couple as well.  He’s a borderline RB2 in PPR leagues, and if he wants to make the leap to RB2 in non-PPR leagues, he’ll have to prove he can cross the goal line. 

Derrick Ward will have to prove that his production was based on his ability, rather than the New York Giants system.  The Giants led the league with 5.0 yards per carry, while Tampa was tied for 18th at 4.1 ypc.  He hasn’t officially won the starting gig with the Bucs, but he should win out over Earnest Graham after signing as a Free Agent in the offseason.  That said, Earnest Graham will get plenty of carries making this a pretty even RBBC.  Graham will likely get the goal line looks while Ward will get the passes out of the backfield.  Clifton Smith and even Cadillac Williams could also work their way into the mix for the Bucs.  It’s hard to predict what Ward will do on a new team with a first-time Head Coach.
 
Of the three, Ward looks to be in the biggest time share.  Reggie will get fewer carries, but he’ll also catch more passes.  All three should catch 40+ passes this year.  If Rice can get in the end zone, he could be the top scorer of the three.  To me Reggie has the most potential while Rice is the safest play.  Plus, if you can sneak an extra round in and still get him, your fantasy squad will be that much tighter.

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Now that we went through the majority of the #1 & #2 Running Backs, it’s time to look at RB3s.  These Backs are ones you would use in a flex position (if you have one in your league format), as bye week replacements, or spot starters based on matchups.  If you load up elsewhere early, they could serve as RB2.

Derrick Ward, Tampa Bay -  Ward ran for 1025 yards and 2 TDs on 182 carries for an amazing 5.6 yards per carry.  He added 41 receptions for 384 yards.  Not bad for a RB that didn’t even start for his team.  He left the incredible Offensive Line that the Giants provide him, but he should get more touches.  Don’t expect him to get too many carries though as Earnest Graham and Cadillac Williams will likely be in the mix as well.  I can see Graham handing the red zone chances.  Ward’s best matchups appear to be against New Orleans in Weeks 11 & 16.  The rest of his schedule is pretty tough.  I expect Ward to produce 1200 total yards and 5 TDs.

Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens – Rice had decent production last year despite a limited role.  He had 454 yards on 107 carries (4.2 ypc) and added 273 yards on 33 receptions.  With Le’Ron McClain sliding over to Fullback, and McGahee moving to the backup role, Rice should get a much heavier workload in 2009.  Though McClain will get the ball at the strip and McGahee will get his touches, Rice should be a solid RB3, and even a nice RB2 in PPR leagues.  The Ravens have a some great matchups against Kansas City in Week 1, Cleveland in Weeks 3 & 10, Cincinnati in Weeks 5 & 9, Denver in Week 8.  Unfortunately they play the Raiders in Week 17.  Their fantasy playoff schedule starts off sweet with a game against Detroit.  Then they face the Bears and the Steelers.  If McGahee stays healthy, he’ll cut into Rice’s production, but I think he should be good for 1100 total yards, 4 TDs, and 55 receptions.

Larry Johnson, Kansas City Chiefs – Larry Johnson reported to training camp lighter, hoping improved conditioning will lead to a more successful 2009 season.  Even more than his weight, though, has been his attitude.  He has stayed out of the headlines.  He’s not going to return to his old form, but he should be able to build upon the 847 yards on an impressive 4.5 ypc last year.  He only scored 5 TDs, but with Tony Gonzalez gone, that number could easily doubt next year.  Jamaal Charles will push him for time, especially on third downs, but that could help to keep LJ fresh.  LJ is a back who could put up first round numbers, which is sweet considering you can get him in the third or fourth round.  He loses a cushy matchup with Denver in Week 17, but still faces Oakland in Weeks 2 & 10 and Denver in Week 13.  He does have some tough matchups early against Baltimore in Week 1, Philly in Week 3, NYG in Week 4, Washington in Week 6, and Pittsburgh in Week 11.  He’s a good Buy Low candidate if he gets off to a slow start because his fantasy playoff matchups against Buffalo, Cleveland, and Cincinnati are sweet.  There is a huge variance in the numbers LJ could produce.  I think he has 1100 total yards and 8 TDs.

LenDale White – Tennessee Titans – LenDale retired the LenWhale moniker (at least temporarily) by putting down the tequila.  Even though he’s in better shape, I don’t see LenDale having anything close to the year he had last year.  Let’s face it, 15 TD seasons don’t come along very often.  With Albert Haynesworth residing in Washington, will Tennessee’s Defense be good enough to suffocate teams and allow LenDale to slowly wear them down in the fourth quarter?  That could be a big reason why LenDale gets much fewer than the 2000 carries he had last year.  The Titans don’t really have any cakewalks on their schedule until Week 14 against the Rams.  It’s hard to use a guy in the fantasy playoffs when you’re not sure how many touches he’s going to get in the game.  LenDale is nice to own, but he’ll be tough to use unless Chris Johnson goes down.  I’m guessing LenDale has about 600 total yards with 10 TDs.

Darren McFadden – Oakland Raiders -  Run DMC had a pretty forgettable Rookie season thanks to a toe injury.  He had one monster week (164 yards. 1 TD vs. KC in Week 2) and one great week (10 carries for 38 yards, 2 TDs vs. Denver in Week 12).  He actually had more 50+ yard receiving games (3) than rushing (1).  Still, I believe he has too much talent to not have a much better Sophomore season.  He’ll be even more of an asset in PPR leagues, and I could see him throwing a couple passes this year to keep Defenses on their toes.  He has some good matchups this year against Kansas City in Weeks 2 & 10, Denver in Week 3 & 15, and Cincinnati in Week 11.  If you can get by the opening round of the fantasy playoffs against Washington, you’ll get the benefit of facing Denver and Cleveland in Weeks 15 & 16.  I’m predicting 1200 total yards and 8 TDs for McFadden.

Willie Parker – Pittsburgh Steelers – Willie Parker will be pushed by Rashard Mendenhall this year, but I think he’ll hold him off for the most part, assuming he stays healthy.  I just wouldn’t count on him for anything more than a bye week alternative or spot matchup Back.  Those matchups are Weeks 3 & 10 against Cincinnati, Weeks 6 & 14 vs. Cleveland, Week 5 against Detroit, Week 9 against Denver, Week 11 against KC, and Week 13 against Oakland.  I’m guessing Fast Willie has 1000 total yards and 6 TDs.

Jamal Lewis – Cleveland  Browns – Jamal Lewis turns 30 this month and though he managed another 1000 yard season, he appears to be on the decline.  He is going to be challenged for carries by Jerome Harrison and possibly Rookie James Davis.  They both can provide a burst that Jamal just can’t muster.  Mangini will try to limit the workload early as Jamal recovers from ankle surgery, which would be unfortunate because they have three games against soft run D’s in the first four weeks.  Minnesota (assuming Pat & Kevin Williams are suspended) in Week 1, Denver in Week 2, and Cincinnati in Week 4.  Later they face Detroit and Cincy in Weeks 11 & 12.  The Bengals actually have a pretty sweet fantasy playoff schedule with tilts against KC and Oakland in Weeks 15 & 16, though the Browns could be playing for the future by then.  I expect 700 yards and 6 TDs from Jamal in 2009.

Cedric Benson – Cincinnati Bengals – Cedric Benson was a fantasy hero last year with two 150+ total yard games in Weeks 15 & 16.  He managed just 3.5 ypc for the year though and his plodding style may not work as well considering they face Baltimore and Pittsburgh twice.  They do have some pretty nice matchups though against Denver in Week 1, Cleveland in Weeks 4 & 12, Oakland in Week 11, and Detroit in Week 13.  His fantasy playoffs heroics will be hard to repeat against Minnesota and San Diego, but he could have a big finish in Week 16 against KC.  I’m predicting 900 total yards and 6 TDs for Benson.

Derrick Ward, one of the top Running Backs in the free agent market, signed a four-year deal with Tampa Bay worth $17 million.  He was part of a three-headed monster in New York with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.  Brandon Jacob’s role will remain the same, and Ahmad Bradshaw will take over Ward’s role as the Giants will likely move to a two-headed monster.

Meanwhile, in Tampa the signing signifies the end of Earnest Graham’s hold on the starting job.  He’ll still get plenty of carries, and will probably be the short-yardage back meaning he could vulture some TDs.  Cadillac Williams’ value takes a hit, but at this point you can hardly afford to gamble on him any more than the Bucs.  Ward should see a small boost in production as he moves to a feature back role.  As I said, Graham will get plenty of carries so temper your expectations.

J.D., a young Bleacher Report writer and creator of The Sports Report with J.D., contacted me to see if I wanted to post some of his articles on the site.  Always looking to encourage an aspiring writer, I agreed.   J.D. takes a look at where some of the biggest Free Agents will land.

Big NFL News: Featuring T.J. Houshmandzadeh (Could Ray Lewis Land In Denver?)
By Josh Dhani

Chris Canty
Have you heard of the Canty sweepstakes? A Lot of teams are betting on it, especially the Redskins. Well guess what Redskins fans? You aren’t going to get him.  After signing Albert Haynesworth to a massive $100 million deal, the Redskins have dropped out.

Why would they? Why not? These questions need to be answered.

First, you should get Canty. You want to know why? The Redskins’ pass rush would be much better! Then you’ve got Haynesworth and Canty sacking McNabb, Tony Romo, and Eli Manning left and right in their NFC East rivalry games.

Why not? The Redskins have already invested heavily in Haynesworth, DeAngelo Hal, and Derrick Dockery. So that is why the Redskins dropped out. Besides, a lot of other teams are betting on Canty, like the Titans, Seahawks, and the 49ers.

T.J. Houshmanzadeh
Hey Vikings fans! Are you ready to start drooling? I hope. T.J. Houshmandzadeh is deeply interested in the Vikings. This could help out big time.

What if the Vikes got T.J.? It would give T-Jack and/or newly acquired Sage  Rsenfels another target. Last year, Tarvaris Jackson only had three targets, Tight End Visanthe Sianco, possession receiver Bobby Wade and the speedy Bernard Berrian.

Are there other teams interested in T.J.? Of course. Don’t forget the Colts, Giants, Buccaneers, Eagles, Seahawks, and Titans. I just hope he lands with the Vikings, because he is needed there.

Derrick Ward
It looks to me that Ward has found some interest in some teams. Or is it the other way around?

According to Pro Football Talk, Ward could land deals in a very nice place to improve the team’s running game.

The Bengals, Lions, Broncos, Rams, and Buccaneers have expressed interest. The Bengals could use him because they have nothing really special. The Lions could use him to help out Kevin Smith in the backfield. The Broncos could use him to have another team of Earth, Wind, and Fire. The Rams could use him to help out Stephen Jackson and Travis Minor. The Buccaneers could use him to help out Cadillac Williams and Earnest Graham. You have all of that?

Antonio Smith
Smith looks to make a decision soon. He is acting like he is ranking teams like in college football, making a list of all teams interested in him.

The teams are the Falcons, Texans, Giants, Eagles, and Buccaneers. The Falcons, Texans, Giants, and Eagles. They can use him to help out their pass rush, while the Buccaneers could use him now that Derrick Brooks is gone.

Antonio, you could be good with these teams. Sorry about your Super Bowl loss. I wanted those Cards to win. At least I put a picture of you doing the “safety” sign. Now how’s that?

Nate Washington
Now don’t get him confused with the 5′9″ Slam Dunk contest winner, Nate Robinson, who dunked over Dwight Howard. This here, my friends, is Super Bowl champion wide receiver Nate Washington.

The Vikings are interested in Washington because he is an alternative if they don’t T.J. Houshmandzadeh.The Titans could use him because their only good receivers are Justin Gage, Brandon Jones, and Tight End Bo Scaife. The Bucs could use him, because they have already released Warrick Dunn and Joey Galloway.

But guess who wants Washington the most? The Lions. The Lions lost Mike Furrey, and last year they traded Roy Williams. Nate can help out Calvin Johnson and Shaun McDonald to be a pretty good replacement for Furrey and Williams.

Now here is the biggest story: Will Ray Lewis stay with the Ravens or go with the Broncos?

I don’t know if the Ravens will retain Lewis, but there are a lot of teams expressing huge interest in arguably the best linebacker ever. He could sign with the Jets. Why? Because then you have Ray Lewis reuniting with Bart Scott and defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan. And best of all, it’s a 3-4 system.

How about those Dallas Cowboys? Of course they will try to get him. They are trying to get Michael Vick for Pete’s sake! He could help out the team with his pass rush and his ability to tackle you to the ground. The Cowboys also have a 3-4 system.

But the Cowboys can’t compete like the Broncos. They have been looking for a defensive guy. With newly added coach Josh McDaniels, who may be switching to a 3-4, Ray could help out Elvis Dumervil, Jarvis Moss, and the great linebackers that make up the Denver Broncos’ linebacking core. And don’t forget Champ Bailey and Dre Bly in the secondary.

Well, thank you for reading. Stay tuned where these guys land.

We’ve done the Big Dog RBs, Second Tier RBs, Third Tier RBsFourth Tier RBs, and Serviceable RBs, now it’s time to look at the Scrap Pile.  These are RBs that you’ll only use for bye weeks or in case of injury.

Ahman Green – He’s on the wrong side of 30 and is coming off an injury-plagued season.  However, he is still a starting RB (for the time being) so he’s worthy of a roster spot.  If he can stay healthy and Houston’s passing attack is on, there could be some decent weeks for Ahman.

DeAngelo Williams – He had close to 900 total yards last year while finishing strong (242 yards & 3 TDs in his last three games).  He also had 121 yards in Week 6 and 82 in Week 13 so he displayed some signs of life.  However, the Panthers brought in Jonathan Stewart for a reason.  DeAngelo may hold the starting job out of the gate, but he could easily be lapped.

Chester Taylor – If Adrian Peterson misses some time, Chester Taylor will vault into the Top Ten the weeks All Day is out.  As is, he’ll spell All Day and pick up some decent 40-60 yard games.  He’s probably the #1 handcuff out there.

Felix Jones – This dude is fast.  He’s from the University of Arkansas like Jerry Jones.  MB3 is the goods, but Felix will be taking carries for sure.  He’s also one of the best handcuffs given Dallas’ potent offense.

Deuce McAllister – He’ll turn 30 this year and is coming off an injury.  He also has to share the load with Reggie Bush in a pass-happy offense.  Things are stacked against him.  He will be the short-yardage guy though so he should score some TDs.  That said, I don’t see much more than 500 yards out of him.

Justin Fargas – You’ve got to feel a little bad for Fargas.  He ran for over 1000 yards last year for the sorry Raiders.  His reward?  The drafting of Run DMC.  He still should get some play though.  He clearly has big-game ability as evidenced by his three games of 139+ yards.  He averaged 106 yards and 0.6 TDs in Weeks 9-13.

Rashard Mendenhall – Mendenhall is interesting as the Steelers already have Willie Parker.  He’s got great speed with a great build.  He had a great Junior year for Illinois rushing for 1681 yards and 17 TDs.  He added 34 receptions.  Given his size over Fast Willie, he could get the goal line touches.

Ahmad Bradshaw/Derrick Ward - Ahmad didn’t do much in the regular season (190 yards), but looked pretty solid in the playoffs (208 yards in 4 games).  Ward looked good early, but didn’t didn’t do anything after Week 6 except for a big 154 yard effort in Week 13.  It’s likely that all three Giant RBs (Brandon Jacobs included) will get some touches.  If Jacobs goes down Bradshaw and Ward will have bigger roles.

Chris Brown – He was one of my Sleeper picks last year for Tennesse, and he did decent at times.  Now he’s on to Houston.  He seems older than the 27 he turned in April so there is still tread on the tires.  If (and most likely when) Ahman Green goes down, he’ll likely be thrust into the starter role.  Never much of a TD threat, he scored 4 in the last 5 weeks of the 2007 season. 

Chris Johnson – Replacing Chris Brown in Tennessee will be rookie Chris Johnson out of East Carolina.  He’s listed behind 2007 rookie Chris Henry, but the Titans must not have been thrilled with him given their 1st round selection of Johnson.  He’s not a big back, but could be a nice change-of-pace to LenDale White.  He’s lighting quick (4.24).  He had 1423 yards and 17 TDs rushing and another 528 yards and 6 TDs receiving.  He’ll have to prove he can stay healhty, but he’s a Home Run waiting to happen.

Jerious Norwood – His reign in Atlanta was short-lived as Michael Turner has stolen his starting gig.  He is lighting-quick though and should be a nice change-of-pace to Turner.  If Turner proves he can’t stay healthy or is not up to the task of being the Lead Dog, Norwood’s value will increase.

Warrick Dunn – Until he hangs up his cleats, I will not overlook Mr. Dunn.  He has quietly surpassed the 10,000 yard mark for his career.  How many people would have expected that.  Even in a down year he had close to 1000 total yards.  If Cadillac Williams isn’t up for the task, Dunn will still have some fantasy relevance.

Tatum Bell – If Kevin Smith doesn’t make the adjustments needed to be an NFL back suddenly Tatum Bell becomes interesting.  That said, the ceiling is rather low for Bell, and I wouldn’t get my hopes up if I were him.

Ladell Betts – He proved he’s more than capable if CP goes down.  However, Portis has been very durable in his career.  Betts will take touches away to keep CP fresh, but don’t look for major numbers out of Betts barring an unforseen injury.

Ryan Torain – He plays for Denver so never count him out.  The rookie out of Arizona State probably has the highest high-low differential in the league.

DeShaun Foster – He’s backing up Frank Gore now so there’s not much hope for Foster.  However, if Gore goes down, Foster is an adequate replacement.

Jamaal Charles/Kolby Smith – If Larry Johnson suffers a setback, the load will likely be shared between Kolby, who ran decent down the stretch, and rookie Jamaal Charles out of Texas.

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