Fantasy Football Instant Reaction: Jameis Winston hit with three-game suspension
Jamey Eisenberg looks at the Fantasy value for Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers following the report that Tampa Bay's quarterback is facing a three-game suspension.
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Jameis Winston joins Mark Ingram and Julian Edelman as prominent offensive players facing a suspension to open the year, as Winston acknowledged his three-game suspension via a statement to NFL Media Thursday. Winston was found to have touched an Uber driver in "an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent."
According to NFL.com's Tom Pelissero, Winston's suspension is a negotiated settlement, which will begin Sept. 1. He will be eligible to return Sept. 25, and will be able to participate in training camp and preseason games. He will miss Week 1 in New Orleans, as well as Week 2 at home against the Eagles and Steelers before returning for Week 4 against the Bears. The Buccaneers are on a bye in Week 5.
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Fantasy owners should now prepare to be without Winston to open the year. And this severely dampens what could be a potential breakout campaign.
He could still post quality production in the 13 games he will be eligible to play, and he performed well last year when he was healthy. But missing three games certainly lowers his ceiling, especially with the bye in Week 5 on top of that.
Winston was the No. 20 Fantasy quarterback in 2017, but that's not a good indication of the way he performed when he was healthy. He attempted at least 27 passes in the 11 healthy games he played, and he scored at least 20 Fantasy points in six of those outings, including eight with at least 18 points.
In those 11 games, he averaged 307 passing yards per game, a pace that comes out to to 4,910 yards over a full season. He would have easily led the NFL with that total – Tom Brady was No. 1 with 4,577.
That's the upside you're talking about with Winston, and now you're going to draft him with a late-round pick as a No. 2 quarterback. When he returns in Week 4, you can still get a No. 1 passer for the rest of the season. But you're going to have to be patient with your roster given the Week 5 bye, and Winston might not be worth it given all the other options at quarterback.
With Winston out, the Buccaneers will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick as their starter, and we saw how that worked out last season when Fitzpatrick started three games and appeared in two others with Winston dealing with the shoulder injury. Fitzpatrick had 26 Fantasy points at Arizona in Week 6 when he took over for an injured Winston, and Fitzpatrick scored 23 Fantasy points at Miami in Week 11 when Winston was out. In three other appearances, Fitzpatrick scored 13 Fantasy points or less.
The bigger impact will be for the receiving corps in Tampa Bay, as the Buccaneers have several prominent options with Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard. I'm not going to downgrade Evans at all, and he remains No. 9 in my rankings with a second-round grade.
Evans only appeared in four games with Fitzpatrick because he was out for Week 10 with a suspension of his own. In those four games, Evans had 15 catches for 278 yards and one touchdown on 36 targets. Fitzpatrick isn't going to ignore Evans – or anyone else in the passing game.
With Fitzpatrick, Jackson had 21 catches for 233 yards and two touchdowns in five games. Brate had 10 catches for 113 yards and a touchdown on 20 targets in those outings, and Howard had eight catches for 125 yards and one touchdown on 13 targets. Jackson, Brate and Howard are only worth late-round selections in the majority of leagues, but that was the case when Winston was scheduled to play 16 games as well.
In the absence of Winston, we could see Tampa Bay lean more on the run game, and the Buccaneers just spent a second-round pick in the NFL Draft on rookie running back Ronald Jones. His value shouldn't be impacted much with Winston out, and he remains a low-end No. 2 running back worth drafting in Round 4 or 5 in the majority of leagues.
Winston's Fantasy value obviously takes a hit with this news. Just like Ingram and Edelman, who are both facing four-game suspensions for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs, Fantasy owners are now down another potential star with Winston out.
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