An enigma, wrapped in confusion, and surrounded by mystery is how I would begin to describe Jameis Winston’s fantasy and dynasty outlook. I believe you would be hardpressed to find a more confusing, frustrating, yet fascinating 2019 performance than what Winston displayed. It was a truly historic season as he became the first quarterback in NFL history to join the 30/30 club. No, not the cool All-Star baseball kind, but the good/terrible quarterback way for 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions.
Not only did he reach this illustrious group, but he did it in the most fitting way possible, throwing a game-ending pick-six to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 17. With several questions surrounding Winston and his future, we need to take a look at how this can affect his dynasty outlook for 2020 and beyond.
A Season to Remember…or Forget
In his first season under new head coach Bruce Arians, Winston saw increases across all of his stats from previous years. Completing 380 of his 626 attempts for 5,106 passing yards resulting in 33 touchdowns and 30 interceptions all set new career-highs for him. Before finishing 2019 as QB5 in fantasy, Winson was a middle of the road fantasy quarterback, averaging a QB18 rank over his previous four seasons.
What we saw was with more attempts and more questionable decision making that would rear its ugly head. If it wasn’t for having two of the best wide receivers in the NFL in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, these numbers could have been even worse. All season long, Winston had no issue throwing the ball up and allowing his wide receivers to bail him out. Just look at the Breshad Perriman TD in Week 17 for a prime example. Winston never saw a double-coverage that he didn’t like, it seemed.
The good thing for fantasy and dynasty owners is that we don’t need a player to be great to be fantasy relevant. For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that isn’t the case, as Winston threw them out of games all season. Winston threw for multiple interceptions in a game nine times in 2019, with the Buccaneers only able to win 3 of those games. It took eight touchdown passes and one overtime to get those wins.
Clearly, these stats weren’t lost on Bruce Arians and his comments since the season ended reflect as much. In a press conference following their Week 17 loss, Arians was still frustrated and already contemplating the future.
“You’re going home if you lead the league in giveaways,” Arians said. “We will not beat ourselves next year.” When asked how Winston’s final throw of the season would impact his evaluation, Arians replied: “It doesn’t help.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of his current quarterback. Since that time, Arians hasn’t changed his stance. The next notable quote from Arians came Via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.
#GoBucs coach Bruce Arians, when asked if this team could win with another quarterback: “With another quarterback? Oh yeah. If we can win with this one, we can definitely win with another one, too.’’
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) December 30, 2019
I believe it is safe to say no option is off the table for Winston and his future with the organization. An uncertain future like this makes his fantasy value extremely hard to pin down.
Impending Free Agency
It would be one thing if Winston were still under a long-term contract with the Buccaneers, but his rookie contract runs out in March, therefore, making him an unrestricted free agent. Arians and the Buccaneers’ organization have a huge decision to make. Reports are that Winston is looking for around $30 million a year, which is an extremely high asking price. Arians may be taking care not to drive up Winston’s value with his recent comments. The Bucs are projected to have $90 million in cap space this offseason, but they’ll have to use it wisely. There’s quite a bit they want to get done, including keeping their defensive front seven and receiving corps together.
The best guess is the Buccaneers will choose to apply a tag to him and buy themselves another year. This option also allows for another year of development in Arians’ offense. Whether that becomes a restricted, non-restricted, or transition tag, remains to be seen. If they do choose to tag Winston and not give a contract extension, I would not be surprised to see them go after someone in the draft to be the potential heir of the team. With all of the notable names that are facing free agency in 2020, Winston could have one of the most significant impacts on the NFL and fantasy as well and should be tracked carefully moving forward.
What to do with Jameis Winston Moving Forward
Owning Winston in a dynasty league is an interesting issue to deal with as his value can fluctuate a lot between now and the start of the season. Without seeing another season, it is hard to tell if this was him coming to form or a product of a new, high-scoring offense that has seen success in other places. Currently, I have Winston ranked as my QB13 in dynasty. While he did end as QB5 in 2019, he was aided by the WR3 in Godwin and (before going on IR) WR5 in Evans. Everything went right for Winston to put up the gaudy numbers he did. Take away the offensive talent and tempo, and he drops back to career averages that we saw.
The location will play a huge factor in how we view Winston in 2020 startups and beyond. If the Buccaneers extend or franchise tag Winston, his value remains pretty close to current ranks. Can he outperform the QB13 rank currently assigned? Absolutely, but it’s a genuine possibility we saw the ceiling for his numbers this year. If he does change teams in the offseason, his value is all location dependent. We would need to re-evaluate his situation and surrounding talent to find his new value and ranking. Regardless of what happens, the ripple effect could have a long-lasting impact on whatever team Winston lands on, both NFL and for fantasy leagues.
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Tommy Garrett is a writer for PFN covering Fantasy Football. You can follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.